Dr Kay Swinburne is the Vice Chair of KPMG UK’s financial services practice. As part of the firm’s senior leadership team, Dr Swinburne advises C-suite clients on issues such as ESG investing and responsible taxation as well as developing the firm’s regulatory and policy business. Dr Swinburne started her career in banking before shifting to politics.
Dr Kay Swinburne
Dr Kay Swinburne

As vice-chair of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, she shaped numerous pieces of financial services legislation, including EMIR, MIFID II and CSDR. Dr Swinburne’s extensive experience and her passion for supporting women to progress in their careers, has earned her a reputation as a thought leader and committed diversity advocate.

She has been shortlisted for the Award for Achievement.

How does it feel to be shortlisted for the Award for Achievement?

It feels great. Having spent a decade working on public policy in the European Parliament, to be shortlisted for this private sector award feels like a real endorsement – an acknowledgment of the work that I’ve been doing for the last year in helping clients comply with that legislation.

Could you tell us about the career path to your current role?

My career path has taken a few twists and turns over the years. I have a doctorate in medical research, which informed much of the work I did in my first role at an investment bank supporting biotech and pharmaceutical clients. Beginning my career in this way, then spending ten years building European financial services legislation and now returning to advise our clients on implementing this has given me a truly holistic view of our industry. I see the challenges and opportunities we face from multiple angles – and the businesses I advise really value that.

What aspect of your career are you most proud of?

Timing has been an interesting theme throughout my career. I joined politics immediately following the financial crisis. This meant that my work to increase the resilience of European financial infrastructure – which involved the recapitalisation of banks, building buffers and moving risk to central counterparties – ultimately influenced financial regulation Globally.

My first year at KPMG has also come at a time of critical Global challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a real-life stress-test on the system I helped build. Thankfully, the market infrastructure and its participants have stood the test well, reinforcing the worth of the work we did over the past decade.

Do you think your political career benefited your financial services career? Were then any particular challenges with the transition?

The time I spent in European Parliament, particularly the knowledge I amassed around legislation and the global financial system, has undoubtedly allowed me to provide more effective support to my colleagues and clients in my current role. I’ve also continued to leverage my global network and European connections at KPMG.

Brexit has provided a unique opportunity to connect with clients using my knowledge of both public and private sector but navigating how to bring all this experience to my new role hasn’t come without its challenges.

One of the toughest parts of adjusting to life at KPMG is the sheer scale of the place. We have experts in so many different fields. Someone somewhere always has the answer, the hard part is often finding them.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self about her career, knowing what you know now?

Interestingly, this is something I’ve been reflecting a lot on recently. My daughter is 19 and we’re having lots of conversation about her future. With so much uncertainty in the job market, young people trying to break into the world of work are facing a real challenge.

My main advice would be to not worry so much about what the future holds. You can’t predict what will come along, but you can make sure you’re open to opportunities. It’s great to have targets, but don’t be so focused that you can’t see when changing tack might be beneficial.

You are currently training for a charity challenge trekking Mount Toubkal in Morocco, how is that going?

I am goal-driven by nature, so this is a great opportunity to set myself a new target - one that will certainly test my mental and physical endurance – whilst giving back and raising funds for a worthy cause.

As a more senior member of the trek group, it will be an interesting role reversal to see some of my younger colleagues take the lead and help me achieve a task that I suspect they’ll find easier than I will. It’s a shame that the event has been postponed to 2021 but I’ve welcomed the additional time to train and raise funds.