Championing women from the very top
Kathryn became the first female Treasurer of Barclays at the beginning of 2018. After a long career in Investment Banking, Kathryn has spent the last nine years in the Group centre. She has enjoyed a great breadth of roles and experiences, from being an Analyst on the trading floor, to an MD in the capital markets team, to running Investor Relations, all of these building the knowledge and experience that have led to her taking responsibility for a £1.3 trillion balance sheet. A long-time champion of diversity and inclusion, she is particularly passionate about enabling more women to rise to the top of their careers.
We were delighted to chat with Kathryn about a host of subjects, ranging from life in Treasury to her views on women in banking.
You’ve experienced many facets of the bank during your time with Barclays. What attracts you to your current role in Treasury?
"Treasury is a demanding environment, even more so during the very tough Covid times in 2020, because we have an incredibly important role to play in keeping the bank safe, with the right levels of capital and liquidity. What’s special about Treasury is that it sits right at the heart of the Bank, providing the oxygen the Bank needs to function. We enable the Bank to provide the mortgages and loans that millions of people need to progress in their lives, and we support the Corporate & Investment Bank in its crucial work of fuelling the global economy."
Why is Treasury at Barclays such a unique environment?
“Treasury is a wonderful, dynamic and important place to work, and offers a fantastic opportunity for colleagues to experience the great variety of roles within it. For example, our Investor Relations team and Principal Investments business, which invests equity in GreenTech and FinTech companies, both sit within Treasury. We’re also investing £175 million in green startups, which is one of the key pillars of Barclays climate policy. As Treasurer, I’m passionate about creating a culture of inclusion where everyone can feel they are contributing, feel able to make their voice heard and feel that they can have really fulfilling careers.”
You’ve enjoyed a diverse and interesting career. How important is it to be open to career mobility?
“Throughout my career I’ve not really been afraid to try completely new things. I really believe that in order to understand and solve the challenges we face today, it’s important to develop different skills and new ways of seeing things – and that you get that best outcomes from a diversity of experience. Also of course for teams have as much diversity of backgrounds and ideas as possible. In Treasury, it’s easy for people to become deep technical experts, but we also want our colleagues to have broader perspectives. By trying new things, and working in different areas, these can provide valuable experiences, and also open up new opportunities. This is something I share with the people I mentor, and particularly the young women I work with. Be open-minded, explore new roles outside your immediate team: this will allow us to bring different approaches and backgrounds into our environment. And really importantly try and build your own network across the wide variety of teams we have at Barclays. Everyone can have the opportunity to build their own amazing network – and I do find the support of my “trusted advisors” invaluable.”
Having women in senior roles is more important than ever. As a successful female leader, why do you believe this such a priority?
“I’m a great advocate of the importance of women in senior roles. I love the RBG quote: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It should not be that women are the exception.” Of course, we value and strive for an inclusive culture across all forms of diversity. I am of course wary of stereotyping women – though I think we can see that we do bring different perspectives, different approaches and different experiences, which is very healthy. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge traditional ways of doing things, which is critical to allow an organisation to progress. We have learned from the past that an entrenched ‘group think’ culture can lead to disastrous outcomes, and I believe women can bring new ways of thinking that can invigorate any working environment. I’m personally working with the Forward Institute in the area of responsible leadership – which I love. I think we all now see how non-financial objectives can be just as important to a Bank as its financial goals, and in fact help to deliver better financial outcomes. This is especially important for Barclays, with our purpose being focused on both social responsibility and commercial success.”
Diversity and Inclusion is clearly close to your heart. Why is this so inspiring to you?
“In today’s world, with all the challenges we face, it’s important that we have more women in leadership positions – in politics, journalism, healthcare, science, business, the arts, sport and in every other part of society. I do feel the whole power structure needs to change. I feel a huge responsibility to effect change both here at Barclays and in the financial sector generally, to support the “sisterhood” and enable more women to have fulfilling careers. I would love to try and do my bit to attract more women to want to work in financial services. And whilst I do talk about the value of gender diversity - it’s of course about much more than that – as an industry we are way behind where we need to be on race. This is rightly a big focus at Barclays. And something I feel passionately about - we need to increase our diversity of thought, and this can come by listening to our graduates and younger colleagues across the world. Here in Treasury, I’m so excited that our Management Team can work with our NEXCO, the Next Generation Executive Committee. I believe that we’ll create the future’s best, most diverse Barclays by acting on the best ideas of today.”
Wellbeing is important to all of us at Barclays, especially during the Covid pandemic. How have you been coping with the challenges?
“Covid has reinforced the importance of wellbeing – we’ve seen how tough life has been for so many people. Mental wellbeing and health have been challenges we all face. Personally, I’ve found that not having to travel into work every day has given me some more time for exercise, yoga and also time for my family. I have a husband, two boys aged 14 and 12, (and a dog)… and it’s been tough juggling everything. All this has brought the need to take care of yourself into sharp focus, and also give yourself a break. You can’t be expected to be everything for everyone the whole time… things have to give every now and then, that’s natural and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. This new flexibility in our lives has made us all more aware of the need for balance, and also to avoid the blurring of work and home life. I’ve been constantly inspired by the some of the incredible attitudes and resilience of the women I work with during this very challenging time.”