The COO team encompasses 12 individuals who are based in London and Hong Kong. Together they support a global business which raises capital from institutional investors and invests this in typically long dated debt assets. Importantly the team manages a wide range of activities, from client servicing and reporting, to debt valuations, fund administration and loan servicing.
The COO team has been nominated for the 2019 Team Diversity Award, we asked Chief Operating Officer for Macquarie’s infrastructure debt business Louise Jack a few questions to find out more…
How does it feel to be nominated for our Team Diversity Award?
I am extremely proud of my team. I’ve been leading the team for three years, and it’s grown from 4 to 12 people. The nomination recognises the cumulative effect of a number of conscious decisions I have made whilst building the team.
I feel this is also an opportunity for the team to ‘pause’ and take a moment to reflect on how the changes we’ve made have really transformed what we/Macquarie deliver to clients. We have increased quality, efficiency, and now have the ability to be able to truly focus on our clients. We simply couldn’t exceed our client’s expectations when fighting internal operational fires day-to-day.
How does your team contribute to diversity within your organisation?
We contribute to diversity by role modelling and showcasing it in different ways. The team is ethnically diverse, with 58% female representation and almost half of the team have regular flexible/part time working patterns.
Day to day we contribute to diversity in Macquarie in measured and more opportunistic ways. For example, I sit on the business’ Management Committee and various Board roles, where I am an active and valued contributor who brings an operational, commercial and risk mindset; as well as increasing gender diversity.
More informally, there is a group of 8 or so females in my business who have quarterly breakfasts where we meet outside the office and share thoughts on a particular D&I topic that has been raised by someone in the group. It’s a bit like a D&I book club, except we discuss the shared article and our reactions to it, as opposed to Richard and Judy’s latest beach read!
What are you most proud of about your team and its achievements?
We have increased platform efficiencies by 13% over three years, measured by headcount to AUM ratio. At the same time, operational incidents have reduced, and productivity (volume of loans managed per person) has increased by 22%. I have also been an active champion of diversity in terms of hiring and embracing flexible working.
Every member of the team works incredibly hard. There is a real commitment to the business, which has fostered amazingly close relationships. I like that we treat each other fairly, with trust and with openness. It has made it such an inspiring place to work.
As employees from more traditional backgrounds have a greater number of positive interactions with minority groups (gender, backgrounds and working practices), we have seen that they will then draw on these experiences in making their own hiring/ decisions. This can only be a positive circle of trust and reinforcement so that diversity stats move from minority to mainstream.
What has been your most memorable lesson in terms of diversity and inclusion?
In my role as COO, I can influence culture and take decisions which make an impact. For example asking a recruiter who has just emailed me 10 male CVs to consider diversity in what he presents to me. The result is an email an hour later with 10 further CVs, of which 7 are female. Such a simple question. Such an opening of opportunities.
Society and social media continues to promote goals for greater inclusivity; most companies now have diversity policies; however it is important to realise that it is you (the individual) that can take the actions to change the profile of your office and your team.
So my reminder to you would be that you can be the person that nudges your manager, team or business to take decisions that cumulatively make a difference.
If you could change one single thing about your sector what would it be?
To think more creatively about what it can mean to work flexibly. My team have made a good start, with examples of flexible working that include a 4 day week, a day a week working from home, and structured early leave patterns.
However if I look to other industries then I see examples of working practices which would have a greater impact on talent retention, particularly when priorities shift. This could be for a variety of reasons; having a family in my case. I think that the working patterns today have not yet evolved to align to what technology can support, and what people value.
Some higher profile examples are the Wellcome Trust consultation on all staff moving to a 4 day working week (evidence, and my first-hand experience, says it improves productivity); or teaching/ NHS where job shares (allowing 2 people to work part-time whilst the firm still gets a full time role) are part of the job advertisements.
Clearly these working patterns won’t work for all roles, but it would be good to see some creative examples taken to be an acceptable norm in finance. I wonder how many more senior females would be attracted to roles if they are advertised as part time/ job share roles. This is a source of high EQ talent which divests itself from City roles due to the lack of flexible working options. As the future of work will require us to navigate through the balance of how machines and people work together, a high level of EQ will be ever more pertinent to motivate and engage high performing teams.
Tell us something about yourself you think people would find surprising?
I’m a qualified pharmacist, and a published researcher on anti-microbial resistance in pharmaceutical journals. This is what I trained as before changing career to do and ACA at PwC.
Being a pharmacist graduate in a Big 4 accountancy intake, as the only person who didn’t have a business/ economics/ accountancy degree, was my first taster of being a minority. Since then I have continued to test myself in a variety of new roles. Being a female in asset management is a further minority, and working flexibly within that sector even more so.
These challenges have demanded a high level of energy and persistence in my career. I’ve done this because I enjoy the variety and continued challenge.