SVP, Head of Digital Product Development and Innovation, State Street
What was your career journey?
Looking back, I do not think I had a specific field that I intended to go into. I was trained to become a scientist, until I accidentally discovered something called entrepreneurship. It seemed to be the ultimate problem-solving challenge and I sailed into a career in financial services. Early on, I tried to step into positions which did not require me to do the same things that I was doing in physics such as building computational techniques, models, etc. I wanted instead to learn how organisations worked, so I moved to strategy positions. I worked at start ups, large banks, brokers and exchanges, doing a wide range of seemingly random roles. I say seemingly random, as I would like to think they were often driven by a few standard themes; often curiosity around the next big problem, which is then the next business opportunity and I work on it. Somebody told me that entrepreneurship is a tool. I agree with that. To clarify; if the probability of success for a new idea – based on desired risk/reward – is more favourable if executed through setting up a new venture, one should just do that. If it is more favourable at a large organisation, due to an existing market, client base, etc; then work on it. Also, we now can define our own fields. We can be market scientists!
How have things changed and what does the industry need to focus on?
There seems to be more genuine interest in diversity in our industry. I am especially happy to see the emergence of diversity of backgrounds and experiences as popular topics in the recent years. Again, the nature of jobs themselves has been changing. As we use technology for competitive advantage across financial services, interdisciplinary approaches become necessity. Almost no problem is strictly a business or technology problem anymore. New opportunities are created by people and teams which cross the traditional roles and silos. Knowing what we don’t know, looking to connect the dots between different experiences, embracing different ways of thinking, are all the attributes of diversity in action. Our clients, as well as new entrants to our industry are also changing, their preferences are different. We often talk about building ecosystems and end-to-end network opportunities. Diversity is intrinsic to these topics which define not only the future of our industry but also the future of work. Diversity is a competitive advantage in nature; it should be for us as well.
What lessons have been learnt and how can managers drive change and retain people?
Driving change, making an impact and being part of a big vision often attracts cutting edge talent and keeps them focused and motivated. There are fundamental factors that help retain people; such as being empowered, being appreciated, learning and improving, having clear objectives and accountability. As we drive change and create new ways of doing things, it makes sense to implement these factors. We often talk about the importance of collaboration between organisations. Similarly, it makes sense to build teams which collaborate and work well together in addition to hiring stars. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and I would argue that even our weaknesses can be assets for a team that truly complements each other, and help drive unique achievements. I certainly do not claim to have learned all the lessons. I am amazed every day.