Interview with George Makris, lead reward manager and head of executive compensation, Direct Line Group

George Makris, lead reward manager and head of executive compensation at Direct Line Group, found his way into the reward industry by accident.

George Makris Direct Line

After graduating from university, he became a research analyst at Manifest and a corporate governance analyst at Institutional Shareholder Services. In these early roles, he was responsible for assessing corporate reward structures and executive payroll and remuneration arrangements for various organisations.

“I had regular engagement with the organisations I was analysing, and I used to get in touch with reward directors and advisers while working for investors,” says Makris. “Eventually I decided to make the move to the other side, starting with consulting. That’s where I have spent the biggest part of my career to date.”

Makris’s role at insurer Direct Line Group is his first in-house post, following three years as an analyst and seven years as a consultant. “The overall objective of the role isn’t different, but the day-to-day responsibilities are,” he says.

“As a reward consultant, the biggest objective is to come up with new solutions or designs, but not necessarily see them all the way through. The biggest two changes are being able to produce end-to-end initiatives and day-to-day stakeholder engagement. As a consultant, you’ve got a number of [employer] clients, but here the business is your main stakeholder and it happens on a daily basis.”

In his role, Makris wears two hats: head of executive compensation and team leader for the reward team. He is already hard at work on the directors’ remuneration report under the new executive pay reporting regulations, which were introduced 1 October 2013, as well as rolling out the implementation of, and communications around, a new grading system for all staff.

“That involves communicating with staff about their new grade and how it affects them personally,” he says. “We also link our current reward proposition into the new grades. It’s about people being able to see their new grades.”

Direct Line Group, which separated from its parent group Royal Bank of Scotland, in September 2012, began the process of recruiting Makris about 10 months ago. “I was approached,” he says. “I wasn’t actively looking for it, but it has turned out to be a good fit in terms of the organisation and my own skills.

“There was a good match there in terms of the organisation wanting someone who had worked through change programmes.

“For me, it was an environment that wasn’t exactly a ‘green field’, because a lot of the design work had been done in terms of the separation from the RBS Group, but it was more a ‘brown field’ environment, so coming into something where things are still relatively new, but with opportunity to take things through to the next stage.”

Curriculum vitae

  • August 2013-present: lead reward manager and head of executive compensation, Direct Line Group
  • August 2011-August 2013: senior manager, executive remuneration, Deloitte
  • April 2006-July 2011: senior consultant, executive remuneration and benefits, Hay Group
  • February 2005 April 2006: corporate governance analyst, Institutional Shareholder Services
  • October 2003-February 2005: research analyst, Manifest


What has been the biggest focus in your new role?

With my head-of-executive-compensation hat on, the biggest thing I’m working on right now is the directors’ remuneration report under the new regulations. With my lead-reward-manager hat on, we are just rolling out a new global grading system.

What one tip would you give for to someone looking to get into your current role?

I have seen, particularly in my consulting days, people having technical specialties and then diving into one area of reward, but not necessarily understanding the big picture. For people who want to progress, particularly those who aspire to have a long-term career, it is important to experience as many areas of reward as possible.

What would you like your next career move to be?

It’s pretty early in my Direct Line Group, and in-house, days. As a relatively new standalone organisation, it has a number of challenges to offer over the next couple of years, at the very least.