Why did you study at Southampton?
I joined the University through the Clearing system. However, the degree itself was what really attracted me as I was interested in economics and politics.
Southampton also appealed to me as it was important to me to be in a relatively large city, be in the south and by the sea. Southampton wasn’t my first choice, but I am enormously happy that I ended up going there.
What was the Clearing process like?
Looking back at the Clearing experience, it was stressful. Sitting on the phone, looking in newspapers to see which university had courses I would be interested in; the unknown was difficult. But, even my parents say that Clearing was the moment that they saw a completely different side of me, because I became very determined to get the best course I could.
Looking back it was a formative experience – even though I didn’t get the grades and university place I initially wanted, it was a character-building process.
What is it about finance that appealed to you?
I am really interested in how macroeconomics – concerned with large-scale economic and political factors such as interest rates, national productivity and Brexit – impacts on people’s everyday lives.
What is sustainable finance?
Sustainable finance means taking into account the environment, social implications and other ethical considerations, when developing financial products for the bank. It could be: personal loans for electric vehicles and energy efficient mortgages; green bonds that help corporate clients make their activities greener; or financing for social housing and education and medical infrastructure.
I would classify sustainable finance as having a part to play in every single one of HSBCs businesses.
Is Brexit a big deal for HSBC?
Brexit will have implications for HSBC. It means that there will be some restructuring of some roles. For example, a small number of investment banking roles may move to Paris. Day-to-day, I have to consider the implications of Brexit in my role.
At present there is a new EU-wide consultation on sustainable finance looking at how sustainability is measured. There is a question as to whether this will apply in the UK, I have to plan as if it will apply and see what happens.
What does your job involve?
As the CFO for Sustainable Finance at HSBC, I focus on how our products can fund sustainable solutions to complex issues such as climate change. But I am not going to be able to make a difference to these complicated, global issues on my own in HSBC or even in the UK.
In order to make a difference, we need to talk to one-another. We need input from academics, businesses and society as a whole. I spend plenty of my time on that collaboration piece – trying to figure out where the opportunities are so that we can push collectively together. As part of this work, I have attended events such as the Public Lecture Series 2018, at the University, which explored the theme of population and migration to understand different viewpoints on this global issue.
What motivates you?
I find that looking at the bigger picture is a great motivator; tackling issues that affect everyone globally gives me an enormous sense of purpose. My nephew Lucas is one of my motivators. As part of my job, I could be exploring projects that have very long timescales – say 2030 or 2050 – so thinking about how the decisions we make now could affect him or the younger generation keeps me focused.
What advice would you give to a student who was hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Back when I was at Southampton, I wouldn’t have thought I would be in this role now. But one of the reasons I have ended up here is that I have always put my name forward for opportunities when they come up. Some of the opportunities weren’t what I wanted to do, but volunteering for something gets you noticed. It’s about taking opportunities when they are presented to you. I think that includes tasks that no one else wants to do.
What’s next for you?
Right now I am studying a part-time masters in sustainable leadership, at the University of Cambridge – I am being supported through HSBC to do that. So after graduating from that in 2020, I am quite keen to go to Antarctica and do some form of expedition. I would really like to go and see the Emperor Penguins and do some Citizen Science – help scientists with some of their research.