2021 - what a fantastic year!

3 minute read

2021 has been one of my most rewarding years professionally and personally. Smart, where I work as Chief Strategy Officer, closed a £165 million, Series D funding round, adding further impressive institutional investors to our capital table. I was heavily involved in this process from beginning to end; it was a real team effort.

On a more personal note, I was elected to the Council of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) at a time when the IFoA is going through a lot of exciting changes to better connect with its membership. Two women (myself being one of those) received the highest amount of votes by an impressive margin.

I also learnt that not only had I been accepted onto the Executive MBA at Oxford Saïd, I had also received one of its prestigious scholarships, specifically for women via the 30% Club, which pays for 50% of my school fees. When I shared this news with some of my close female friends, colleagues and mentees, they spoke about how inspiring this was for them. Coincidentally 30% of the participants in my cohort are women and I am above the age average by a reasonable number of years. What I hope to do via my Executive MBA and my other pursuits is to be a role model for women of all ages through my achievements, resilience and growth mindset. The other women on the course are already inspiring and supporting me and are amazing role models too. To be clear, so are the men. I can honestly say that I have been blown away with the quality of all of my interactions, the faculty and students alike.

Earlier this year I was shortlisted for the category of 'Woman of the Year – Fintech' as part of the Women in Financial Advice Awards hosted by Professional Adviser and Retirement Planner. The awards are to celebrate the achievements of women working within financial advice and the broader financial service sectors. It is not about women vs men; they are simply to celebrate the successes of women in a sector where women continue to be underrepresented.

I am very supportive of these awards and others like them for the recognition they deliver as well as being a good excuse for a great night out with colleagues. When deciding whether to book a table for the awards event, I had the words of Bettina Kosiel (Director, Executive MBA Programme) at the back of my mind when she said we won’t be able to do everything. I had also just finished reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown, which is all about making active choices.

On top of those considerations, I was flying to Dubai for a holiday the next day and had a lot of things to do before getting on the plane. (As an aside I am meeting my Dubai Executive MBA colleagues for dinner later this week; the programme really does give you access to an amazing global network.) As you might suspect, I decided to forgo the opportunity of the awards dinner just this one time. So you can imagine, the next day, when I received a notification on LinkedIn saying congratulations to me and all of the other fantastic women who received an award too, I was totally surprised, as well as being over the moon. What a great start to my holiday, although I didn’t quite believe it until I received the official email. Apparently, the judge’s comments were:

'...this particular winner submitted an excellent entry and is a great female role model in Fintech'.

I'm delighted at being considered a role model as I am fortunate to have had so many in my life and career. So for me to be able to do that for others feels incredible! I am very much looking forward to enjoying my EMBA journey and mixing with all of the other amazing role models on my course; what an experience of a lifetime!