Article

How to pursue a leadership role within banking and finance


WORK180Oct 21, 2019

Raising the number of women in leadership is important for all companies, but in the banking and finance industry, it’s a top priority. With this in mind, WORK180 interviewed eight women from a few of our endorsed employers, who have successfully pursued senior roles in banking and finance and asked them three questions:

  1. How has your company's policies and initiatives supported your career?
  2. What practical advice would you give other women who are aiming for a senior role in the industry?
  3. Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

We think you’ll find their answers insightful!

Look out for the webinar at the end of the blog, where our CEO Gemma Lloyd and guest speaker Jen Dalitz, CEO Women in Banking and Finance (WiBF), share learnings and insights on the importance of mentor programs to advance your career. It is a great resource, not to be missed!

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Sally Auld - Chief Economist & Head of Interest Rate and FX Strategy, Australia & New Zealand, J.P. Morgan

How has J.P. Morgan's policies and initiatives supported your career?

J.P. Morgan’s flexible work arrangement policy provides me with significant autonomy over how I structure my days. I have found participating in J.P. Morgan’s business resource groups, including Women on the Move and Pride, to be an excellent forum to contribute to the initiatives that help to make J.P. Morgan an inclusive and welcoming place to work.

What practical advice would you give other women who are aiming for a senior role in the industry?

First, work hard. There is no substitute for this! Second, make sure the culture of your workplace aligns with your values. It is easier to thrive in a workplace that brings out the best in you and your colleagues. Third, if there’s something you want (e.g. promotion, pay rise, more opportunity), don’t be afraid to ask for it. More often than not, people will say yes. Finally, make sure you have a passion for what you do every day. Financial services can be a demanding and intense industry but it can also be incredibly dynamic, interesting and engaging. To have a long and rewarding career, you need to enjoy your job!

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself to believe in my abilities and to have the courage of my own conviction.

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Isobel Santos - General Manager, Customer Banking Operations, ME Bank

How has ME Bank's policies and initiatives supported your career?

I’m relatively new to ME Bank. But what really attracted me to ME was their focus on their people. Whether it is diversity and inclusion, or work life balance, ME lives and breathes this every day.

What practical advice would you give other women who are aiming for a senior role in the industry?

It’s important to focus on building skill sets that will round you out as a person and as a leader. The more varied the experience, the more opportunities for growth. It teaches you how to deal with ambiguity and tackle problems and issues in an unknown environment. This helps build up your resilience and confidence.

It is also important that you develop your leadership style in line with who you are as a person. Look to learn from leaders that have a similar style to you, rather than trying to be like someone you are not.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

Every role you do will bring learnings, whether they be good or bad - so don’t be afraid to step into different roles. In my case, the roles that have really shaped me have been the roles that scared me the most. These have pushed me past my boundaries and taught me a lot about myself.

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Maria Dunbar - General Manager, Commercial Finance - nbn Network Engineering & Operations

How has nbn’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

nbn initiatives relating to career development and building internal leadership capability have strongly supported my career progression and growth as a finance professional. I feel encouraged and empowered to take control of my development plan. On a quarterly basis I review my plan and stretch myself in order to accelerate my performance. The focus on building collective strategic leadership capability within nbn through leadership training programs and coaching has also meant that I have been able to better understand my impact on others and develop into a stronger leader.

What practical advice would you give other women who are aiming for a senior role in the industry?

The two pieces of advice that I would provide other women aiming for a senior role are; to seek out a strong supporter in the company or industry that you work in, and always, always ask for what you need, and in a way that you would present a business plan.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

There are many pieces of advice that I’d give my younger self, but the two that I think would have made a big difference for me early on are:

  1. Seek out leadership coaching and development; and
  2. Build deep external industry connections.

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Jessica Power - Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC Australia

How has HSBC’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

HSBC has some of the most supportive workplace policies I’ve seen. For instance, HSBC pays superannuation contributions for the whole two years that colleagues can take as parental leave. Flexible working is really encouraged and, we have a robust mentoring program that increases exposure among our global business.

What practical advice would you give other women who are aiming for a senior role in the industry?

As a first step, find opportunities in your current role that expand your thinking and skillset - qualities like stakeholder management, communication and problem solving are all really important to have as a senior leader. Also, talk to your colleagues about your ambitions, take on stretch assignments and go beyond your internal networks to build relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

Men put themselves forward so much more and at a younger age than women. Be confident that you can do the next job up without necessarily having all the skills yet - and have the courage of your convictions.

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Alison Hill - Chief Risk Officer (CRO), RACQ Bank

How has RACQ's policies and initiatives supported your career?

I have been fortunate that RACQ has always recognised my potential and provided me with support and development opportunities – not only through formal training programs but also through mentoring, coaching and on the job learning experiences.

What practical advice would you give other women who are aiming for a senior role in the industry?

Always believe in yourself, and take on the hard jobs that are outside your comfort zone. Find mentors and support mechanisms where you can be vulnerable, challenged and are continually learning, and build strong networks. Finally, love the people you work with and who work for you and look after their careers as much as you look after yours.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

Be yourself at work – warts and all! Everything happens for a reason, so make sure you learn from it and keep moving forward. And always make time for other people, no matter who they are, and build enduring relationships.

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Bozenna Hinton - Head of Portfolio Management, Individual Life, TAL

How has TAL’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

TAL’s policies support a flexible work environment, with easy dial in access to the office network. I saw a need, so established a study support program for actuarial students. I have both provided mentoring support myself as well as encouraging others to do so. I am also the business lead for TAL’s actuarial co-op and graduate programs.

What practical advice would you give other women who are aiming for a senior role in the industry?

One thing I have found helpful is saying 'yes' to opportunities that come up. You might think that you are too young, or don’t have the skills, but it is always worthwhile having a go. Get involved with industry bodies – they can be valuable places to meet people at other companies, or in other roles, and it is always helpful to hear other perspectives. Also volunteer roles can be great opportunities to practice skills that might not come up in your day to day role, such as chairing meetings, giving presentations, or organising events.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

Think positively. If you make a mistake, learn from it, and try again. Try and get involved in as many different things as possible. Learn all aspects – not just the ones that are directly related to your role. If you understand how the whole company/industry works, this will provide much better context, allowing your judgements to be more soundly based.

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Jane Tandy - Chief Operating Officer, Patersons

How has Paterson’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

Our flexible working policies allowed me to work from home for an extended period of time after returning to work post maternity leave, allowing me to spend much needed extra time closer to my baby. The introduction of breast feeding rooms in our Perth, Melbourne and Sydney offices also allowed me to breastfeed my son for an extended period of time and showed me that the company really supported my return to work.

What practical advice would you give other women who are aiming for a senior role in the industry?

Some of my biggest supporters and drivers of my career have been the men around me. It’s great seeking relationships with other women in the industry but don’t underestimate the men!

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

Start networking earlier. It’s great when you have friends from uni entering similar fields, but it’s important to expand your network more broadly. Opportunities tend to go to people that they know!

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Anjali Crossette - Product Owner, Strategy, Liberty Financial shares her advice:

To flourish in the finance industry, don’t limit yourself to just your job description. Be curious and understand all aspects of the business you work in – especially the people you work with. Focus on building relationships with as many people as you can, and identify a mentor early on who is invested in your growth. Always be confident in your abilities and remember that you are deserving of any success that comes your way.

The Importance of Mentor Programs - WORK180 and WiBF Webinar:

WORK180’s CEO, Gemma Lloyd and guest speaker Jen Dalitz, CEO Women in Banking and Finance (WiBF), held a webinar to share learnings and insights on the importance of mentor programs to advance your career. Jen provided unique insights on the importance of mentor programs and how you can utilise these to grow a career across any industry.

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About the author

WORK180

WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. We pre-screen every employer on our jobs board to see where they stand on pay equity, flexible working, paid parental leave, equal opportunities and a range of other criteria. We also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The information we uncover is made public on our website, so that everyone knows what to expect from each employer before applying for a job. We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.


WORK180 is a jobs board with a difference! We pre-screen employers on paid-parent leave, pay equity, flexible working arrangements and more. Find your dream job here.


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