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Karen Frank

news published date 14 September 2017
  • Our Stories
As a society, we have to embrace a real accountability for equality in the workplace – and equality in all things

Karen is CEO of the Private Bank & Overseas Services business, based in London, and a member of the Barclays International Executive Committee. Karen joined Barclays in 2012 as a Managing Director in the Financial Sponsors Group (FSG) and was appointed Co-Head of FSG for EMEA in 2013. She was a member of the Banking Operating Committee, EMEA and Global Diversity Council. She assumed her current role leading the PB&OS business in October 2016.

Karen started her career in private equity in 1992, working in Goldman Sachs’ Principal Investment Area in New York and London, and continued working in private equity with AEA Investors and Compass Partners International.  In 2005, Karen was asked to join Goldman Sachs’ Investment Bank to build the firm’s middle market Financial Sponsors business.  She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in Economics.  She has lived in London for nearly 20 years.

What influenced your decision to get into Banking and Finance?

My interest in understanding how economics and government policy impact a societies’ well being is one of the main reasons why I went into finance.  I grew up in the Midwest of the US before living and working in Colombia and Sweden.  The vast differences in these countries both economically and politically in these geographies demonstrated the effect attainable, and enduring opportunities have on our society.  This influenced my decision to study economics and enter into Private Equity in the early 1990s. 

What the greatest challenges in the day-to-day activities of your profession?

There are many challenges day-to-day – that’s what makes this job fun!  One challenge that I find to be more pervasive is the ability we have to attract and retain talent within the organization, particularly in a balanced and diverse way.  Talented individuals have the ability to move around companies and sectors as they progress through their careers.  The millennial generation, in particular, has a unique orientation on what they consider “career” opportunities, taking risk much earlier on, and looking for fulfillment that extends beyond annual bonus or ability to climb a ladder.   We want to be the company they choose to work with, and where they find new challenges, opportunities and enjoyment at all stages of their careers and lives. 

Do you think quotas are the right way to go for women on Boards?

As a society, we have to embrace a real accountability for equality in the workplace – and equality in all things.   Despite the great strides forward over the decades, I remain very impatient with the progress we’ve made as an industry in achieving equality of opportunity.   I do not like quotas, but am very much coming around to imposition of a board quota to break down the barriers to women having a proper voice in how we conduct ourselves and thrive in businesses.  In the longer term, I would hope that quotas would not be necessary.  There are many countries that have used quotas for boards, with varying degrees of success.

How can we engage men in gender diversity initiatives?

Gender diversity is everyone’s responsibility and we have taken great steps within Barclays to ensure that men and women support these initiatives effectively.  Not only is this led by our CEO, but it is also demonstrated throughout the organization through our key diversity initiatives.  I am particularly pleased by the number of women we have on our group board, and the role models these women have become.  Men, as well as women, understand the business benefit to having a diverse team and the continued commercial success we achieve by expanding the breadth and depth of our leadership teams.

How have women helped you in your career?

I’ve been lucky to have several great male and female colleagues who have supported me through my career, and I continue to be grateful for that support.  The sponsorship from these colleagues has enabled me to take on greater opportunities and “stretch” roles in my career.  Personally, I am passionate about supporting the next generation of female leaders progress through the organization, and in the industry.

Three secrets to success or top tips?
– Always, always – keep the client at the centre of everything you do
– Surround yourself with people that know how to do the things you don’t know how to do – you can learn as much from them as they can from you
– Assume you CAN do something and jump right into it.  In the end, you’ll figure it out as well as anyone…