Inspirational Woman: Kate Bohn | Group Transformation Innovation & Strategy, Lloyds Banking Group

Kate Bohn A finalist for the Women in Finance ‘Advocate of the Year’ 2019, as well as being listed in the 2018 Women in Fintech Powerlist, Kate has 20 years of Financial Services experience and is passionate about driving diversity and inclusion – she even has an Instagram account dedicated to this space (kate_bohn).

Having had a 10-year career in the Arts prior to her current path, she brings additional colour and perspective to everything she does.

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

I have worked across multiple industries (Arts, Academia, Financial Services), as well as a range of roles and areas while in Financial Services (Markets, Finance, Strategy, Technology, Operations, Strategy, Innovation), and consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had some seriously amazing female role models along the way. Watching others succeed despite and IN-spite of their personal circumstances or internally and externally imposed limits, has gifted me the potential to live in a way that supports my appetite to respond to challenges and opportunities with “Yes, if….”, rather than “Yes, but….”.

These role models also ensured my DNA was imprinted with the desire to lift women up at every opportunity: from hiring in support of gender diversity or mentoring junior colleagues, to speaking at and creating events for school children around non-traditional career paths (STEAM), as well as celebrating each new female CEO/CFO/COO that gets announced in corporate life and makes it a little more possible for those coming in their wake. I also speak at events on the need for cultural change...

My current role sees me working with Universities, tech giants and external fintech accelerators (Accenture, Rainmaking, etc) as part of the Innovation & Strategy team within Group Transformation at Lloyds Banking Group: recently tagged as the ‘250-year old start up’ at a London summit event. My work feeds into the larger aim of ensuring that the “Bank of the Future” landscape includes LBG over the NEXT 250 years. The broad ranging and boundless opportunities for discussion and creation to be had in this space are an enormous privilege to experience and I aim to bring a little magic to the journey along the way.

My voracious appetite for imagery and visual design has lead me to set up an Instagram feed supporting my passions around tech, gender-/ thought-diversity and knowledge sharing – I have a small but fabulous band of like-minded souls in the mix so far, despite commentary advising that Twitter should rightly be the home of any such focus. Anyone who is curious to see what we get up to can join in the IG conversations via: Kate_Bohn.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, but no….. I knew I wanted to make a difference in the fact that a role was being undertaken by ME, rather than just being carried out. That’s probably why I have experienced different roles and different industries – and yet a common theme for everything has been to remain creative, enable a spirit of joy, support simplification and understanding, ask the questions no one else wants to… The desire to deliver simplification and understanding makes for some fabulous ‘Gordian knots’ to unravel along the way, and I consider myself all the richer for it.  Those moments of pressure are the ones in which we hone and grow our unique resilience and skillset.

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

I am a perfectly imperfect human being – this brings self-doubt, a need for perfectionism (in myself!) and a strong element of ‘try harder.’ These characteristics can prove fantastic drivers for experiencing success, but can also create the most extraordinary distraction at the same time. I am still learning to get out of my own way some times, as well as recognising trigger scenarios well before I’m knee-deep in a space that I had no intention of visiting.

Being comfortable with the idea that I cannot know everything in the first instance, that experience is gained in the ‘doing’ or ‘being’ and exchange of insights across a wealth of topics, has allowed me to really get under the skin of some interesting challenges that I would have otherwise shied away from. I have no shame in actively approaching topics with a strong ‘beginners mind-set’. The opportunities this offers for me to grow and learn are always worth it in the end.

I also credit an insatiable personal curiosity and desire to participate with value – including the constant repetition of ‘how?’ and ‘why?” - as being some of the most powerful tools in my arsenal.

What have been your biggest career achievements to date?

Co-founding a joint venture company across 4 investment banks to create an Industry Utility leveraging a start-up firm at its core. This sought to disrupt the alpha-capture market to the benefit of both authors and recipients, as well as highlight how the sharing of collective pain points can deliver truly transformational and longstanding solutions.

More recently, being able to deliver real gender parity into LBG Commercial Bank Markets talent pipeline within an accelerated (12-week) timeframe – it’s all about being focused on the goal and looking to demonstrate the value in doing things ‘another way’. As Anne Boden herself has mentioned in her drive to create Starling Bank, sometimes it’s just a case of “just get on with it”!

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

I’ve said it before, and will say it again: Authenticity without ego: there’s enough space in the room for everyone.

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

Step in, and ask questions. You don’t have to speak binary to get involved, and understand that your life experiences and insights will add inevitable value to the whole. There are so many roles available to people in the technology world – from sales to relationship management, to development and coding or project / platform management. And leverage your network…speak to people. Most of us don’t bite!

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

PWC released a report in 2017 that remains shocking in terms of the statistics it reflected: 78% of students couldn’t name a famous female working in tech, and only 3% of females saw the technology sector as a first choice career path. While (hopefully) these numbers will have improved, with the lifestyles we lead being increasingly impacted by technology, it is absurd to me that these products and services are NOT being developed or delivered by the ultimate end users.

I believe that we need to actively demonstrate that a career in Tech can be both creative (understanding behaviours and motivations through the course of human centred design for problem solving) as well as creating a positive difference in our world (from healthcare, to social and environmental impacts).

We also need to showcase a range of role models across the technology landscape so that potential talent pipeline can move away from any outdated stereotype that they may associate with our industry.

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

I would like to mandate equal pay for equal work, and make it wholly comfortable for a man to duck out of a board meeting early to collect his children or be the equally likely point of contact, irrespective of the relationship dynamic at home.

I would also like to see equal maternity/paternity leave policies, such that the potential for unconscious bias in hiring or promotion decisions is negated.

Hiring and maintaining a female workforce really isn’t that hard. I would ask everyone to:

  • Cast the net a little wider in candidate searches
  • If a shortlisted woman isn’t the best candidate for the role this time, give them targeted training and mentoring so they are better placed next time.
  • Make more effort to understand the impact of hormones on the older female workforce (or those experiencing an early menopause).

There is currently only 17% 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?

BE BOLD – and back women! It’s really not rocket science, and can be activated in a myriad of ways:

  • Improve and grow the incoming talent pipeline through education partnering at school and university level – bring girls in to see what it’s all about, break the stereotypes and show a breadth of available roles.
  • Ensure your apprenticeship/graduate programmes don’t have bias built into the selection process… If more females apply, but more males are in the final cohort, ask yourself ‘why?’
  • Complete an audit of your current gender diversity levels and make a roadmap against those areas that could be improved.
  • Create a range of diverse and visible female role models – not just helicoptering in senior women in from outside to create a senior management metric. The existing talent might end up believing that the only way to progress is to leave.
  • Be transparent with pay parity levels and use job description language that doesn’t alienate potential female candidates.
  • Don’t JUST focus on the ‘new’ – there is a wealth of more mature female candidates out there that can offer years of valuable experience in another role or sector, and can bring well-developed skills and attributes with them.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

WebSummmit: held annually towards the end of the year in Lisbon, is a fabulous resource for access to emerging technology, trends and potential impacts across a range of Industries all in one location. Where would we be with mobile banking, if not for the invention of the mobile telephone?

Audio Books: the perfect solution to ‘dead time’ while commuting or driving in the car. Recent books on my headphones have been:

  • Perform Under Pressure, Dr Ceri Evans
  • Conscious Business, Fred Kofman
  • Radical Candor, Kim Scott
  • Girl Wash your face, Rachel Hollis

Pod Casts: bitsize chunks for short trips and rapid inspiration

  • Women Tech Charge, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon
  • Eat Sleep Work Repeat, Brice Daisley

Websites/events:

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Through the work I do engaging with start-ups and scales-ups against known and near/distant future commercial challenges for LBG, I am continuing to challenge the status quo: to ask people to see beyond the obvious or comfortable in how we support people in living their best lives – whether they are creators, users, clients, fintechs, tech giants or Financial Services partners.

Ultimately, I would like to see problem solving leverage the extensive diversity of THOUGHT that is available via our collective walks of life – from all levels of education, ability, gender, sexuality, religion, behaviour, thinking, industries, disciplines, etc – and for the power of a shared understanding and awareness to be standardly embraced as something that can deliver significantly more meaningful, inclusive and resilient outcomes

With this in mind, I intend to Stay Curious and keep putting one foot in front of the other in deliverance of our collective Relentless Forward Progress.