I Hear You Knocking

There’s a new class of industry leaders waiting in the wings. Welcome to Generation XX.

Joan Kehoe, Gunjan Kedia, Fiona Horsewill, Margaret Harwood-Jones, Claire Johnson, Zena Couppey, Kathryn Purves, Karen Malone, Kim Sgarlata, Chantal Free, Beth Mueller, Francesca McDonagh, Nancy Lewis.

What do all these people have in common? Apart from the obvious, they are all industry leaders. Each one of them runs an investor services business, whether independent or as part of a bank. That’s good – but it needs to be even better. Too much of our industry is run by a cabal of male, pale and stale managers, despite all the promises about DE&I.

But here’s the really good news. There is a strong and growing cohort of excellent women in senior and middle management roles – and, given the chance, most could step up to the next level. Here’s just a random sampling – far from comprehensive – of who is currently warming the bench:

Ann Fogarty, Caroline Butler, Christine Waldron, Jane Mancini, Yvonne Garcia, Emily Portney, Donna Milrod, Kelley Conway, Melanie Pickett, Cathinka Wahlstrom, Julia McCarthy, Jayee Coffey, Pat Sharman, Diana Shapiro, Jill Evans, Diana Senanayake, Emma Crabtree, Jess Donohue, Carolyn Cichon, Orla Foley, Breda Sullivan, Bridget Engle, Maria Cantillon, Simone Vroegop, Irene Speridakos, Sally Surgeon, Ileana Sodani, Marian Azer, Stephanie Gaudoux, Mathilde Guerin, Melíosa O’Caoimh, Alexandra Chauvel, Alexis Meissner, Lydie Vallese, Carol Andrews, Rachel Turner, inter alia.

The InServ business is no more (or less) chauvinistic or patriarchal than any other financial services sector. But guys: it’s nearly 2024 and we still consider it to be something of an aberration when a woman ascends to the top job, or anywhere near it. And yet…a significant portion of the business relies very heavily on women, in both operational and client-facing roles. So where do they go? Do they hit a glass ceiling and decide to switch career paths? A notable few persevere: Pat Sharman, head of UK for CACEIS and a highly respected pension fund expert, was once a junior client service officer for Midland Securities Services (despite having a lousy boss – I think you can guess who that was!).

There is also a rich heritage of trailblazers who operated at very senior levels and made a huge contribution to the development of the industry (some are still blazing). Another random sample: Janet Potter, Susan Livingston, Kristen Giarrusso, Stephanie Miller, Sandie O’Connor, Nadine Chakar, Hannah Grove, Carin Bryans, Gunjan Kedia, Kelly Mathieson, Penny Biggs, Jana Schreuder.

So what am I suggesting? So-called positive discrimination is not the answer. No one wants to get a job based on quotas – or the inherently flawed concept of equity – rather than merit. And, trust me, the high-flyers I have mentioned above, along with many others, do not need that. Their achievements, skill sets, and intellectual capital qualify them to go further and expect more.

First step – stop feeling good about yourself because you put a woman in a non-line ExCo position like HR, PR or DE&I, whilst leaving all the senior line jobs in the hands of men (you know who you are). Pay as much attention to the development and promotion of women as you do, say, to ticking boxes on your DE&I agenda and paying royally for politically correct virtue signalling through meaningless external audits.

Women have succeeded in this industry despite these, and other, challenges. Just as the pricing model is completely broken, so is the HR development paradigm. There are too many examples – even in 2023 – of highly qualified women being passed over for top roles. Some, but not nearly enough, manage to make it work and get the assignments and responsibilities they deserve. My hope is that, in 2024, InServ leadership’s New Year’s resolutions should include a fairer shake for women at the upper echelons of our industry. We’ll all be watching.

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