You may be forgiven for thinking that Rachel’s voluntary commitments at Barclays sound as demanding and time consuming as her full-time work. From her activities as co-chair of one of the Barclay’s Women’s Initiative Networks, to organising the annual Light The Night Dragon Boat race for Bloodwise and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Rachel also supports the veteran community through military Insight days and workshops.
Her passion for inspiring and empowering others, combined with her innate ability to ‘get stuff done’, no doubt contributed to her WeAreTheCity Rising Stars Award nomination (in the Banking category), both 2016 and 2017. As Rachel says herself: “I am focused on delivering tangible results; I’m not daunted by difficult challenges or conflicting priorities and will always see a task through to the end, no matter how complex.” It is, in part, this attitude that identified her as a prime candidate for a brand new role in Global Markets Operations, within only a year of joining the Investment Bank.
As Strategy and Optimisation Lead, Rachel’s aim is to optimise Global Markets Operations across the Investment Bank. She says: “I’m responsible for delivering key initiatives that align with our Tech and Data strategy, identifying opportunities to improve and enhance our existing processes, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness across the Operations function.” She adds: “I loved my career in the Royal Navy and have many outstanding memories but I have found leaving for the private sector extremely liberating.”
Interestingly, Financial Services was not an area Rachel ever saw herself in; she had reached a point where she was itching to get out of her comfort zone within the Navy and to take ‘a running jump into the unknown’. As she did more research into the sector, and spent time discussing transition with the Barclays AFTER programme team, she began to realise it presented many more opportunities than she initially realised. Rachel says: “I had no idea of the scope of the roles, or the suite of services provided by a truly global bank. Neither did I realise that many of the roles were ideally suited for ex Military personnel; skills such as leadership, team work, stakeholder engagement and most of all, the ability to get stuff done are hugely valuable to Barclays.” She adds: “I was also surprised by the extent to which Barclays demonstrated similar values to the military – respect, integrity and stewardship.”
When she took on her first role as a project manager, she was working on Structural Reform, specifically managing a US Treasury Government Bonds project. Although she knew nothing about this topic, she did know how to manage a project, manage budgets, manage risk and manage resources in crisis situations. This was proven to full effect when she faced one of the biggest challenges of her career in Afghanistan, during the ash cloud crisis. Despite a no fly ban around the UK for eight days, there was only one day when Rachel wasn’t able to move hundreds of troops, who’d come out of the battlefield, out of the country. Rachel says: “It was a great example of managing a team during a crisis; brainstorming ideas and developing innovative and creative solutions to deliver on an incredibly difficult mission”. Not only did this ensure Rachel achieved a military commendation for her leadership but it also impressed Barclays during a round of three particularly tough interviews.
There are still challenging times for financial institutions. With the financial crisis now behind us, banks are still dealing with many of its repercussions. Many who work within banking have welcomed a new era of transparency but there is a degree of uncertainty surrounding the situation too, a reality that the military are trained to cope with from early on in their careers. Indeed, they often thrive in such environments. She says: “I don’t think military personnel are fazed by being exposed to the unknown. We tend to dive right in, understand what we don’t know, find the right subject matter experts, develop our knowledge and let our curiosity lead.”
This was particularly true in the case of her second role. She says: “I knew little about the operations of an Investment Bank when I joined the team, but I have focused on building my relationships with stakeholders, growing my wider network and developing my technical skills through an outstanding internal training programme.
As much as Rachel is always focused on looking ahead, she left an incredible legacy behind at the RN. As a co-founder of the Naval Servicewomen’s Network, she championed gender equality and aimed to raise awareness of, and tackle the reasons behind, the severe lack of women operating in senior roles within the Navy.
Rachel praises Barclays for its active networks across culture, gender, disability and multi-generational. She says: “I strongly believe that the boardroom must reflect both its customers and its employees; bringing diversity to the Board benefits the whole organisation. A diverse, professional group at senior level encourages creativity, innovation and active participation.”