Off the back of recent Deloitte Insights research into female representation in the financial services industry across the world, this article is the first in a series about women in leadership in the New Zealand banking and insurance industries. While Oceania is leading in regards to female representation in senior positions, there is still a way to go yet. This series will explore the perspectives of four women in executive roles in the New Zealand banking and insurance industries about developing and supporting the workforce experience and strategies that can be employed to foster upwards mobility for upcoming talent. We’ll delve into diversity, equity and inclusion and consider how to facilitate a positive and rewarding working experience for all.
Fresh out of university with a degree in marketing, Astrud Burgess joined the banking industry as part of the ANZ graduate programme over 25 years ago. What followed is a long and varied career spanning senior positions in banks and advertising agencies, both in New Zealand and the UK. Joining ANZ once again on her return to New Zealand, Astrud became the Head of Marketing and continued to evolve the role to her current position, growing and leading the all-important data and marketing function as General Manager, Data and Marketing.
Astrud’s enthusiasm for the banking industry is simple: the desire to do work that’s interesting. “It’s fascinating. People have very interesting ideas towards money,” she says, recalling a customer who froze their credit card in ice to act as a barrier to unnecessary spending. The logic was that once thawed, the impulse to spend would have passed. For an industry facing widespread change, and at pace, such anecdotes are familiar and foreign at the same time. The move to digital is changing the ways that customers can spend. Bank cards now exist digitally as “mobile wallets” in technology like smartphones, which can’t as easily be frozen.
And data, a concept off-putting and scary to many in a world centred around algorithms and profile-building, Astrud says is the most fascinating part of her job. “All of your life is in the data,” she says, explaining that banks and many other businesses hold a lot of information about us. While this information opens endless possibilities to deliver better experiences for customers, it needs to be balanced by the importance of privacy, data security and maintaining trust. This balance is something ANZ and Astrud take extremely seriously noting trust is built up over a lifetime of interactions and can be eroded by a single misstep.
Making space for what inspires you
Recent Deloitte Insights research shows that Oceania is a world-leader in terms of female representation in financial services leadership at around a 24% share of women in senior leadership roles. “Corporate New Zealand has worked hard on diversity for a really long time,” says Astrud, while also acknowledging that it isn’t always done right.
“It’s about how you turn up for your colleagues. If you’re expected to show up in a way where you’re inclusive, it’s got to tip over and it creates an environment where women want to be.”
That tipping point is identified as a 30% share of women in C-suite roles as the threshold for enacting change across an organisation. “You can’t aspire to be what you don’t see,” says Astrud. In essence, representation is important. And conversations and visibility are important. Astrud is no doubt inspiring to the people around her and says casual conversations, encouragement and reassurance are not only what people are looking to her for but the key to giving that push for someone to put their hand up, to apply for a role, to back themselves.
“You’ve got to break down the fear factors. There’s this assumption that the more senior you are, the more hours you work. These are the things that make pursuing a career feel hard for women.”
Flexibility has value, but Astrud clarifies that face time will always have its place when building a career and aspiring to move up the ranks. It’s not enough to be in meetings with people, it’s about building bonds and really knowing people that will help someone get where they want to go.
“You should deploy flexibility to provide balance in your life but ask yourself what you’re doing with your flexible time. It’s not about work-life balance, it’s about balancing the things you like versus the things you don’t like. Are you making the most of your flex time with things that inspire you?”
And how does Astrud believe that she has inspired others? “I hope I demonstrate that I get a lot of joy out of my work. I want to do great things because they’re intellectually interesting,” says Astrud, staying true to her ‘do what inspires you’ philosophy towards work and life.
As one of the senior Consulting partners at Deloitte New Zealand, I lead our Deloitte Digital and banking sector teams. I specialise in technology-enabled business strategies, focusing on financial services clients. I enjoy helping businesses develop and implement great strategies to help them achieve their business goals. While I admire great strategies, I have a lot more respect for those that can implement them. The world of business and technology is developing at pace, things that were once out of reach for many New Zealand businesses are now a reality. So to really take advantage of this, business needs to have a mind shift. Small is the new big - innovation is critical as the challenge shifts to how you can pull together the options that are now available to you. Well thought out strategies are great, the ability to execute is critical.
Change is our constant and the basics are enduring. Today, every business relies on technology, and I enjoy seeing technology put to use for people, to deliver sustainable and measurable benefits for teams, customers, businesses, and society. It’s all about keeping the basics simple, while embracing change to deliver customer centricity, operational effectiveness, and business outcomes. By having a unique balance of the big picture and the operational context, I’m a strategic thinker who utilises complex data and information to support robust decision making. Doing business in the digital age asks new questions of every enterprise, perhaps the first one is how to ingest change that is no longer linear but is happening all at once within organisations. Forming well-designed strategies built on data, leveraging platforms and modernised operating models are necessary to achieve pace, in the right direction.