Jennifer is managing the global programme for the roll out of products and solutions targeting client’s financial crime risk management problems across the KPMG member firm network whilst continuing to build client relationships and deliver ongoing client commitments.
She has been shortlisted for the Champion for Women Award.
How does it feel to be nominated for our Champion for Women Award?
The award itself demonstrates real progress in acknowledging the difficulties there have been, and continue to be, for women working in the banking and finance sector and I am genuinely thrilled to have been nominated. I’m truly passionate about creating diverse and inclusive workplaces and supporting societal change, so to have been able to contribute, in any way, to assist in addressing the traditional barriers of both entry and progression within this sector has been a privilege. Having received transformative support and advice from others along the way, I hope to continue to pay back that support in any way I can. I am also especially fortunate that I work for an employer who not only reflects my beliefs in a fair and inclusive environment but holds them as core values, as this has been fundamental in enabling me to run and engage in the networks and programmes KPMG supports.
Can you tell us about your career path that led you to your current role?
I’ve had an unconventional career path, originally training to be a professional dancer. From the age of 11 dancing was all I wanted to do and I was singularly focused to the detriment of everything else. When I realised I wouldn’t be a dancer it was a huge shock and I found myself confronted with options I had not expected to face and, as such, did not understand.
I eventually chose to go to university where I studied Genetics and Biotechnology followed by an MSc in Marketing, before joining the British Army, much to my surprise and that of everyone else. I unexpectedly found a home in which I thrived and served for 12 years in the Intelligence Corps, always maximising opportunities that were open to me.
Whilst my previous training, education and profession didn’t prepare me specifically for working in financial services, they instilled in me a discipline to get the job done, often when under pressure or in novel situations. I have also learnt a lot about developing and empowering people and believe fully in the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst motto ‘Serve to Lead’. Towards the end of my military service I completed an MSc in Forensic Accounting, which helped me secure a position within KPMG’s Forensic practice through our military leavers’ programme. I started in Corporate Intelligence, moving onto the Forensic Investigations and Compliance team, and from there I finally found my home in the Forensic Data Analytics team where I am now.
What inspired you to create the Forensic Women’s network?
There were very few women at the management level in forensic services management team and we did not know each other particularly well. One or two of the women had been experiencing difficulties at work so Priya Giuliani, a previous partner at KPMG, held a meeting for the female managers to discuss the issues we were facing and propose suggestions for how they could be addressed. Having worked in a predominantly male environment before entering financial services and experienced the benefits of a strong, professional network of women for support, advice and mentorship, it was clear to me we needed a similar support network across Forensic.
As a first step, I proposed we hold focus groups with the more junior members of forensic practice to determine whether there were thematic issues to resolve and I scheduled regular manager meetings. We then started holding quarterly events targeting the issues raised in the focus groups. What started as a small group of women leveraging personal relationships quickly became a more formalised and structured network with a vision, mission statement and identity. We have an amazing sponsoring partner in Karen Briggs and an active calendar of events, but it is the informal touchpoints that really make people feel included. The network now covers the whole of the Forensic practice and we have proactively included men on the committee and in our events to make sure we are truly diverse and inclusive.
What would you tell the 14 year old you knowing what you know now with regards to your career?
I don’t think my 14 year old self would have listened to anything I had to say – I was very headstrong! My overriding advice would be: believe in yourself, don’t feel the need to conform, and follow your passions.
I have made the most of the opportunities that have arisen by throwing myself into everything I do. You can’t commit to working hard and striving to do your best in a job, or anything else in life, you don’t have an interest in, so make sure you enjoy what you do.
And don’t be afraid to create opportunities either. If you come to people with ideas and solutions, you will often receive support in making them a reality, which is how I established the Forensic Women’s Network and created the position of Diversity Lead for Forces in the Firm, KPMG’s military network.
When was a time you were out of your comfort zone and how did it ultimately help you?
I’m frequently out of my comfort zone for many different reasons, whether it is physically pushing myself or mentally pushing myself. The time that resonates most however, is when I was posted to a niche military unit. I was geographically dislocated from my friends and family, there was no mobile phone reception and only a single, shockingly slow internet terminal that was always in use. Most of the other people with whom I was working had spent their entire career in the same team, whereas I was on a two year attachment.
The work was challenging but rewarding and it was a high performance environment. Whilst my colleagues were friendly, I found the posting isolating and lonely. The experience really highlighted to me the importance of having solid support networks, which understand the social context of the work environment and how it can impact on productivity and belonging.
The Forensic Women’s Network is intended to meet exactly this need: accelerating membership and a sense of belonging through sharing experience and advice. Rarely will someone have had the same experience as you, but having a network to discuss ideas, thoughts and feelings helps to contextualise which ultimately starts to make operating outside of your own comfort zone that little bit more comforting!
Tell us something about yourself you think people would find surprising?
My friends offered a ‘helpful’ list of suggestions in response to this question, and I hope that list continues to stay as long. I have always been tempted by novel adventures: from travelling across South America in a fur-covered moto taxi to investing in a mourning limousine to complement an Addams Family fancy dress road trip to a ski and music festival. But the thing that surprises most people is that I have run eight marathons. My favourite has to be the Marathon du Medoc where my love of fancy dress, running and wine were combined. It is a moving festival of music, fun and camaraderie that runs through the Bordeaux wine region stopping at 22 Chateaux for wine tasting en route.