Tell us about your role with Apex Group
As Chief Digital Information Officer at Apex Group, I am responsible for defining technology strategy to deliver business goals and driving transformation across Apex Group’s IT functions globally, as well as executing digital innovation, cloud, data, cyber and modern workplace strategic plans.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Finding balance. There is always more demand than there is capacity to change. Even with infinite budget and resources, there is only so much change that an organisation can cope with before client service and operations are impacted adversely. I have to find a balance between keeping the existing technology estate, technology-enabled products and services working well, ensuring we are protecting data and meeting regulation, and driving innovation and change through the execution of our technology strategy.
Apex Group has tripled in size over the past three years. What have been the main drivers of that growth?
Apex Group has been on an exciting and unique growth journey – both through double-digit organic growth and also by making more than 40 acquisitions since 2017. This has enabled us to evolve into a global provider of data-driven financial services, offering an unmatched range of solutions underpinned by innovative technology platforms. We now have more than 12,000 employees across 94 offices in 50 markets. I joined Apex Group via the acquisition of Sanne Group in 2022; the continued integration of businesses and systems, as well as keeping pace with this “hypergrowth”, are constant priorities for me and my team.
What was it like for you starting out as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
I have worked in the technology function across multiple industries and, in some, I was more often than not the only woman in the room. During my time as a consultant in the 1990s, I arrived at an office with two junior male colleagues, only for the customer to assume I was the team apprentice! These types of misconceptions were not uncommon in tech at the time and the sector still remains far too dominated by white, middle-aged men. However, moving into financial services there have been more senior female role models, which has helped me to rethink my value and leadership role I can play.
How important is mentoring when it comes to achieving diversity, equity and inclusion in tech?
Seeing the change is one thing, but what women often need is more hands-on help to assist them in their climb up the career ladder. Women at the start of their careers need to hear from those who are further along in their career journey. For me, it was a female mentor at the time I jumped from senior management to leadership which had an outsized impact on where my career went next.
I try to be disciplined when it comes to devoting enough time to focus on supporting other women; for example, working with school-age girls to explain the benefits of having a career in technology, improving financial literacy and showing them the multiple routes into the financial and tech industries, while also engaging with Apex’s own Women’s Accelerator programme and mentoring female colleagues. It’s vital we don’t pull up the ladder behind us – and instead pass on our learnings to the next generation to show them there is a place for women in our industries.
I also believe it’s important that women in leadership positions give back by acting as allies to other groups whose ethnicity, age or sexual orientation may create challenges in their career. One of the key strengths of the team I have recruited at Apex Group is the diversity of thought and perspective offered by individuals with different life experiences and outlooks.
How exciting is the emergence of generative AI from a business perspective?
As a tool for the CIO, as with any other business lead, AI provides an opportunity to take manual, repetitive tasks away from key staff and allow them to concentrate on value-add activities. Efficiency, productivity gains and additional protection, particularly in using AI in cyber tooling, helps in leading a function.
The introduction of AI into the business means the CIO needs to build teams, as well as defining policies and standards, to ensure safe and effective use of new technologies. While AI is a powerful tool which can be used to differentiate a business, if you don’t have good data or in-house expertise to validate the results it can lead to serious consequences.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
I’ve got a big focus on data, cyber and automation, which is probably common with most IT execs. Building on foundational capabilities I will be working with my peers to identify ways we can develop software and data as a service products, both for our internal use in serving clients but also as technology products in their own right. Advances in data science and automation intelligence will allow us to improve productivity in data ingestion and improve security in sharing data with our clients, their investors and third parties such as regulators. Cyber threats are continually advancing so it is critical to stay one step ahead and evolve our security posture.
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