Britain’s Interim Rock Star: Ron Sadler and Northern Rock Bank

Some interim executives enter their engagements amid the glare of the spotlight. Like the Mick Jaggers of the world, they are in high demand, and unlikely to receive an anonymous entry onstage or exit offstage.

High profile interim gigs not only offer inspiration, they showcase the benefits of bringing in an interim executive.

Britain’s Ron Sandler has rock star status. Born in Zimbabwe and a citizen of Germany, Sandler represents the ability of interims to seamlessly enter where they’re needed. Sandler was called in by the U.K. government to help save Northern Rock bank during the early days of the 2009-2010 global recession.

An Echo of the Great Depression

Reminiscent of the Great Depression, Northern Rock, which had taken a big stake in the British mortgage market, saw customers lining up at its doors seeking to withdraw funds on the spot.

Enter Sandler, tasked with turning the bank around. Sandler “rescued the bank and customer savings” entrusted to Northern Rock, said Eugene Rembor, an interim CEO based in Britain. He said he recalls that Sandler was paid high fees that ultimately proved justifiable.

The government just this year (2012) found a buyer for Northern Rock, with the banking arm of Richard Branson’s empire stepping in to purchase, according to Reuters.

Sandler’s work is “one of the biggest achievements” on the interim executive front, Rembor said.

An Interim’s Actions Below the Radar

Temporary executives often choose to enter and exit engagements quietly, and in many cases are required by their sponsors to be as anonymous as possible: extreme agents of change, if you will. To an employee base, the arrival of an interim executive can stir fears of the hatchet, Rembor said. Employees might close ranks if fearful of getting fired.

For Ron Sandler and Northern Rock, entering quietly was not an option. For Ron and other high profile execs, the glare of the spotlight is a spur, not impediment. Many other interims work under opposite circumstances, in near total anonymity, and like it that way despite the bigger challenge of marketing their successes in future engagements. Which are you – do you thrive in the spotlight? Or relish the challenge of building your reputation with stealth?