Women in Risk & Compliance

Maria Konstantinou
March 8, 20177 mins read

Leading senior females in Risk & Compliance discuss their success, career defining moments and the advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career.

To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, this week we will be bringing you a series of guest blogs from leading senior females in Risk & Compliance. They will be discussing their success, career defining moments and the advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career. This is what Cloe, Head of Risk- Super, Investments, Platforms & Operations at BT Financial Group, had to say.

Cloe is an MBA qualified senior risk and compliance professional with 20 years experience in financial services. During her career she has gathered extensive experience in working with ASX 100 companies on large scale business and cultural transformation. In particular she has significant experience in dealing with complex issues and remediation in the context of ever increasing expectations from customers, regulators, shareholders and the community in general. This program of work has occurred through restructuring and rebuilding teams of risk and compliance professionals with a clear sense of direction and purpose regarding their role, value and priorities.

She has worked consistently with different financial services regulators during her time but in particular, with APRA and ASIC. In addition, she has worked closely with Boards and Board Committees for the past 12 years to provide advisory, assurance and / or execute specific programs of work at the Boards request.

She has a high degree of resilience in part derived through a love of endurance sport and is seeking to continue to leverage her skills to enable businesses to execute on strategy and achieve organisational success within risk appetite and the expectations of many different stakeholders.

What factors do you think have been critical to the success you have achieved in your career?

There are 3 particular things that I would call out in my occupation in my industry:

  • First - Maintain a strong sense of perspective. Working in risk and compliance is tough, everyone knows that, working in Financial Services in risk and compliance is even tougher. It is very easy to get caught up in every crisis, in every error, in everything that goes wrong but at the end of the day, you can’t maintain composure and provide pragmatic solutions and good advice if you don’t keep the perspective right and keep a level head. So it’s critical to keep things in perspective and help others keep things in perspective.
  • Second - You need to have tenacity, persistence and patience. I suppose that is three things but I like to bundle them up because without one the others aren’t as successful. As I said above, risk and compliance is a tough gig but it can also be tremendously rewarding as it has a very noble purpose which enables the organisation to achieve its strategic goals in a safe way. In order to achieve this though sometimes you need to persistent and keep bringing others back to the goal or the purpose of what everyone is trying to achieve and this can take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so they say and sometimes it’s the same with things we are trying to achieve at work. Whether it’s getting the right balance of customer and commercial outcomes or trying to embed a risk management framework it can take time so you need to have the tenacity to be persistent and the patience to get the right outcome.
  • The third and the most important thing is that I practice work / life integration not work / life balance because this may be a little controversial but the fact is that more often than not it just doesn’t work! There will always be something pressing at work and something pressing at home and the best way I have found to try and manage all of this is to integrate my work with my life and vice versa. There is no satisfaction in missing out on the school assembly because you have a really important meeting because the whole time you are sitting there dwelling on the assembly you are missing out on and when you are at the assembly you are dwelling on the meeting you are missing out on. So you need to work with your Manager and your schedule to look at how you can make both work. This helps you to stay engaged and stay motivated because you know the relationship between you and your career is not one sided.


What initiatives have you experienced within an organisation that you believe have helped you?

Throughout my career in risk and compliance I have been fortunate enough to be involved in many and varied experiences. These have ranged from being the risk lead on an Enforceable Undertaking to working on the acquisition and subsequent merger of one insurance organisation with another. I strongly believe that there is much to take out of every experience that you have but to do this successfully you need to have the discipline to take the time and reflect on the experiences. I reflect on my day as a matter of habit when I am on the train on the way home. What did I learn today, what could I do better, what lessons have I learnt and what would I do differently next time.

Can you highlight any career defining moments?

I have probably had a couple of career defining moments and both of these moments have something in common because they both involved me taking a leap of faith in myself and taking responsibility for things that I perhaps thought were bigger than me. I have twice in my career in particular taken bigger, broader, more senior roles that I perhaps thought I wasn’t ready for but I took them anyway. I did this because I knew at some point, I had to move out of my safe zone and extend myself beyond where I felt comfortable if I was really going to move ahead. As it turned out, both of these moves set me up for more success in the future and I am glad that I didn’t look back.

What advice would you share with females on how to progress their careers within Risk & Compliance?

There are 3 things that I consider really important for personal and professional growth into a formal leadership role within risk and compliance or any role for that matter. The reason that I say formal is because leadership to me is a way of being, not a position that you hold, you can lead from wherever you are and that is the difference between people who progress and people who don’t.

  • First - Don’t always think that you need to be moving up all the time and always back yourself and be confident in your ability. It’s a funny thing that women will only apply for a role if they have at least 80% of the criteria whereas men would apply for the same role even if they only had 20% of the criteria. So don’t hold yourself back, there is always something to take out of every opportunity that we have, whether we are successful or not.
  • Second - Within a large organisation it is important to get yourself a sponsor, someone who believes in you enough to help you through the hierarchy if that’s the way that you want to go. The trick to getting a sponsor is to work hard and make them look good! Invest the time to be clear about where you want to go and what you want to do and your sponsor can help you.
  • Third – Focus on what is possible and be an architect of that possibility. I think within risk and compliance it's quite easy to fall into a pattern of identifying obstacles rather than helping to work on solutions. Being solution oriented is far more fun and far more rewarding for everyone, particularly yourself because at the end of the day you know that when you go home you have helped someone solve a problem, not created more problems for them.


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Maria Konstantinou's picture
Business Manager | Risk & Compliance


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