LUMS alumnus explains how his career led to him becoming Experian CEO North America

8 November 2018 14:06
Craig Boundy

Craig Boundy caught the overseas working bug while at Lancaster (BBA European Management, 1997). Living in Germany as part of his degree was the kind of formative, head-turning experience that led Craig to his current role as CEO of Experian in North America, responsible for $2.4 billion in revenue.

“The idea of working overseas can be daunting, having to get used to all the alien ways of doing things, of fitting into new places. But I learnt in those days that it’s all perfectly okay - it’s fun. It’s exciting,” says Craig.

“Of my four-year BBA programme I spent three years in Lancaster, but also a summer in Germany in my second year working as an intern - or ‘praktikant’ - working at BMW in its motorbike division on financial forecasting. An important duty of mine was to fetch the special Friday breakfast of Weisswürst, a white sausage that was eaten every week with pretzels and smoked meats, for everyone in the office. Then in my fourth year I was in Munich, working as part of a joint venture between BT and VIAG Interkom.”

But his journey began at Lancaster University Management School. 

“I visited a number of places that could offer a similar mix of business and languages, but it was Lancaster that gave me a good feeling. I liked the campus feel of the place. I knew it was the right fit for me, and I was going to have a good time. 

“I was in County College, which in those days meant living with 25 other guys, sharing two cookers and one fridge. You learn a lot about life in that environment! Just from getting along together, sharing, making things work. 

"I was also a keen sportsman, acting as the college sports rep and as one of the organisers of the Roses sports competition with York. I helped organise a beer festival that involved sleeping overnight in the marquee to keep an eye on all the barrels of beer, just in case the rugby team decided to carry out some kind of stunt. I’m not exactly sure what I would have done if they’d tried anything!

“I’m still in touch with many people from those years. Good friends who have acted as godparents to my children, and vice versa.”

Rather than any clear or fixed career ambitions, Craig started out with a love of languages and a fascination for business. Lancaster helped him turn those interests into a valuable set of skills and personal qualities for the road ahead.

“Lancaster was really important for learning how to learn, how to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. Of course it meant picking up helpful knowledge and skills in marketing, accounting, statistics - but what’s most important is your all-round resilience and potential. Studying languages was a good way to prepare to work globally, not just as a skill, but in becoming more conscious of languages and different people and cultures, of diversity in business.”

A career at the top of the booming telecoms industry came about by chance.

“I happened to be in the County Hall library at Easter during my third year and just bumped into a friend. They said ‘hey, did you know we can get jobs at BT in the summer, £220 a week’. He got me the form and an envelope, and there it was - as random as that. It could all have been very different without that library moment.”

After six years working at BT in a range of finance, marketing and product management roles, Craig was drawn into the opportunities presented by the new Internet age.

“I’m a terrible shopper. I was in Oxford Street with my wife and she encouraged me to just go off somewhere for a coffee and meet her later. So I sat in a Costa Coffee reading the newspaper and came across an advert for Energis, the telecoms provider for the new dial-up Internet services via pioneer providers like Freeserve and AOL. It was just another quirk of fate. 

“It was a high-risk market. Within six months Energis went from being a rising star of telecoms, a FTSE 50 company valued at £2 billion, to going bust. I was part of the team working to rescue the company, working during the day on usual operations and nights on saving the business. We brought in Archie Norman, the Tory MP who’d saved Asda and is now chairman at M&S, and eventually ended up selling the company to Cable & Wireless.”

Craig then took the opportunity to work across India, Morocco, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe, building offshore centres for the IT and management consultancy Logica, before returning to the UK to head up the credit reporting agency Experian.

“The CEO of the US operation retired in 2014, and I was keen on the idea of working in a new part of the world. Moving to Southern California was an exciting prospect and we have a great life here. Being British means it’s taken some time for everyone to get used to the accent - and most of all it’s meant a lot of hard work in making sure I understand the market, what it is that customers - individuals and institutions - really want to buy from us.”

In 2018, Craig was invited to give Lancaster University’s Professor Sir Roland Smith CEO Lecture. 

“It was a great honour - especially given the people who’d come before me, like Unilever’s Antony Burgmans, Sir Terry Leahy of Tesco, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts. What made it even better was that some of my student friends made the effort to travel and see me there at the lecture. It meant a lot.

“That’s the important thing about choosing a university and a programme. You want a good education, but it’s got to be somewhere you know you’re going to be happy, that feels right.”

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