Leanne Allen is a director at KPMG’s FS Technology Consulting practice leading the data capability function. Over the years, she has been successful in driving 100 percent growth within a gender diverse team. A veteran data specialist, she helps clients navigate complex issues, and drive strategies to realise the value of data assets in a safe and ethical way.
Leanne Allen
Leanne Allen

Leanne supports other working mothers through her Super Woman Network. She is a mentor to many colleagues in FS and, shares her experience and advice through Super mum podcasts. A thought leader and inspirational speaker, Leanne is setting new operating models and governance standards which address the grey space of Data Ethics.

Leanne is winner of the WIBF Tech Star Award.

You were shortlisted for this award last year, can you tell us about the highlights of this experience?

WIBF awards do stand out from the other awards. The calibre of experience of all the shortlisted women is truly inspiring. The WIBF platform spotlights the success of women across the UK banking and finance sector. It provides a valuable pool of female role models for those considering a career in banking and finance, just starting or even progressing their careers and looking upwards for inspiration and options for their next step along with their individual journeys.

My specific highlights from last year’s short-listing process and events were:

The short-lister dinner. The intimate dinner with the other incredible shortlisted women in the tech-star category enabled easy connections with the fraternity. It provided the perfect opportunity to hear each other’s inspiring stories, and for the group to come together and stand behind each other as a community to support the wider celebrations on the awards night.

The awards evening was another fantastic event that I was proud to be a part of. The value of the awards was clearly visible from the seniority of the speakers, the event setting, the seamless coordination and the inclusive community. Overall, the night exuded a vibe of genuine celebration of talent across the industry.

What are you most proud of achieving in the last year?

Continuing to build and sustain a strong collaborative team has been my greatest achievement by far. I am happy to coach my team members and help them grow technically and professionally. Observing them deliver excellent, sustainable and valuable solutions for our clients has been a great source of satisfaction for me. I feel proud to be able to support them through challenges and watch them progress in their careers.

Over the years, I have been able to create a 60 percent gender diverse team and am incredibly proud of their achievements. As a working mother of two, I have promoted and encouraged flexible working patterns within my team. This has led to clients reaching out and seeking my advice on shaping and retaining female talent in tech/data domains.

Embedded flexibility has meant that the recent events caused by COVID-19, the need to work from home with many team members juggling home schooling and other conflicting responsibilities, has allowed the team to maintain momentum and, continue effectively and efficiently supporting each other, our business and our clients.

You have been involved in AI product development, how do you think this tech will change banking over the next few years?

With the rise of Fintech and digital banks, customer appetite for new products and services, and more seamless digital connections is growing quickly. The pressure to invest further in automation of customer processes has never been greater, driven by the desire to reduce operating costs and improve return on equity.

This path from automation, through ML to AI, is actively being pursued as banks re-think their operating models to deliver far greater customer centricity and move to proactive data strategies that drive profitability and transform customer satisfaction for the better.

The financial services industry is already heavily regulated, but firms need to be sure that their approach to GDPR, e-privacy and the FCA rulebook is calibrated to fit these new technologies.

We can also see that there is a wider ethical challenge when using data and algorithmic techniques within a context, bringing about the question, just because you can, should you?

You founded the Superwomen network (SWN) for working mothers at KPMG, can you tell us more about that?

Seven years ago, after a year-long maternity break, I returned to a team where there were no female partners or directors and, thus no new role models to discuss my career progression with. This sparked my desire to find others who felt the same and, drove me to establish and launch the Super Woman Network (SWN). The objective of the network is to provide a supportive, connected system of existing, returning and to-be mums on the career paths to the boardroom.

The SWN now has over 100 women and with regular events for their benefit. Due to COVID-19, I recently moved the network online to continue the support through this rapid transition to remote working and managing home schooling.

Over the last few months, the support provided by the network has proven invaluable to many. From home schooling links, worksheets, plans on nursery closures, shared experiences and approaches to flexing hours across the day, advice on keeping physically and mentally well, the list goes on. On my male colleagues’ request, the group has now been extended to include working fathers too.

Working in collaboration with UNIDA, I have supported regular focused sessions through my SWN network. I have highlighted female challenges and generated ideas and actions driving improved culture within KPMG. These include coaching for motherhood in FS, visibility of senior role models and work-life balance.

You have two daughters, do they have ideas about what they want to be when they grow up?

Thankfully my daughters, six and four, do not know what they want to be yet. I chose to ask the question in a fun way, and I’m pleased that they both responded with what they love doing. One of them wants to become a singer, because singing makes her happy. One wants to become a dancer, because she likes to do cool moves, and sometimes, they want to become a hairdresser as they enjoy getting their hair cut and styled.

Looking back, I recall my teenage career ambitions that ranged from wanting to be an astronaut to an architect, a graphic designer to a formula1 car designer. I was torn between studying mathematics and art at university, to the point of applying to courses in both. I finally chose mathematics on the rationale that art would always remain a hobby.

I hope my girls continue to be guided by their passions, their natural skills and, then hope that those roles are hiring.

What makes you smile?

Seeing someone smile, makes me smile. Happiness is infectious.

Although in the last few months, working from home and juggling home schooling has had its challenges, the Zoom sessions with my family, friends and team have made me smile.

There have been some benefits of the lockdown too. Watching my youngest daughter learn to ride her bike without stabilisers and the long woodland walks have made me smile.

As the lockdown has started to ease, being able to see my parents again has brought a smile to my face.