Interview: Mark Baines

Mark Baines left a highly successful career as a Senior Partner at Deloitte, so that he could become a full-time pastor of a Church which meets in a school in Cambridge. His house is grand and beautiful, and the entrance of the drive has an intercom but the gates are propped welcomingly open. Before meeting him, a person might wonder whether to expect a businessman or a preacher. In the event, Mark answers the door and invites me into his kitchen, where he makes a pot of tea, covers it in a tea cosy, and says “let me just put on my Aston Villa fan club slippers” before showing me the way to the living room.

I asked him about the motivations behind his decision to leave Deloitte. “Well, I’d been at Deloitte for twenty-six years, and achieved everything I wanted to achieve. But also it had become secondary in passion to what I want to see within our nation – to see people’s lives changed. I felt I couldn’t do that anymore at Deloitte, so I needed to do something different.” I pushed the point – is there more scope for changing people’s lives as a pastor of a Church than as a Partner of Deloitte? Mark claims that anyone can make an impact wherever they are, but “what I wanted to do was raise up more people who would have that impact, rather than just to be one myself. So sending people into business, into politics, into law, with a vision to see Christian values represented in the workplace.” A Giving What We Can style of thinking perhaps – similar to the notion that you can do greater good by employing ten doctors than by becoming one yourself – but a way of thinking which is, for Mark, deeply rooted in the Christian faith.

I ask about the compatibility of a high-flying career with true commitment to a faith. Mark initially talks about refusing to compromise one’s beliefs: “Be sure of your faith. Have a strong focus on who you are. Once you go through those doors on your first few mornings of your big career at your big corporate, it’s very easy to get sucked into the whole thing, and find out five years later that you’re a completely changed person, and all the values that you once held precious have gone out the window.”

But what about the reverse – is it acceptable that personal faith should affect the way you do your job, if it affects the business decisions you make? “Absolutely. But my belief – and this is for all faiths, and all moral strong values, though from my perspective I’m talking about Christianity – my belief is that it enables you to do the job well. Why? Because the call to that is integrity, truthfulness, putting other people first, having a servant attitude, and doing all you can. In that sense, Christians should be successful. I think the biggest problem for Christians in the workplace is that we have a mentality that we shouldn’t be successful. I don’t think that’s Biblical. I think God calls us to be all we can be in whatever he chooses to put us into.”

Mark describes the way a person should respond to being successful in business: “Christians can tend to focus on philanthropy – ‘well I’ve made a lot of money, I should give some away’. And that’s great, but it’s actually short-sighted. God encourages us to consider, what can I do with what I’ve been blessed with to benefit as many people as possible? Our primary concern should be to use our blessings, our wealth, to create opportunities for other people. There’s a word we use in business – empowerment. And I think that’s at the heart of what we should try to do, to raise other people into their potential. If you make that something about giving 5 percent or 10 percent of your income to charity, that’s too small a vision.”

What about the appropriateness of talking about personal faith in the workplace? Mark concedes that “you need to be sensible about it” – an “evangelical campaign” is the wrong approach. “The right approach is that we are honest about who we are, what we think, why we think it, what difference it’s made in our lives. And I don’t think it’s wrong to do that over coffee, when you normally chat about football or Eastenders or what you’ve seen at the cinema. It’s just being real about who you are.” He goes on to praise diversity policy: “if we value what other people say, then equally, it gives us an opportunity to be heard and to be valued for what we believe.”

Finally, Mark boldly claims to have no regrets about leaving Deloitte in order to devote his time to leading a Church. “I miss the people I worked with. I miss the intellectual challenge. Deloitte was an incredible company, and I miss the excitement that goes with that. But I wouldn’t swap where I am now for that, because this is what I’m passionate about. This is what is much more valuable to me.”

Mark’s advice for students aspiring to a career in the professional services:

1.     Go for it.

2.     Get your head around a culture of lifetime learning and hard work. It will take a lot of drive and effort.

3.     Focus on investing in relationships, and building networks of contacts. Technical knowledge isn’t enough.

4.     Don’t specialise too quickly. Keep your options open, and gain a wide range of skills.

-Sarah Gashi