THERE is something a little different about Susan Rice, chief executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland.

It is not just that five years ago she became the first female of a British clearing bank; nor that she is an American in charge of a Scottish bank; nor even that she is not a lifelong banker.

It is more subtle than that.

And it informs her leadership style which has seen her steer the Scottish bank operations to five years of successive profit growth, even when group profits have slipped.

Ask her what her favourite business book is and she replies candidly she does not read business books. And with a slightly teasing smile she adds: "I prefer to have original ideas."

Her reading matter currently spans a historical tale of cultural Islam and a metaphysical mystery, evidence of a magpie mind which absorbs ideas from unconventional sources.

The straight-talking, softvoiced Rice is probably the least likely chief executive to use the term "thinking outside the box" but, colleagues say, one of the most likely to actually do so.

In the five years since she stepped into Henry Duncan House, in Edinburgh, to take over from predecessor John Spence, Rice has demonstrated a lateral thinking style of leadership that evolves from the deceptively simple first step of questioning the status quo.

"I tend to come in from left field. I ask a lot of questions. Is there another way of doing this? There are always other ways of doing almost anything, " she says.

She has worked in Ivy League university Yale and also visited rat-infested apartments in the Bronx as part of an effort to "bank the unbankable". The latter experience was during her time managing a successful community development programme for National Westminster Bancorp, during which she forged new partnerships between the public and private sector to produce innovative community finance schemes.

It is partly this experience, together with her record on arts and community programme sponsorship by the bank, which led to Rice's new part-time role as Prince Charles's ambassador for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for Scotland, working on behalf of Scottish Business in the Community.

Rice says her goal is to encourage businesses of all sizes to help differentiate Scotland as a world leader in CSR and to help them realise that becoming engaged in CSR is not just about philanthropy or good governance, but can benefit a business's bottom line.

She wants companies to focus on projects which can make a positive impact in five key areas in Scotland: health, the economy, the environment, education and employability.

As with her philosophy for leading the bank, Rice's emphasis is on sustainability.

"For me sustainability is hugely important to our bank and for Scotland as an economy, " she says.

Rice is keen to engender a lively debate on the nature of CSR. "We need to get people to ask why it matters. Is it just 'soft stuff ' or what the government requires? My belief is that CSR lies between the soft stuff and government regulations, " she says.

Rice argues that active engagement in CSR can help strengthen a market for a company's goods or services and the community from which it recruits staff. "I want to help businesses of all sizes understand that they can all do this. Lloyds TSB is one of the 10 largest companies in Scotland but we have 185 branches which are small businesses in their own community in their own right, " she says.

Lloyds TSB is involved in a wide range of community, sporting and arts programmes involving sponsoring Scottish cricket, a series of major art exhibitions, including work by Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Cricket might seem an unusual sponsorship choice, but Rice (who is now an avid fan) explains that, like the bank, cricket is a sport that was trying to increase its profile in Scotland and that is rooted in small communities. "You want to give more than money. You want to help them with their agenda, " she says.

Lloyds TSB Scotland has made progress with its own agenda under Rice's watch. In the latest figures for 2004, it posted profits of GBP106 million, a rise of 16%, and made a series of investments to boost its activities in the corporate banking sector.

Rice says the business has demonstrated consistent growth in the past four years, increasing profit and market share across all sectors.

It now banks each of the top 25 companies in Scotland and is increasingly breaking through on corporate deals such as Miller Group's GBP264m purchase of Fairclough Homes in September.

Rice says the corporate team has grown six-fold and that the commercial team (which handles mediumsized business clients) is growing its business well ahead of growth in the market.

She cites this, plus growth in mortgage lending and customer satisfaction at fast turnaround times on key decisions, as among the highlights of her five years in charge.

League positions in Scottish banking can be contentious, however. Rice says: "We're clearly in third place in many of the product lines now. Five years ago we were definitely in fourth place."

She strongly believes that gaining external experience is a valuable way to develop staff ownat various levels in the company and encourages senior and up-and-coming staff to join the board of a notfor-profit organisation to gain a different perspective.

"They get tremendous benefits. They start thinking more strategically and the charity benefits too. There's staff development which has cost nobody anything, " she says.

When it comes to encouraging more companies to become involved in CSR projects, Rice is reluctant to be too didactic. "There isn't a formula to this and you don't have to do it all, " she says.

But, Rice believes that if companies can be persuaded to support one or more of the five pillars of the CSR agenda, they could make a powerful difference in Scotland.

She has recently taken up salmon fishing as a new pastime and enjoys fishing trips in the Hebrides. She is still a novice, but with her combination of persuasion, skill and ability to choose the right bait, it would be foolish to bet against her landing another good catch.


Susan Rice, chief executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland is the new HRH Ambassador for Corporate Social Responsibility in Scotland.

Drives: Land Rover Discovery

Pastimes: Watching cricket, salmon fishing, modern art.

Reading: Kafka By The Shore by Haruki Murikami.

Family: Married to Duncan, sons James and Sam and daughter Beady.