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Trailblazer Rachel Harbers

news published date 7 May 2024
  • Communities
  • Our Stories
This month our Trailblazer series meets Rachel Harbers who began her journey with WIBF in 2019 when she joined as a volunteer and became the third member of the newly established Future Leaders Shadow Board (FLSB). Last year she was appointed to the Board of Directors for Help for Children UK. Read about her journey and her advice on getting a board role.

Rachel Harbers is a Vice President at Blackstone and sits in Global Product Strategy as part of the Private Wealth Solutions group. Rachel is involved in the product origination and development of new strategies and fund structures for individual investors across a broad spectrum of alternative asset classes.

Prior to joining Blackstone in 2022, Rachel spent five years at Morgan Stanley in the Private Wealth Management and Investment Management divisions in Sydney and London, respectively.

In 2021, Rachel was a winner in the Rising Star Awards for Investment Management for WeAreTheCity.

Rachel holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney.

 

Tell us about your roles with WIBF, why you are passionate about WIBF?

My journey with Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) began in 2019 when I joined as a volunteer and became the third member of the newly established Future Leaders Shadow Board (FLSB). The FLSB’s mission was injecting fresh perspectives and innovative ideas into WIBF’s Management Board, supporting the organisation’s strategic growth. During my tenure as Co-Chair, I recruited a diverse board of future leaders and spearheaded key strategic initiatives, including the launch of the Future Leaders Network (FLN) which brings together young talent in the industry. Witnessing the growth of this high quality, active WIBF network has been profoundly rewarding.

Another significant role I held was Secretary to the Nominations Committee, where I supported the pivotal process of selecting WIBF’s next President. This experience, collaborating with esteemed members of the Advisory and Executive boards, offered me a unique insight into the intricacies of recruiting for a Non-Executive Director (NED) role, further deepening my understanding and appreciation for WIBF’s mission and operations.

My initial inspiration for joining WIBF was its mission to champion gender equality within the financial services sector across the UK. My experience with WIBF has been a dynamic community of enthusiastic, like-minded volunteers committed to driving tangible change. My time with WIBF not only significantly expanded my personal and professional network but also left me with lasting friendships, mentors, and sponsors. The journey with WIBF has been an enriching chapter of my professional life, along with learning, growth and contributing to a worthwhile cause.

 

When did you start thinking about a board role? Why was it of interest?

My interest with the boardroom was sparked at a Women on Boards (WOB) event during the early years of my career in Sydney, Australia. The keynote speaker, a distinguished figure with a wealth of experience on ASX200 listed company boards, shared her journey from a financial services professional to a seasoned board member. Her insights on the nuances of strategic thinking, the dynamic obligations of board roles, and the unparalleled opportunity to effect change across various sectors struck a chord with me.

This event peeled back the mystery of the boardroom, shedding light on the influence of board positions in steering the strategic course of an organisation. In today’s world where no career is linear, it also revealed the path to the boardroom and ability to leverage skills and insights for significant impact.

Inspired by this event, I seized the opportunity to begin my board journey when I came across the advertisement for a role on WIBF’s Future Leaders Shadow Board. It was a chance to align my career with an organisation whose mission resonated with me, marking the beginning of my pursuit towards making a meaningful difference in the boardroom for causes I am passionate about.

 

What tools/resources did you use to support yourself in the process?

In 2023, I was appointed to the Board of Directors for Help for Children UK, a global charity with the mission of protecting and supporting children who have been victims of abuse, neglect, or violence. In securing my first charity board role with HFC UK, I leveraged my shadow board experience with WIBF as it provided the foundation for my knowledge on governance, strategy, and board responsibilities. In addition, I signed up to Women on Boards for their resources and access to the vacancy board. WOB’s comprehensive workshops offered deep dives into the nuances of board responsibilities. Two resources I highly recommend are the ‘Get on Board’ workshop and ‘Building a Board CV’ online module which focus on articulating your value add to the boardroom and refining your pitch. Learning how to take your executive career skillset and apply this to the boardroom was extremely beneficial.

Lastly, I shared with my network that I was seeking a board role and asked mentors to review my Board CV. This blend of educational resources and a supportive community equipped me with the knowledge and confidence needed to navigate the board appointment process with HFC UK successfully.

 

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about a board role?

Considering a board role? Here are my top tips to prepare for the journey to the boardroom.

  • Network
  • Identify causes / topics that you are interested in
  • Reflect on your skillset and what you can offer to an organisation
  • Volunteer for committees internally in your workplace or externally in your industry
  • Take opportunities for shadow board experience
  • Self-lead your education to the Board environment
  • Align with organisations such as WIBF and WOB to build experience and exposure

What can you gain through a board role which will enhance your executive career?

  • Learning new skillsets in areas such as governance and strategic thinking
  • Giving back to your wider community
  • Expanding your professional network

It is never too early to start. You may already be gaining experience by volunteering in your local sports club or community. Organisations of all sizes are seeking diversity of thought and background in their board members.

I strongly encourage you to seek out new board opportunities through WIBF.