Kate Bohn: Changing the Finance Industry with Passion
The 10 Most Influential Women Making a Difference in Tech, 2021
Existing is the greatest explainer of viability. Kate Bohn is an active advocate, leader, and an ‘accidental’ role model for women in Technology and Financial Services, as well as women more broadly across inclusion, equality, and diversity.
Elaborating her different curriculum, she has had pursued her academic pursuit in Arts and Academia before shifting her spectrum into tech and financial services. She is a regular public speaker at diversity events, with several sponsoring & mentoring activities across the talent pipeline. She also holds multiple Industry awards, from as far back as 2006 for ‘Innovation of the Year’ for her co-founder role in a vendor-neutral Financial Services utility managing equity Trade Ideas and alpha capture. She has also been on the receiving end of personal accolades lingered to her wall of fame: most notable in this area are her inclusion in the Innovate Finance Fintech Powerlist (2018, 2019), being named ‘Top Ten Women in Fintech’ by Fintech Futures (Dec 2019), being selected as a finalist in the Women in Finance ‘Advocate of the Year (2019) and winner of ‘Woman in Technology’ at the Banking Tech Awards (Dec 2020).
Sharing her pearls of wisdom, Kate spoke with us about her journey into the Financial Services industry, her early life aspirations, challenges as well as achievements, and more as an Accelerator & Incubator Lead for Lloyds Banking Group.
Commencement of professional hermit:
While growing up, Kate always wanted to become a professional hermit and a beach bum since her parents moved house almost as regularly as others might paint their front room, which meant multiple schools across both north and south hemispheres of the globe. She believes that this is the prime reason why she was drawn to the idea of hermit living, and with her Australian heritage, the beach bum theme was almost inevitable! Her twin sister was focused on International Banking at university, and as they both worked on staking a claim on their personal individuality, she shifted her interest towards the creative field. She then studied at Camberwell School of Art and gained a role at the Victoria & Albert Museum, followed by a position as Assistant Curator within a privately owned collection. She enjoyed that industry enormously, yet after some years it became clear that without financial support outside of any salary, it was not a space in which she could remain for the longer term.
As often quoted from Michael Dell: ““Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not.” This is a driver for Kate. Good ideas, bad ideas, mediocre ideas – they are all there to be bought and sold, and yet it is in the execution of those ideas that their value comes alive and also where the difficulty lies. This delivery and execution element underpins the core of her current activities as the Accelerator & Incubator Lead for the Group, being responsible for shaping and enabling engagement with external Fintech capabilities: be that limited to specific activity in programs across the ecosystem, direct engagement with individual capabilities, attending policy-shaping industry forums, or collaborating, networking and advocating more broadly for fintech and the FS community. She also gets to feed into the Bank’s internal governance model in support of accelerated execution at each stage of the agile delivery process.
There is a great skill in discovering how to conceal one’s skill. Upon sharing the best qualities that she possesses which have laddered her to what she is today, she believes that her soft skills have been key to most of the locks she has had encountered in her entrepreneurship journey. She further adds that they can be learned but are often more authentically core to an individual’s personality and make-up. She always seeks to build strong teams with high engagement levels in supportive and positive environments wherein the obstacles are tackled with trust, transparency, and appropriate levels of risk. Contemplating this, she states that her top three’ skills for any day are empathy, curiosity, and influence without authority. The latter being a priority when building a career path that does not rely on a corporate title or hierarchy positioning to create a persuasive case or justification for action. She further adds that as for the other two: curiosity ensures that she retains a ‘beginners’ mindset to problem-solving and learning wherein she believes that the more she is able to learn, the more she is becoming aware of how much MORE there is to understand and be aware of; empathy assists her to put her ego to one side while seeking strategic outcomes that are as inclusive and robust as possible. She has discovered that these qualities are also the key to demonstrating good stewardship towards her peers and colleagues, as well as building teams that everyone wants to be a part of and can enjoy.
The Perfectionist and Protagonist:
Leadership is a skill that is created via a range of experiences. Kate mentions that as a lifelong perfectionist and protagonist, with rampant periods of imposter syndrome, there are always new mountains to climb or horizons to aim for. Having said that, she is often taken by surprise by people’s attitudes in regard to what she has had achieved since breaking her back as a pedestrian in a road traffic accident 30-years ago. She could have given up on life. She could also have receded from any previously held expectation or aspiration for her future. She could have allowed herself to become the perpetual passenger’ that was immediately predicted by doctors. She further claims that it has not been an easy journey and while she never had any great aspiration to be a Leader or ‘squiggly career’ Role Model, she has always focused on how things (anything!) could be made easier, be that from a perspective of understanding, engagement, accessibility or execution. She firmly believes that the accident has assisted her to cement this perspective, just as the pandemic has made us all aware of constraints borne by society more generally: to open doors without touching them; engage with people without experiencing the usual abundance of non-verbal cues, or access school/work environments while constrained by a physical distance. While she remains part of a minority group in financial services, she is also representing half of the global population and there is always be more she believes that she can achieve in this area.
The greatest communication is paying value to others. In her conclusive pearl of wisdom advising the young batch of entrepreneurs who are willing to venture into the startup landscape, she quotes that “Don’t be distracted by the technology.” Adding further, she states that if one can keep a laser-like focus on the “problem to be solved” and have confirmed it is a problem that your target audience is inclined to have solved, you are well on the way towards being successful. As a fast follow-up to this, she is willing to encourage everyone to “listen to understand rather than reply”. While one can pick and choose from the advice of mentors, strangers, or experienced professionals, allow the insights and experience of others to augment your perspective and understanding, rather than pre-filtering their input with your own preconceptions or paradigm. – she added.