Inspirational Women: City leaders

Celebrating 30 trailblazing women leading the charge and making positive changes in the City

People 4 Sep 2019

Margarita Skarkou
Albertha Charles wears suede sandals in black, £495, Jimmy Choo
Rini Laskar wears suede shoes in caramel, £475; velvet clutch in rust, £650, both Jimmy Choo
Kalpana Shah wears patent leather shoes in red, £475; leather bowling bag in black, £1,095, both Jimmy Choo
Emma Davey wears ankle strap flats in black, £425, Jimmy Choo
Sam Cooper-Gray wears suede shoes in red, £475, Jimmy Choo
Sabrina Boanu MBE wears sandals in silver, £575; leather bowling bag in bordeaux, £1,295, both Jimmy Choo

As the City continues its positive evolution, with more firms than ever putting issues such as gender equality and inclusion higher on their agendas, a number of trailblazing women are leading pioneering initiatives and creating new ways of working and thinking to bring about significant change both in and outside of their workplaces.

In this year’s Inspirational Women in the City listing, Brummell celebrates 30 women who are leaders in their respective fields, demonstrating dynamic leadership within their companies and beyond. As well as being innovative thought leaders, overcoming challenges and inspiring others to do the same, these women are driving momentum and achieving remarkable results.

The distinguished judging panel, made up of respected industry professionals from diverse financial sectors, had a difficult task in selecting the final list, applying the rigorous shortlisting criteria. While the women in the listing are from a variety of working backgrounds – from larger corporates to groundbreaking start-ups – each is a shining example of how determination, drive and entrepreneurial spirit are at the core of business success at all levels.

Margarita Skarkou (pictured above)

Founder Member; New Business Development & Venture Investments Lead, Barclays UK Ventures

Skarkou leads the development of new business initiatives and venture investments centred around improving wellbeing and helps high-growth tech-based companies grow and reach their full potential, as a mentor and advisor. In addition to sitting on Barclays’ Women on Boards committee, where she is co-developing a programme to encourage and equip women to join (fin)tech company boards, she is part of the Global Thinkers Forum team creating a global movement for female founder and businesswoman empowerment. She has been recognised as a Woman Future Leader by McKinsey, a Rising Star by TargetJobs, a Barclays Future Leader and Young Leader by the president of the Hellenic Republic for her work as head of strategy at the Greek Economic Forum.

Albertha Charles (pictured above)

Deals Partner, PwC

Under Charles’ leadership, PwC’s financial services valuations business has nearly doubled over four years. She developed an advisory FS business from scratch and was voted Financial Services Leader 2017 by BBBA and listed in EMpower Top 100 BAME executive lists for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Charles also has a role in leading PwC’s wider Transaction Services business of 800 staff, responsible for Talent Development and Culture. As part of the Talent and Diversity Council at PwC, she sponsored PwC’s most extensive national BAME focus group and helped launch and promote PwC’s Colour Brave campaign. Externally she is a member of the Business in the Community Race Equality Board and recently hosted D&I workshops for 70 UK business leaders.

Clare Black

Head of Communications and Diversity, Innovate Finance

Since joining Innovate Finance 12 months ago, Black has established a full programme of events, workshops and networking opportunities, known as Women in FinTech. This included revamping its Powerlist, attracting a record 1,200 applications, and she has also been instrumental in creating Innovate Finance’s FinTech for Schools programme. She is a founding director of WILD in London, now in its 10th year, and is passionate about supporting visually impaired young people, as her eldest son has been blind since birth. She has been an active trustee director of various charities over the past 20 years, and currently serves on the board of Guide Dogs and its subsidiary, Blind Children UK.

Alison Chan

Director, Sustainable Finance, National Australia Bank, London

Following a successful career as a banking and finance lawyer at Clifford Chance, Chan left to focus her skills on fighting food poverty and climate change. Through her board service and advisory leadership with multiple charities, she has pioneered new governance and fundraising activities, leveraging her City network to inspire her peers within the organisations to do the same. She recently re-entered City life in the field of Sustainable Finance, and is a thought leader in developing innovative financing solutions to meet the challenges of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, especially in the area of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Dr Christine Chow

Head of Asia and Global Emerging Markets Stewardship, Hermes Investment Management

Chow has 23 years’ experience in investment management, research and consulting and her PhD thesis on shareholder engagement for responsible investment was short-listed for a United Nations award in Sweden for industry relevance and academic excellence. An elected member of the Court at the London School of Economics (LSE) and a member of the School’s Investment Sub-Committee, she was appointed member in the Data Governance Task Force of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence. In July 2019, she was elected as a board member of the International Corporate Governance Network.

Rini Laskar (pictured above)

Director, UBS

As a leader in the Chief Technology Office for investment banking, Laskar is responsible for delivering many innovative technology programmes including Cloud, artificial intelligence and biometric authentication. A founding member of the UBS BAME employee network, she has helped to increase the network’s membership to nearly 1,000, and manages all external networking and engagements to actively promote BAME representation in the organisation. She is a board member for BritBangla and is credited for her contribution on diversity as part of the newly-launched Good Work Standard by the London Mayor’s office. Laskar represents UBS at the Lord Mayor’s Appeal for City corporations chaired by Dame Fiona Woolf, and is one of the top 100 Muslim women ‘changing the script’ under Baroness Uddin’s initiative to promote Muslim women in the UK.

Sarah Cunningham

Real Estate Partner, Reed Smith LLP

A dynamic partner, Cunningham takes time out of her busy schedule to mentor and nurture the firm’s junior members, and continuously inspires others and motivates them to succeed. This year, she is participating in the 30% Club cross-company mentoring scheme, designed to develop a broader pipeline of women and balance at every level of the career pyramid. In 2017 she was instrumental in retaining and growing a real estate client that is now a top 20 client of the London office by revenue. She actively participates in Reed Smith’s women’s networking programme and has been involved in organising a number of Women in Real Estate events to increase the visibility of women across the industry.

Ruth Cooper-Dickson

Founder and Managing Director, Champs Consulting

Cooper-Dickson founded global wellbeing consultancy Champs after suffering from burnout and realising how little mental wellbeing support there was in City workplaces. Her vision is to ingrain a culture of positive mental health and make wellbeing more relevant, personal and fun for all employees. In the past five years, she has become a respected thought leader in mental health, from publishing articles on positive mental wellbeing in the workplace to delivering keynotes and speaking at high-profile events. She is a patron of national charity No Panic, and climbed the Atlas Mountains in 2018 for MHFA England to raise money to train 100 expedition leaders in Mental Health First Aid.

Nadia Edwards-Dashti

Co-Founder and Managing Director, Harrington Starr Group

Edwards-Dashti co-founded the Harrington Starr Group in 2010, which has grown into the leading FinTech recruiter based in London with offices in New York, and launched their niche technology sector subsidiary, the North Starr. In 15 years in the FST sector, she has been responsible for helping over 2,000 people find jobs and has grown from a trainee to a managing director of a £25m turnover business. She is heavily involved in the Harrington Starr @womenoffintech campaign and recently created the diversity and inclusion programme ‘HSRAE-Success Is Inclusion’ as well as the STEPFORWARD programme helping companies work towards gender equality.

Sarah Hazzledine

Managing Director, Financial Services Practice, Accenture

A trailblazer of innovation within technology advisory, Hazzledine has led the delivery of significant technology change programmes for global FS institutions over the past 19 years. She is passionate about driving investment from the ground up through providing start-ups a platform to showcase their solutions as a key sponsor of the Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab London. She is a market leader on the opportunities of blockchain and distributed ledger technology within FS as the lead of Accenture’s UKI FS Blockchain Practice, having delivered and presented on global blockchain strategies and projects across capital markets, corporate banking, insurance and the role of trade.

Kalpana Shah (pictured above)

Chair, RiverStone Managing Agency (a Fairfax company)

Shah has a distinguished career in the actuarial field, and was a partner and group chief actuary at Hiscox until 2016. She has been breaking moulds in the male-dominated insurance industry and mentoring and inspiring her teams along the way. She is now one of a handful of female chairs in the insurance industry, a non-executive director of Asta, a board trustee for Unitas Barnet Youth Zone, a liveryman and committee member of the Worshipful Company of Insurers and was chair of the CALM actuarial function group. Most recently, she was elected to the council of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries and her campaign won with over 200 more votes than her nearest competitor.

Rebecca Healey

Head of EMEA Market Structure & Strategy, Liquidnet

One of Europe’s leading industry voices on capital markets, Healey has provided expert analysis on market structure, regulatory reform and financial services technology for over 20 years. In a brief stint outside the City, she launched the UK government’s financial service strategy in Bahrain through her work with UKTI Financial Services. At Liquidnet, she produces market structure commentary pieces that are widely read by industry participants, regulators and politicians. Healey’s accolades include being the inaugural recipient of the Plato Partnership Market Structure Excellence award in 2018 and recognised as one of Financial News’ 100 Most Influential Women in European Finance 2018.

Laura Hutton

Chief Product Office, Quantexa Ltd

As co-founder and CPO of Quantexa, Hutton has been integral to the company’s success by pioneering new solutions that solve real-world problems. This has included tackling money laundering within the financial markets, and using AI technology to help the customers drive new business growth. Her leadership extends to educating prospective clients in order to embrace contextual-based technological solutions, influencing the wider industry to challenge traditional opinion about how they do business. She speaks frequently at conferences and contributes thought leadership to various outlets to drive change in how financial institutions approach complex financial crime issues.

Priya Kainth

Hedge Fund Risk Manager, Barclays Investment Bank

Kainth has vastly improved many work places’ inclusion culture via the successful events she created, earning her a Recognition Award only achieved by top 10% employees. She also chaired the mentoring scheme committee and established a reverse-mentoring scheme. Outside of work she mentors women and children from underprivileged backgrounds and with learning disabilities. She is a committee member of Win (Barclays’ Women’s Initiative Network) and is part of ICMA Women’s and Future Leaders networks. Her many accolades include being a Women in Finance ‘Fund Manager of the Year’ 2019 finalist and ‘Rising Star in Banking & Capital Markets’ 2018.

Emma Davey

Chief Commercial Officer, Futures Industry Association

Davey has been a leader in the City for over 30 years. She is a member of the board of Women In Listed Derivatives (WILD) in London, is a founding Trustee of FFK, and was jointly responsible for establishing the FIA diversity initiative in March 2019, where she is supporting the mission to increase the participation and profile of women in the listed and cleared derivatives industry. This board-level engagement has driven a change in the conversation and actions at executive level. Diversity and inclusion now feature heavily at the major industry conferences for which Davey has responsibility in the US, Europe and Asia, attracting senior executives and high-profile speakers from across the industry, with the objective of increasing the representation of women on the programmes.

Anita Karppi

Co-Founder, The Buyside Trading Community (BTC)

With over 20 years’ experience in Global Financial Markets, Karppi has created a buyside trading community from scratch, with a community of 900 traders across the world. She championed the issue of #buysidewomen when analysis of their buyside database showed only 10 per cent is women. She has interviewed five senior head traders on the buyside, steered a panel at the seventh annual Alpha Trader Forum (ATF) Global Summit and is organising a webinar on the topic. Prior to this, she worked at Reuters, Goldman Sachs and FlexTrade before setting up K&K Global Consulting (K&KGC) in 2008 and launching the ATF in 2009.

Erika Kolb

Associate, Reed Smith

Kolb works with Reed Smith’s Structured Finance team, representing issuers, managers, trustees and other parties in a range of financing transactions, including high yields, auto loan securitisations, CMBS and RMBS. She is passionate about fighting the injustice of wrongful conviction in death penalty cases, and she volunteers with organisations including Amicus and Reprieve, and recently volunteered to work with an organisation in Florida that monitors Florida’s administration of its death penalty. She is also a committed mentor to her team’s junior members and an avid supporter of the firm’s Women’s Network. A champion of flexible working, Kolb earned a promotion only six months after returning to work from maternity leave.

Marta Krupinska

Head of Google for Startups UK

As part of her role , Krupinska is championing under-represented founders, starting with women and migrants, to help them develop their businesses. She co-founded international money transfer platform Azimo, which has raised $70 million to date, turning the traditional Western Union remittances (international money transfers) model on its head, as payments via Azimo can be sent as mobile phone top-ups and it is now the largest digital-only payout network in the world, with full Facebook integration, reaching five billion people in 190 countries. This year in 2019 she stepped away from Azimo, co-founding, which offers salary advance services.

Sam Cooper-Gray (pictured above)

Global Head of Learning, HSBC Commercial

Responsible for leading the learning agenda and programme delivery across HSBC’s Commercial Business, Cooper-Gray leads Learning for 24,000 commercial employees in more than 50 countries. In addition to this, she is the global co-chair of HSBC Balance – the bank’s global gender diversity employee network which has circa 50,000 participants in 43 countries around the world – working closely with the HSBC Global Commercial Executive Committee on the diversity and inclusion agenda. She is also a board member for Women on the Wharf, a network across the major firms in Canary Wharf. She consults for a Jersey-based change management company advising on diversity and inclusion, and is a mentor both at HSBC and externally.

Anna Laycock

CEO, Finance Innovation Lab

Laycock leads Finance Innovation Lab’s work, which incubates people and ideas with the potential to transform finance, including innovators developing new business models and professionals transforming the financial system from within their institutions. She is a trustee of the New Economics Foundation, an associate of the St Paul’s Institute and the Institute for Social Banking, and a fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). She has been a judge for the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards, RSA Student Design Awards and Chartered Banker Institute Young Banker of the Year, and featured in the Women in Social Enterprise 100, Women in FinTech Powerlist and Brummell magazine’s 30 Ones to Watch in the City list.

Paulette Mastin

Counsel, Capital Markets, Linklaters LLP

Mastin advises financial institutions, corporate trustees and multinationals on a wide spectrum of capital market transactions, structured finance products, infrastructure/project financing, renewable deals and Islamic finance, including the first internationally rated Sharia securitisation. She is co-sponsor of Linklaters’ BAME Network, and Chair of the Black Solicitors Network (BSN), which has a membership in excess of 4,000 members. She is also a BAME/BSN representative Council Member of The Law Society of England and Wales. In 2015, she won the Champion and Executive Sponsor Award presented by Business in the Community’s Race for Opportunity, and in 2017 she received the Outstanding Woman in Professional Services Award at the 11th Precious Awards.

Alice Leguay

Head of Partnerships, HUBX

Prior to being a partner at HUBX, Leguay co-founded and ran a salary data business focused on providing pay transparency, empowering employees to make better-informed career choices and highlighting the gender pay gap. A strong believer in reinventing career paths, she redefined her career goals and turned to digital ventures in 2009. Before entering tech, she worked in capital raising and investor relations for special situations hedge funds, and was promoted to vice president at Morgan Stanley aged 25, being the youngest on the trading floor. She appeared in the Evening Standard as a champion of pay transparency, is a board member at networking group Like Minded Females, an ambassador for Founders Pledge, and an Athena 40 Global Thinkers Forum mentor.

Carolyn Porretta

Managing Director, Fixed Income & Commodities, Macquarie Bank

Prior to her role as managing director in securitisation at Macquarie Bank in London, Porretta worked with AIG Asset Management overseeing the management of billions in structured products, including European Commercial Real Estate debt, and was an executive director at UBS Investment Bank. She currently serves on the board of a regulated housing association and its property development subsidiary, and on the Audit Risk and Investment Committee of Engineering UK. Coming from a socially disadvantaged background, she is passionate about spending much of her free time volunteering with small charities such as The Junior League of London and The Girl’s Network to tackle social mobility and champion women’s empowerment.

Sabrina Boanu MBE (pictured above)

Relationship Manager, Energy & Infrastructure, Corporate Banking, Barclays International

With 20 years’ experience in the banking sector, in 2013 Boanu was instrumental in launching a diversity and inclusion network at Barclays and was the lead for Black History Month within the bank for five years. Her experience of being homeless at a young age has given her a passion for mentoring young people and working with charities, and after becoming a Barclays Citizenship Ambassador, in 2016 she developed an employability programme that made the Barclays Global Citizenship finals in 2018. This is now a social enterprise called Skills4Reform, and in recognition of her efforts Boanu was awarded an MBE in 2019’s New Year honours list.

Juliet Rogan

Head of High Growth & Entrepreneurs Coverage, Barclays

Rogan was the driving force behind the High Growth and Entrepreneurs Coverage team at Barclays in 2017 and also holds an ex-officio position on Barclays Business Bank Leadership Forum. She has established a high-profile and diverse team, which has grown from two to 35 people in two years, supporting early-stage high-growth businesses that are driving job creation and embracing diversity. Groundbreaking opportunities such as Barclays’ UK Venture Debt offering and collaboration with the Female Founders Forum have resulted from her work. She often contributes to research on the importance of diversity for innovation and the funding landscape focusing on female entrepreneurs.

Francine Stevens

Head of Innovation, Hiscox Insurance

Stevens has more than two decades of experience enabling executives to tap into their inner innovator, driving long-term cultural shifts and helping clients to address their specific business problems. With a unique background in performing arts, she was previously head of innovation for Plexal, and Vodafone Global Enterprise. Currently she is driving innovation at Hiscox to enable them to lead the way within the global specialty insurance market. She maintains a strong sense of community as a volunteer and mentor in an all-female accelerator programme. She is now one of the advisors for the Safe & The City application, and is a keen advocate for New Zealand women starting businesses in the UK.

Vicky Sanders

Co-CEO, RSRCHXchange

Sanders co-founded disruptive market-focused technology company RSRCHXchange as an aggregator and marketplace for institutional research in 2014. Acquired by Liquidnet in May 2019, the RSRCHX platform radically changes the investment research procurement process, helping fund managers comply with MiFID II unbundling requirements that came into force in January 2018. As a result of her work co-leading RSRCHXchange’s business, the firm has won numerous awards including ‘Best Investment Research Platform’ at Financial News Trading & Technology Awards 2019 for the third consecutive year, and ‘Best Research Management Solution’ at HFM European Hedge Fund Technology Awards 2018.

Nazreen Visram

Head of Charities & Citizenship, Barclays

Visram leads the charity sector for Barclays, supporting charities with their banking requirements, innovation, best practice and governance. As co-chair of the Embrace multicultural network, she has supported the establishment of the Asian and Black Professional Forums and directs the faith forums, collectively delivering more than 20 events every year. She has been a board member for the Ismaili Muslim Council UK for the past four years. Her many accolades include being listed as a Top 100 Ethnic Minority Executive in 2018 and 2019, and being selected to speak at the House of Commons for the first-ever BAME International Women’s Day.

Melanie Seymour

Managing Director, Head of Budapest Office and Global Head of Client Services, BlackRock

Seymour has over 30 years of experience in financial services, with senior roles in technology, operations and transformation, as well as her own mortgage distribution business. She joined BlackRock in 2011 to lead their UK DC Pensions business before opening the Hungary office in 2016 and became global head of client services in 2019. She is a member of the Human Capital Committee and is active in I&D internally and externally. She joined the Advisory Board of Women in Banking and Finance in 2017 after three years as vice president. She is passionate about the next generation, mentoring many people across multiple industries.

Deepti Vohra

Assurance Partner, PwC

Recently promoted to partner, Vohra is one of only a few female BAME partners at PwC. In addition to her day-to-day role leading the assurance practice in the insurance sector, she is also a huge advocate for inclusion in the workplace. She has a leading role with PwC’s Gender Balance Network (GBN) and is actively involved in many market-wide initiatives focused on inclusion. She is a ColourBrave advocate at PwC, which includes leading discussions and taking action on the topic of race and ethnicity. She is an active champion for rising talent, mentoring many aspiring individuals in the pipeline. She is also an ambassador for the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, which brings the insurance community together for important social causes.

The Panel

We would like to thank our expert panel of judges who, using their extensive knowledge and wealth of experience in the City, selected this year’s Inspirational Women from an impressive longlist

Sue Langely

Non-Executive Chairman, Gallagher UK

Alongside her role at Gallagher UK, Langley is lead non-executive director for the Home Office, senior independent director at UKAR, Alderwoman for Aldgate and a trustee for Macmillan Cancer Support. Previously she was CEO for financial and professional services at DIT and director of North America and market development for Lloyds of London. Prior to this she was chief operating officer for the Hiscox Group. She joined Hiscox from PricewaterhouseCoopers where she worked with a range of FTSE 100 companies. Born in the East End of London, she is an active speaker on social mobility and equality and a mentor for a number of women across several industries. She was featured in Brummell magazine’s Inspirational Women list in 2017.

David Hawkins

Chair of Development Committee, Global Thinkers Forum

As managing director of Cliveden Advisory, Hawkins has worked for numerous UHNW clients, professional service companies in the UHNW space and major luxury firms. His work has focused on establishing single- and multi-family offices, business development and commercial relationship building, speechwriting, political and media advisory and devising and executing targeted philanthropy. He is chair of the Development Committee of the Global Thinkers Forum and campaigns for values-based leadership while implementing key mentoring programmes: Telemachus for young people and Athena for women. From Athena has grown Athena40, the first global ranking of the top 40 global women, which will be presented in March 2020, followed by the Athena40 forum on 23 April.

Shannon Sagawe

Director, UBS

A veteran private banker, Sagawe entered the industry with Smith Barney, a subsidiary of Citigroup, in 1993. She helped open the first Salomon Smith Barney office in London in 2001, and went into venture capital in 2008, before going back to private banking in Switzerland in 2016. During her time at UBS, she became an ambassador for the Women’s Segment, raising awareness on the importance of female financial inclusion, both internally and externally, and she recently launched podcast Shot Caller to address the gender gap. She is finalising an inspirational and educational book on female financial empowerment and launching her venture capital fundraising business, Curation Capital. She was listed as one of Brummell magazine’s Inspirational Women 2018, and was a judge for the Brummell ‘Ones to Watch’ in the City list 2019.