Bridget Carne
Bridget joined as COO in April 2022 with the ambition to further scale Finquest’s client delivery across its global footprint encompassing oversight of the Client management, Research, Origination, Finance, HR and Legal functions.

Prior to Finquest, Bridget has a strong institutional background having left HSBC were she most recently held the position of ‘Chief Administrative Officer for the Investment Bank, Global Banking and Markets (GBM). Prior to this, she was the global COO for GBM Business Services where she oversaw the operations for all client pre-trade activity. Bridget has also held leadership roles within cost management, investment and restructuring following positions in multi-asset Sales (HSBC) and Equities Trading (Citi).

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Having been born in England, I was raised and educated in Australia before moving back to London and embarking on a financial career within investment banking. Beginning in Equities, I progressively broadened my coverage before eventually becoming HSBC’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for Global Banking and Markets. From here, a leap of faith, propelled by the ambition to derive intrinsic client value, I transitioned from the world of institutional finance to a scale-up fintech. Finquest uses big data and AI to transform M&A deal sourcing, for both PE and Corporates, utilising our platform of qualitative data of over 100m private market companies globally. Becoming Finquest’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) has brought all the challenge, practical transformation and hurdles of scaling that I expected, and so much more. But, most importantly, it has reignited in me a focus on scaled expectations, truly articulated client proposition and delivery as well as organisational development.

At the same time, I am a mother of three children under ten, who endeavour to fill every hour of their day with activities, sports events and multiple avenues of mischief. Between children and work, I proactively force myself into the gym, or on a run, each morning, largely enabling head space to plan and think. Aside from that, my friendship base is an important focus for me, my family is largely in Australia, so my London friends are often the linchpin to my sanity.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Intrinsically, no. Perhaps due to a naïve reliance on the portrayed reward of hard work and the natural evolution of a progressive career or possibly because I had several supportive key mentors that helped pave my way. Initially, an innate interest in capital markets inspired me towards banking, developed throughout my Economics degree but also supplemented by a further degree in Politics that planted an interest in political system and organisational construct. As compared to previous career moves, Finquest, was a much more considered proposition. I was becoming less convinced in the ability for the institutional banking model to accommodate the increasing requirement of bespoke client service, it’s simply too traditional, too bureaucratic and, at times, too consumed by politics. As margins have contracted over the mid-term, competitiveness has been driven less by the capital structure of a business and more by their service precision.

Finquest, actively aligns the key outcomes of their offering with their clients bespoke requirements. Further to this, I felt the ability to create, drive and propel company outcomes via my own application was very limited in banking. Even as a CAO or COO (previously COO of Global Business Services, HSBC) you are simply a component of the machine where unique contribution is limited by the sheer size of the institution. At Finquest, I can truly originate change, as part of a distinctive client solution. There was a need for a new challenge and Finquest offered a particularly exceptional culture and vision while servicing the community I have experience with. This, combined with a continued persistence from my start-up founder brothers that start-ups were the answer, compelled my decision.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Early on in my career, it became quite clear that defining the person that I wanted to be was going to be fundamental, not only to my success but also my ability to retain personal traits that I value. Investment banking is rarely described as for the faint hearted and you very quickly, and at a young age, need to define the parameters in which you engage with your workplace. Allowing your work environment to shape personal decisions can be detrimental. As a mother, I hid each of my pregnancies for over six months, apologised for them, took quick maternity leave with all three, and sacrificed a lot during that time. As many women will attest to, particular working environments can lead you to overcompensating for personal decisions. It was paramount to me that I didn’t appear as a distracted mother yet simultaneously, I was conscious of managing the needs of my children. Finding the equilibrium is tricky.

An anecdote that will always sit with me, was a comment made by a senior male colleague who described for me the unavoidable reality that the female brain is irrevocably muddled by the birth of a second child. A cognitive divergence that cannot be redeemed. Extraordinary. Thankfully, the world is changing, albeit slowly, and hopefully my daughters never encounter such nonsense.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Two spring quickly to mind. As COO for HSBC’s Business Services, Global Banking and Markets, I was tasked with consolidating five departments and deriving synergies across their cost and investment portfolio. Career wise, this was a compelling role, the annual budget was significant, and it became progressively clear to me that evidencing value in my delivery plan was not only expected but my responsibility alone. I quickly had to structure a framework of people and financial management that could help me achieve this. It was this role that provided the boost for me into the CAO position.

Encouragingly, the second, would be undertaking my role at Finquest, a vastly different challenge and somewhat unknown flavour to anything I have done before. The combination of encouraging agility while trying to scale, can at times feel counterintuitive. As my first position within a tech domain, I am very conscious of disabling the more traditional and rudimentary working patterns that I have developed in my past to drive greater speed of anticipation and reaction, encouraging more rapid and effective decision making. While, quite a change, it has been an exciting ride so far. In my first six months at Finquest, envisioning a consistent client workflow and bringing this to life across our research, origination and client teams has reaped exciting improvements to our delivery.

I’m also hugely invigorated by an organisation that heralds 35% of senior roles filled by females with true empowerment to continue to increase that number. A workplace that enthusiastically embraces diversity of thought only further inspires creative solutions for clients.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I have been lucky to have a handful of sponsors, and mentors, that have allowed me to shape my progress through two organisations. From this, I have recognised the qualitative attributes that I want to replicate in my career. Their success, or otherwise, in leading teams and driving strategy has taught me, first-hand, what works and how to drive value across organisations.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

It would be disingenuous of me to assert any definitive tips given I have only recently broken into the tech space, so I would prefer to share my perspective of moving into tech from another sector which, really, can pertain to any career transition. It is key to articulate the elemental skillsets that you bring to the role, outside of academic or professional remit. Certainly, within my Finquest role, I heavily rely on relationship building, exploring individuals potential and extracting their innate value alongside the more structural focus on cost management and organisational design. Organisations are progressively moving away from rigid hiring patterns and are more in tune with value creation, so my advice would be, close your eyes to the sector and explore the true fundamentals of what you, as a person, can bring to the role. Push those to the fore and jump in headfirst.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

While possibly slowly fading, I find there is still a subconscious distaste for women to openly articulate or signpost their achievements and/or unique attributes or contributions. In spite of this, it is important that we invest time in recognising and asserting our specific offering, confidently outlining what we add to an organisation and how our way of working derives value otherwise missed.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Not distinctive to the tech industry, but across all spheres, it is pivotal that companies view their organisation from the framework of all employees and not limit that focus to certain demographics. It’s heavily debated how to support and foster female talent but there are indicative quick wins that aren’t just prevalent to talent acquisition but are intrinsically right and fair. Equal pay, a fair hiring and promotions process and deviating from regressive work practices that make family choices unevenly difficult for women.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Equalising pay and removing gendered pay disparity. Not only because we all deserve the same compensation for the same work, because that should be a given, but because there remains an unhidden truth that many women feel less accepted in their working environment than their male counterparts. By equalising pay, you send a direct and tangible message, that the role has the same value irrespective of who holds it.

Moving forward, it is brilliant to see the increased focus of STEAM subjects permeating schools and young girls being given the opportunity to explore areas possibly not highlighted to them in previous generations. This should have happened earlier, but it is still progress.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Not specific to women in tech, and a totally off-piste choice, but I would recommend reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, a succinct tour through the journey of how ‘homo sapiens’ ended up where we are today.