- Could you tell us about your early years growing up in Distington, Workington and your interests as a young person?
I grew up in such a beautiful part of the world, the Lake District. I had an amazing childhood with early memories of lots of playing outside, making swings in trees and walking our Yorkshire terrier for miles and miles around the Lakes. There was also lots of rain so the ability to be able to entertain yourself indoors was really important. I wanted to be a kid from Fame and spent a disproportionate amount of time in legwarmers practising my dance moves. Dance, performance and crafts, as well as being a Brownie and Girl Guide, were the essence of my upbringing. Holidays were always important to us as a family and I remember the first time we travelled to Spain was by bus because my mum was scared of flying. Needless to say, we didn’t travel by bus overseas ever again, but these holidays really gave me the travel bug, which has in many ways driven some of my career choices.
- You studied for a BA in Financial Services at University. Was this the journey you planned through GCSEs and A-Level studies?
I was really fortunate to love school however, thinking I knew better, I left at 16 to start work as a Trainee for TSB Bank. They offered a two-year training programme, which included study for professional examinations - in those days known as ‘banking exams’. It was from this that TSB (which became Lloyds/TSB) supported me to complete a degree. So this meant attending night school and doing home study for a number of years on top of a fulltime day job. Not the easiest way to achieve a degree, but I was grateful for no student debt!
- You have more than 25 years’ experience in the financial services industry in the UK, Jersey and Asia, specialising in compliance and operational risk management for global banking organisations. What values do you hold most dear?
Authenticity – being transparent, self-aware and genuine in my interactions.
Friendship – my friends are such a foundation to my life – they are there through the good times and the tough. I try to never take my friendships for granted.
Integrity – living by and staying true to the values I hold. I often use the benchmark of ‘what would I expect of others in this situation?’
Courage – sometimes we have to take that real leap of faith into the unknown and, whilst outside our comfort zone, it is often the only way we learn and grow.
Compassion – being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand why and how they are feeling and how they are responding. We don’t have to have solutions, we just have to listen.
Don't be afraid to be open about your ambition and make it known you are open to all opportunities, even if you don't have it all worked out yet. Being open has allowed me the most wonderful opportunities and learning experiences.
- You moved to Singapore in late 2009 as Coutts Chief Risk Officer. You then moved to Standard Chartered as Head of Operational Risk for S.E Asia. Was it always your intention to work abroad or was the job opportunity too tempting?
Since an early age, I have been passionate about travelling and I wanted to explore the world, experiencing different cultures and meeting new people.
I actually applied for the Chief Risk Officer role based in Switzerland in the hope that this would be a stepping stone to get to Asia, where Coutts also had businesses. I wasn’t successful in getting the Swiss role, but RBS offered me a talent appointment as the Chief Risk Officer of its branches in Asia. I was based in Singapore with responsibility also for Hong Kong and India. What an opportunity and experience! I think I packed 10 years’ worth of learning into two years.
- What would be the best advice you could impart to the younger generation?
Don’t be afraid to be open about your ambition and make it known you are open to all opportunities, even if you don’t have it all worked out yet. Being open has allowed me the most wonderful opportunities and learning experiences. Having some good sponsors and mentors is equally really important – they really can and do open doors for you.
- You started working for the JFSC in 2002 as a Supervision and Enforcement Manager and returned in 2016 as Director of Supervision, responsible for the supervision of all regulated sectors of Jersey’s financial services industry. Despite the progress throughout your career, do you think there is still room for improvement in the financial services industry with regards to Executive Boards benefitting from a more diverse composition?
Absolutely. Whilst things have come a long way since I started work, there is much more still to do. The Financial Conduct Authority’s CEO Nikhi Rahi recently gave a speech on why diversity and inclusion are regulatory issues and I fully support his position. Greater gender diversity improves risk management culture and decreases misconduct sanctions. There is also research which states that more diverse companies are likely to outperform the least diverse by up to 35%. This is absolute business sense. Fewer than 1 in 10 management roles in financial services are held by black, Asian or minority ethnic groups. A lack of diversity at the top raises some real questions about a firm’s ability to understand the different communities they serve, and their different needs. The capability is there – let’s ensure there is equality in the opportunity.
Irrespective of your background or gender, with hard work, drive, commitment and a good dose of stubbornness, you can reach for the stars.
- What are your thoughts on building a modern workplace given the changes which we have all had to endure by reason of the pandemic?
The pandemic has really accelerated much needed investment in technology and equipment to enable us all to have flexibility and choice about where and how we work. The last 12 months have given us the opportunity to test this out on a grand scale. From a business perspective, it has allowed organisations to reflect on what works. Equally, for each of us personally, it has also allowed us to evaluate what works best for us. I have no doubt that this flexibility will now be carried forward for the benefit of businesses and individuals alike. However, I think there are some key challenges we need to focus on, including achieving the right balance of connection between team members, on the job learning, and ensuring effective performance.
- You were nominated for ‘Woman of the Year’ at the 2020 Citywealth Powerwoman Awards and subsequently won the Gold. Could you tell us what this achievement meant to you?
It is always wonderful to be recognised for your achievements and I am very proud of this award. What I hope it achieves, even if for only one other person, is that irrespective of your background or gender, with hard work, drive, commitment and a good dose of stubbornness, you can reach for the stars.
- You are passionate about learning and development and mentor a number of talented women. What is it that sparks the most joy for you and how would you describe your life purpose?
I have been very fortunate to have amazing people in my life, both male and female, who have inspired and encouraged me professionally to push forward and break down barriers. As a result, I have had a very fulfilling career to date. I am very fortunate to now be in a position to do the same for others. It is immensely rewarding to see individuals bloom and achieve things they never thought they could or would do. Creating belief and opening the doors for our future leaders and talent remains firmly high on my agenda.