Culture and Diversity
FINBOURNE Interviews Kate Bohn, global fintech leader, strategist and innovator
In the latest of our Culture and Diversity interview series, we speak with the award-winning leader, strategist and innovator for the global finance industry, Kate Bohn. With 10 years in the world of Arts and Academia, followed by nearly 25 years in Financial Services, Kate has worked across a range of roles. Kate is a champion for DEI in the workplace, and in this interview we learn more about how her own career journey has inspired her to deliver meaningful change.
Before reaching your most recent position of Global Head of Private Markets Technology, Macquarie Assets Management, you started your career path as an academic and art curator. Can you tell us some more about your ‘squiggly’ career journey?
I’ve always been a creative person with a constant thread of curiosity. It’s down to this that my career has been so varied, with jobs spanning the arts to finance and technology.
I’m an identical twin, so growing up I was used to constant comparisons, “Who’s taller, shorter, fatter, thinner, more intelligent?” Whilst my sister went down the traditionally academic, redbrick university route, deep down I knew I wanted to do something different. My passion for art and design got me a place on an Art Foundation course at Harrow, and then on to UAL Camberwell School of Art to study the History of Drawing and Printmaking.
During my studies, I suffered a road accident and broke my back. I managed to complete my degree, but still had limited mobility when I graduated. As a result, I took on a part-time role at the Victoria & Albert Museum, helping with the design of new user-experience technology in their revamped glass gallery. After some time spent as an art curator for a private collector for 17th & 18th century printworks, my passion for design led me to pivot my career entirely – from arts to fintech.
In 1999, I started as a contractor at Citigroup. Ultimately this changed to a full-time role working on their new electronic platform, with the initial goal of cutting down hard-copy distribution costs. At first, I doubted myself: I thought I didn’t have the skillset to match the expectation. With a growth-mindset and the willingness to embrace the opportunity, I was soon thriving in the role, working with senior stakeholders across the UK and the US. Since then, I’ve worked in several roles at Deutsche Bank, Lloyds Banking Group and most recently Macquarie Asset Management.
My life experiences have shaped me and the ‘squiggly’ direction of my career. I’m thankful that I pursued my passion for art and design – without that I wouldn’t have channelled my skills into the role I’m doing today.
You have deep experience in leading complex change projects in financial services. From your experience, how does diversity of thought and shared understanding in teams help to deliver positive outcomes?
I’m a strong believer that constant comparisons shouldn’t shape you. No one should be constrained by someone else’s opinion of what they are or are not able to do. I’ve spoken about embracing change and the importance of a growth-mindset, but I also think extending that same support to others is just as rewarding.
A theme for International Women’s Day this year was ‘Embrace Equity’. This really resonates with me, as I believe true inclusion, specifically with the aim of achieving gender parity in financial services, requires equitable action. It’s about offering differing levels of support based on individual need and giving women the resources and opportunities required to reach an equal outcome.
In my current role, I continue to use the saying ‘Lift as you rise’. At the end of the day, shared understanding and collective activism is what drives change. I’m passionate about making an impact, which is why whilst working at Lloyds Banking Group in 2017, I single-handedly delivered 50:50 gender parity within the talent pipeline in the Commercial Banking Markets division.
As an award-winning woman in finance and champion of diversity in the workplace, what are the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives you are particularly passionate about?
In our industry, showcasing talent, especially female talent, helps to inspire future generations. There are various initiatives that I am involved with:
- 100WFintech – It’s a brilliant directory which connects influential women in the industry. This list helps bust the myth that there aren’t talented women in financial services. All you need to do is look a little bit harder!
- Nadia Edwards-Dashti’s 19% list – Currently women only make up 19% of UK tech roles. This regular email offers visibility of female technology talent and highlights women looking for a new challenge to its subscribers. I’d also recommend listening to Nadia’s podcast series The DEI Discussions where she interviews a diverse range of fintech professionals through candid conversations and storytelling.
- Women of Fintech – An award-winning fintech community founded by Gemma Livermore, offering a range of value-add programs and opportunities. This free-to-join network addresses the “next stage” of the career lifecycle by offering support and guidance for women ranging from school leavers to established professionals.
- Innovate Finance – Specifically, their Fintech Power List. It celebrates women driving forward change within the fintech space, above and beyond their day-to-day role.
- Diversity Economics Institute – A new venture founded by Af Malhotra supporting six diverse communities and their intersectionality to get voices from the frontline, to the ears of those that shape corporate culture and policy.
In addition to this (and arguably one of the most important) are initiatives that highlight male allies, such as HeForShe or the everywoman platform. Men play a hugely important role in driving gender parity. At the end of the day, not only do men still occupy most executive decision-making roles, it’s also an area that affects their wife, sister, niece or daughter: parity is something we all have a vested interest in and it’s absolutely not ‘just a women’s issue’.
The initiatives you mention represent connectivity and innovation, crucial to delivering meaningful change in DEI across the industry today. How do you hope that the career path you’ve paved for yourself will help to inspire others around you?
I want to make the industry more accessible, nurturing promising talent and giving people the opportunity to thrive. At the end of my formal career, I’d like to be able to say that I made a difference for the people behind me. Those who maybe didn’t have a traditional route either, or didn’t think they fit in. I encourage everyone to not limit yourselves due to whatever you think your weaknesses might be, e.g. because you have a disability, didn’t do the ‘right’ degree, or indeed any degree at all. A great football team doesn’t become great because everyone is a fabulous goal scorer. It takes 11 players covering a multitude of roles and skills, including a brilliant manager, coaches, medical staff, physios… Each one has a unique gift to offer.
In my teams I always seek to create psychological safety, making people aware that they won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. This brings me neatly back to the saying ‘Lift as you rise’, as I believe that igniting or shining a light on someone else doesn’t diminish mine or anyone else’s. Actively look for opportunities to showcase others in the areas they are keen to explore, so they can reach their full potential. Ultimately, this activity generates a double positive, as everyone benefits.
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