Inspirational Woman: Nicola Frampton | Non-Executive Director Frasers Group plc & COO of Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland

Nicola Frampton is a Non-Executive Director on the Board of Frasers Group. Here she talks about her role with the FTSE 100 retailer and she shares her views on women in business.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role?

I’m Nicola Frampton and I am a Non-Executive Director on the board of Frasers Group plc and I have just recently taken on the role of Chair of the Remuneration Committee.  It’s my only NED role because I am also the COO of Domino’s Pizza in the UK and Ireland.  It’s a franchised business model and so I have a broad church of responsibilities ranging from franchise performance to brand standards compliance, to what should our stores look like and when and where should we open them, all skills that complement but don’t conflict with my NED role on Frasers Board

Professionally and personally I have a passion for retail but away from work, I love F1 (or Lewis Hamilton to be more precise) and I manage to stay happily married despite never being home.  We have just one son who is currently starting an undergraduate placement before his final year at Uni.  I’m so proud of him as he’s the first generation in our family to go into higher education and he’s really thriving on it.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Far from it. In fact, joining the Board of a FTSE 100 company would probably have been the last thing on my mind even as recently as just before I joined them.  

I’m from a working-class family in the north of England and whilst I am without doubt my father’s daughter, he was still quite traditional in his views that the men went out to work and the women looked after the family.  But the reason I had to leave school at 16 was to contribute to the family income, before settling down to get married.  And my first job was opening the post in a mailroom for the Inland Revenue.

Have you faced many career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I realised in that postroom that I needed something more from life.  My grandfather was in the police force so I knew a little bit about that and I applied to join Yorkshire Police and was accepted.  Being a police officer and being the only woman on the shift taught me a lot about humanity and dealing with people.  Handling difficult situations, influencing people to see my point of view, and resilience.  A lot of resilience.  It was a very male-dominated environment at the time, but I learned to give out as good as I received in my interactions with others. However, doing crossing patrols in the dark and basic policing wasn’t much fun so I eventually joined the fraud department of a building society. This proved to be a stepping-stone to study for a professional qualification in Internal Auditing which ultimately in part led to my current duties on the audit committee at Frasers Group.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The absolute pinnacle of my career achievements has to be joining what was then Sports Direct Group and having the opportunity to embrace and support the elevation strategy at Frasers. I joined the company in 2018 when the elevation programme was getting underway. It’s been a five-year journey that has seen a remarkable transformation in the Group’s approach to bricks and mortar retailing, in our relationships with our brilliant brands, with our colleagues and with our customers.  Obviously, digital channels are extremely important, but we’ve also been able to demonstrate that customers are still willing to embrace the high street. If you provide a premium shopping experience and showcase the best third-party brands, then consumers will respond positively.  Our flagship stores in London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester are prime examples of this.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Some of it was about me but a lot of it was about the leaders I worked for and the culture and values of the organisation that they had created.  Their ability to embrace diversity and create equity through trust and mentorship.

I think it’s important to be willing to accept help and learn from others. A major factor for me, particularly during the early days, was the support I received from my mentors. Whilst I was at the building society I was lucky to have a manager who pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to study for professional qualifications. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder at the time about the fact that I didn’t have the right credentials. However, my manager wrote a supporting letter to the Institute of Internal Auditors and they agreed to enrol me into a distance learning course. I was still working full-time during the day, so I had to study during the evenings and at weekends, but it was so worth it.

You are a Non-Executive Director at Frasers Group. Can you brief us about the group and your role?

I’ve been with the business for five years now and being a Non-Executive Director involves working with the executive leadership team to support and advise as well as advocate for the group and our elevation strategy.  As a NED I work as part of the Board team that includes our CEO Michael Murray, along with other members of senior management and Non-Executive Directors. The Board has overall responsibility for the effectiveness of the Group’s systems of risk management and our internal controls. Around 30,000 people work within the Group. We operate around 1,000 stores within the UK and c. 600 overseas. Our fascia includes Sports Direct, USC, Evans Cycles, House of Fraser, and GAME (among others), plus of course, there is our premium lifestyle business, Flannels. We also have thriving digital operations across mobile and online. The Group began as a single store founded by Mike Ashley, who no longer sits on the board but continues to be our majority shareholder.  

What is the future of brick-and-mortar retail stores in the next five years?

From a Frasers point of view, we remain fully committed to our elevation strategy, which continues to exceed our expectations. Our flagship stores are typically 50,000 to 120,000 sq. ft. in size and offer a diverse selection of the world’s most desirable brands under one or more fascia.  The emphasis is on providing the customer with an immersive shopping experience within elevated surroundings. We are also firm believers in forming closer relationships with other retailers, as evidenced by our investments in AO World, Boohoo, and Currys. These enable retailers to build relationships and share mutual synergies.

What are your views on the shift towards a cashless society?

It’s not something that we have expressed a view on as a company, but my own personal view is that ultimately I think it’s something that will be decided by consumer behaviour. The vast majority of transactions today are made via payment cards, but cash continues to be important for a significant number of people. Any move to a cashless society would need careful consideration of issues related to social diversity and inclusion.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in business?

i think it’s important that companies don’t try to put labels on people or treat them as stereotypes. My experience at Frasers Group is that it should be all about your potential, rather than about a job title or where you are from.  I don’t fit the typical definition of a FTSE100 board member.  I wouldn’t be here today if Frasers Group hadn’t walked the diversity and inclusion talk. Frasers have been at the forefront of ensuring its people are represented at Board level. Cally Price being a case in point. Cally was appointed to our board as a Worker’s Representative over four years ago and I couldn’t advocate enough for the benefits and insights this has brought to the board.  Every business should be mandated to appoint a Worker’s Representative to the Board in my view.  They are the people that make the magic happen for our customers across our vast store infrastructure. It’s important to hear their views about working in Frasers.  Cally has contributed way more than you could ever imagine until you’ve tried it.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity?

I think in order to implement lasting change it needs to happen at all levels of a business, including at the grassroots level at the recruitment stage.  I have to say that things have vastly improved since the days when I joined the police, but there is always more that can be done. Quotas and targets have helped, but it’s a mindset at the top that propagates around an organisation. Cally Price has played a vital role in this.  And now we have Michael Murray who is spearheading diversity and inclusion within the elevation strategy, constantly pushing the group to do better.

But women themselves also need to be more confident about coming forward: there are plenty of companies that are currently looking to hire female Non-Executive Directors, but for some reason, there continues to be a small pool to fish from.  I’m fond of saying to my son, my team, and my mentees that you are your greatest investment.  Take any and every learning and development opportunity.  Every step in my career there has been a first time, a stretch, a moment of panic and self-doubt. Leave your imposter syndrome at home.  At Frasers we call it being FEARLESS – empowering individuality and fearlessness through our core values.

What resources do you recommend for women working to advance their careers, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Well I think that WeAreTheCity is obviously a good starting point!  I’ve also been to some fantastic networking events organised by organisations such as The Business Desk. LinkedIn is also a great tool: it costs you nothing to follow the people in business whom you admire.  But look closer to home too and don’t think it’s just women you need to look to.  Most of the leaders who’ve given me a chance have been men.

Tell us about Nicola outside of work, your motivations and what you would like to achieve in the future?

My motivations have evolved over the years.  When I started out I just wanted to earn and learn.  I needed a good salary and I wanted to be challenged mentally.  Now my motivations are more about making a difference and putting something back in.  I’m a trustee on a couple of charities close to my heart and I work as a mentor and am keen to help other women achieve.  One of my old bosses – a partner at Deloitte once said to me that when you’ve made your way up the slippery pole to the top don’t forget to turn around and pull up the people who helped you.  That’s ultimately what I’d like to be remembered for by colleagues past, present and future.

Who would you invite if you were to hold a dinner party for five people, past or present?

Michelle Obama.  She’s clever and beautiful and was most definitely the brains behind Barack’s presidency.  Her story is fascinating and heartwarming and has overcome the dual challenges of gender and ethnicity with incredible

Sharon Osborne.  Her life story is utterly brilliant and she’s been the matriarch of her royal family of rock for decades and she’s brilliantly funny.

The Princess of Wales.  How she conducts herself, how she supports her husband and how she is a true ambassador for the royals she represents.  Yes she has done her duty producing the heirs but she’s done so much more than that and she’s done it being her own person.  and I’d love to hear the inside story of how she’s managed to stay so true to herself.

Coco Chanel.  So a fashion icon may seem a bit cliché’d given my role at Frasers, but she set women free through her clothes sticking two fingers up at the gender stereotypes of the time.

Lewis Hamilton. Possibly the greatest F1 driver of all time who has not come from the entitled and privileged backgrounds of most F1 drivers.  His family story, his personal dedication, the support and sacrifices of his family and how he’s putting so much back into diversity by challenging the F1 norms.

Read more about our inspirational women here.

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