Business Leader Of The Year - Emma Banks

Be nice, listen and understand that the best lessons come from challenges.

This ethos has enabled Emma Banks, scientist and leader of specialist international agency, ramarketing, whose distinctive colourful hair matches her bright personality, to grow a loyal, global team from 20 to 50+ and counting in four short years.

Some leaders are driven by offering a seamless client experience. Others are motivated by people and their success. There’s also those who are motivated by their company’s impact on diversity, inclusion and social responsibility. It’s rare you meet a leader who prioritises all of these. Emma is that leader.

She oversees the entire ramarketing business from the agency’s headquarters in Newcastle upon Tyne. Her purpose is to ensure any interaction with ramarketing, whether a client, an employee or a member of the community, is exceptional. There is no in between. And nothing less is acceptable.

An earned seat at the leadership table

Following her PHD in Immunology, Emma joined Datatrial, a software company for the life sciences industry in 2003. She quickly progressed from technical manager in 2011 to become CEO eight years later. Phenomenal progression in a short space of time that didn’t stop there.

As CEO, Emma led the business through the tail end of a recession. She took over a company on the brink of collapse, secured a contract that enabled it to continue trading, safeguarding 30 jobs in the process, as well as attracting additional funding.

In 2019, Emma joined ramarketing when the agency was beginning to scale and required a leader who could put in place a solid and successful infrastructure for people development, client experience, commercial opportunities and a strong leadership team.

Employee experience like no other

“Bring people up to take ownership of their role, assign accountability, build a team that can stand on their own merit and shine.” 

Emma encourages bravery, creates opportunities and pushes those she directly manages to be the very best version of themselves.

The culture, people development process and team structure Emma has created and embedded, fosters positivity, creativity and progression. It’s also anti-hierarchical. She stamps out petty politics. She employs complete transparency and a rule to never over promise and under-deliver to employees.

She has brought in a new head of people which has enabled a new staff development system, employee benefits, including healthcare and profit sharing, and a more effective interview and onboarding process.

Her personal leadership style is based on authenticity and fairness. She mentors employees so that they take full ownership of their role and builds a team that can stand on its own merit and shine. Just ask team members Eleanor, Olivia and Yasmin [see supporting video material].

Customer care like no other

Emma has established a customer experience process that makes the connection between marketing strategy, commercial activity and business objectives. Essentially, it ensures a world-class experience from the first interaction at the business development stage, all the way through to the final invoice. This has helped the agency grow exponentially since 2018, opening a US office and winning 65 new clients in this time.

Her first client challenge presented itself with ramarketing’s first ever enterprise business – a big jump for the agency at the time. Emma rose to the challenge and through troubleshooting, learning and adapting, the business is now a long-term retained client. The resulting account structure became a prototype for all new enterprise clients.

Emma’s work on defining roles within delivery teams has also meant that clients reap the rewards of access to specific expertise. By supporting teams, freeing the heads of departments to recruit and invest where they need, clients get better value for money and access to better, more specialised skills.

As a client, I have found that her door was always open to our team whenever we needed to discuss improvements to our account management, changes to media strategy and new, out-of-the-box ideas to position our unique solutions to the pharmaceutical industry. She is pragmatic and down to earth, has a solid technical background and, what I appreciated the most, has a great sense of humour and is lots of fun to work with.

Sara Lesina, Lonza

Developing the next generation of leaders

Emma is a passionate advocate for young people. She wants to demonstrate that with the right support and opportunities, a leadership role is possible. As an enterprise adviser at a local secondary school, she encourages students to do what they love.

Emma believes it’s vital for employers to engage with the future workforce and use the skills they have to help someone else. She connects ramarketing with students through marketing challenges which, she says, is important when nurturing talent and helping young people see the abundance of opportunities ahead of them.

She also works closely with the school’s senior leadership to evaluate the careers programme by providing an employer’s point of view and challenging the intent, implementation and impact of it.  Overall, this has helped to massively improve the effectiveness of the programme.

Ethics in action

“Sometimes we have to help our teams see what the right thing is; it’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes whilst considering the best decision for the greater good.”

Emma truly believes in ethical business and is an active member of North East Initiative on Business Ethics, (NIBE).

She is also a non-exec director of Bionow, a life sciences membership organisation, and recently hosted the 2022 Bionow Awards. Through this work Emma aims to foster a more joined-up bioscience community, as well as raising the profile of the North East as a biotech hub. Her willingness to dedicate time to developing the organisation and sector is highly valued.

Finally, Emma helps to run a local choir, recently raising funds through performances, for Ukraine.

Her colleagues, clients and those she’s connected with across the community speak very highly, and, you’ll notice, fondly of Emma. To hear their thoughts, please view the supporting material section of this entry.

Image Credit: Mark Savage and Voices of Hope

Leadership success reflected in figures

  • Emma has played an instrumental role in winning 65 clients for ramarketing, including some that work in a very niche and specialised space.
  • Emma has been fundamental in the organic growth of ramarketing with the agency growing organically by 13% in 2020 and 48% in 2021 and pre tax profit rising from 31% in 2020 to 40% in 2021.
  • Emma’s specific role in people development has been transformational. Under her leadership, UK headcount has consistently grown. In 2020, there were 28 employees in the UK. 12 months later, headcount had grown to 42.

Supporting Material

Supporting Material