Beacon CFO: My Portfolio Career is Like Our Buy and Build Model
I describe my job to my kids as looking after the money for the people at Coding Club and making new friends who we can help. I am Beacon’s CFO, and my 25-year career path in capital markets is built on the same model as Beacon’s buy and build platform for enabling innovation and unlocking the potential of modern technology: leverage collective experience, enable collaboration, and build a portfolio.
Leveraging collective experience
Like many people, after graduation I started out at a large, established firm. I began at NationsBank CRT and then worked at Deutsche Bank for nearly nineteen years in various Foreign Exchange and Commodities Sales and Trading roles. I learned a lot from the collective experience of a 150-year-old bank and contributed my own expertise, training others how to price and risk-manage options. As a newcomer during a time of significant technological change, I encouraged, sponsored, and deployed technology to grow the bank’s franchise and make it more efficient. As my network and responsibilities grew, I leveraged my technical and people skills to help teams be more productive and reach their full potential. This period was perhaps the most enjoyable part of my time at Deutsche Bank—I loved the mix of mentoring people, building products, and managing risk. I did not realise it at the time, but of course these skills and experiences were the beginning of my career portfolio, setting me up for the next stage.
Enabling collaboration and innovation
Working for one, large organization for a long time has a lot of benefits, but can also insulate you from the outside world. A friend, Gareth Chick, writes about this in his book Corporate Emotional Intelligence. In what sounds like the intro to another type of story, I left Deutsche Bank and moved with my family to a small village in the countryside. I became a governor for three small primary schools in Wiltshire, and joined Ambition Institute (education charity with a focus on teacher professional development to help the most vulnerable children). Investing in myself, I took an online course in Fintech with MIT and added some more links to my portfolio. I met Beacon founders Kirat and Mark through investigations for a different project, and we collaboratively built a part-time role where Beacon and I could benefit from each other.
Running a portfolio
Today, I enjoy a diversified portfolio career. I am the CFO of Beacon, a Board Member for Mandara (innovator in commodities derivatives trading), a Trustee for Ambition Institute and a school governor. This is not a traditional work portfolio, but it meets my needs with a balance of corporate and community, income and growth, work and family, London and New York. Each organisation I am committed to gets all of my experience, and the mix of roles keeps me engaged, motivated, and creates network benefits. I love learning, building and empowering teams, managing growth and change. My portfolio allows me to draw on my experiences building complex businesses and helping great people to thrive.
Buy and Build on Top
The analogies to Beacon’s platform model of buy and build on top run throughout my career. Some knowledge or capabilities can be “bought” and leveraged again and again. For example, running stress scenario tests on trade portfolios is something I initially did as head of trading at Deutsche Bank, is part of Beacon’s target markets, and is a prescient issue at Mandara as oil prices become increasingly volatile. Other issues or challenges can be related and built upon to produce something new. For example, working with Beacon and Ambition whilst having daughters home-learning motivates me to help disadvantaged children get better access to tech education because I increasingly understand the importance of technology skills for future employment.
There is no perfect way to be productive, build a career, or develop a software suite.
Interacting with a wide range of people, from traders and clients, to educators and developers, gives me fresh perspectives that continuously affect my portfolio. I feel lucky to be able to connect a financial institution with physical commodity providers, educators with entrepreneurs, developers with new projects, and to keep learning and developing myself. The core “bought” part of my career at Deutsche Bank has enabled me to “build on top” a much broader and more effective network of people and skills, and empowered me to greater levels of innovation and success.