An interview with Richard Cartwright, Who Gives His Perspective as a Disabled Candidate

Interview   –   26 October 2021

As part of our ongoing commitment to diversity in recruitment. We recently held a disablity breakfast with Paralympian Liz Johnson and Ian Iceton from The Cambridge Code who discuss the issues surrounding disability in recruitment. To read more follow this link.

Richard was recently appointed as Independent External Member of the Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee at UK National Audit Office.

Richard started his career as an auditor at KPMG before moving into Higher Education in 2012. As well as his teaching commitments at Southampton, he is a member of the University Senate and University Council. Richard is an active member of the ICAEW where he has served on the Council since 2015.

Alongside this, Richard has recently taken up the role of Governor at Motability, as well as the role at NAO.

In 2018, Richard was included in the Shaw Trust Power List, a listing of the 100  most influential disabled people in the UK.


Richard, alongside your executive commitments you are taking on more NED responsibilities, what has led to this?

I really enjoy my work, and want to do more but in a way that I can direct myself and choose what I do.  It is important to make a contribution where change is needed and by volunteering for these positions I can help to accelerate that change. I have always believed in ‘putting my hand up’ and feel it is dishonourable to do nothing but then to complain.

The Governing Bodies I have worked with have been welcoming.  Diversity matters and having people who can bring different perspectives is important. The same decisions might be made, but after richer, more rounded and informed discussion.

I love my position at the University, and I feel that what I do outside the University makes me a better teacher and means I can give students different perspectives - in essence the executive and non-executive roles that I have really complement each other.


When thinking of the type of Board roles that might be of interest, what particularly resonates for you?

Doing something with a real sense of public service is important to me.  If I think about a portfolio balance in the future the ideal will be: Charity, Public, Teaching and Commercial.  Really, any significant NED role is in the public interest as businesses need to think about the  how and why.


What was the particular attraction of the NAO?

As I mentioned before, doing something in the public and private interest is important to me. Since my accident, I have been fortunate to travel internationally and this has made me really appreciate how lucky I am to live in the UK - there is a lot that UK public institutions do really well.  As a result of my disability I have had an unusually high reliance on The State (NHS, DWP and legislative through the Equality Act).  Whilst my experiences have been positive that is not universal and working with the NAO to support Parliament in holding government to account and help improve public services gives me the opportunity to give back and help inform through my own experience.


Obviously, the selection process (and subsequent onboarding) at the NAO has been virtual, how have you found this? 

I felt that my application was valued from the start and there was a real understanding that I could make a meaningful contribution.

The process was really quite liberating for me.  The virtual interviews sped up the process, and made it much more accessible. In the past I have missed out on opportunities because I couldn’t attend interviews (with interview dates immoveable and prior University commitments). The virtual process to some extent allows for more diversity - for example those who have executive careers with restrictions on when one can take leave.

With regard to onboarding, the support from the NAO has been great.  The only thing missing is perhaps to opportunity to get a good sense of the culture and I look forward to being able to attend some meetings in person in the future.

I was delighted to hear the news that I was being asked to join the Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee at the NAO and want to make the most of this experience to learn, deliver and give back.

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