The Challenge

The RNLI is one of the UK’s largest and most complex charitable operations, running more than 230 lifeboat stations, led by volunteers, with an annual income of more than £200m, the majority of which is generated through fundraising. Its new Chief Executive needed to bring a track record of leadership in an organisation of a similar scale and complexity. Given the limited number of organisations, particularly charitable organisations, which boasted a scale of operation even close, let alone comparable, to the RNLI, we focussed much of our search on large, commercial organisations. Further complicating this picture was the requirement for candidates to have a demonstrable personal affiliation with the sea, maritime communities and volunteer communities. Those who could not articulate to us a demonstrable personal connection to the sea or to the RNLI were not considered credible.

Our approach and success

During the course of the search we reached out to more than 220 people about the role, including many international candidates who brought deep maritime experience in a number of contexts. Given the RNLI’s growing global outlook, we targeted potential candidates who had experience in global facing businesses or charities as well as ports, shipping companies, and organisations delivering similar life-saving operations around the world. The appointed candidate was Mark Dowie, who brought significant corporate leadership experience having been a senior commercial and investment banking professional who was most recently Chief Executive Officer, Corporate and Institutional Bank at Standard Chartered Bank. In this role he led the bank’s global wholesale banking business and was responsible for nearly 20,000 people in 62 countries around the world. Mark is also a former naval officer and spent 2 years as Lifeboat Operations Manager at Salcombe in South Devon. In this role he has been responsible for all the operations of a busy two boat station and he therefore had first-hand experience of leading and volunteering at sea.

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