Caroline Smith, In Touch member and non-executive director, discusses how her passion for development has driven success in her portfolio career.
After a successful career in the banking sector, working for companies such as HSBC and BlackRock, 40-year-old Caroline Smith decided to transition to a portfolio career. Since joining In Touch in May 2019 to help her on her non-executive journey, Caroline has already secured an independent board role with Nassau-based merchant bank, The Winterbotham Trust Company. Read on to discover how her In Touch membership has helped her to secure her first non-executive appointment and paved the way for further roles.
Who is Caroline Smith?
Caroline began her career as a graduate in Corporate Finance at HSBC, working her way up the organisation through a variety of client-facing roles over 15 years. Her career at HSBC culminated in a role as Global Head of Client Relationship Management in the bank’s Global Markets Operations business, where she had responsibility for relationships with over 300 of HSBC’s largest institutional clients worldwide, and she managed teams in seven international locations.
Whilst in this role at HSBC, Caroline was approached by the firm that was at the time her largest client, BlackRock Investment Management, to undertake a role that enabled her to acquire broader experience in areas such as regulatory compliance, legal agreement negotiation and client on-boarding. The move also enabled her to diversify away from large institutional clients and explore the different challenges of smaller corporate, family office and charities. With this experience under her belt and with a strong desire to explore new industries and for a more flexible and varied career path, Caroline took the leap to begin her board consultancy career in 2017.
Caroline describes the fulfilment achieved by working with smaller clients as a board consultant, offering them experience and a skillset they could not otherwise obtain, alongside the ability to make an impact and deliver results. She says, “As a part-time advisor or board member, I really feel that I am able to add a lot of value to my clients. In this capacity I am able to provide them with a depth of experience and skillset they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access, either because the skills they need are just not available locally or the cost of a full-time employee at this level is too high.”
Why did Caroline become a member of In Touch?
The idea to pursue non-executive roles was rooted in Caroline’s passion for continuous development and progression in her career. In May of this year, she came across In Touch and recognised that the platform could help her to transition to a portfolio career with confidence. After thorough research, Caroline decided that joining In Touch would support her in achieving her career goals.
In addition to her membership, Caroline also purchased the In Touch Success Package, after recognising that her CV would need tailoring for the non-executive market. In Touch CV Writer, Lehin Adenekan, was assigned to work with Caroline on a one-to-one basis to redevelop her CV. She describes Lehin as “an asset to In Touch”, noting that the NED CV which Lehin produced was “extremely different” from her executive CV. Caroline concedes that she may have had some misplaced confidence before entering into a consultation with Lehin:
“Having written my own CV many times and reviewed hundreds more over the years, I thought I would have no trouble writing a NED CV myself. However, now looking at the end result, I would not have got close to the CV that In Touch delivered. The service has been a huge positive for me.”
What has Caroline achieved since becoming a member?
Since becoming a member in May and receiving her new NED CV, Caroline has gone on to secure her first non-executive role at the Winterbotham Trust Company, a privately held merchant bank based in the Bahamas. Winterbotham’s Chairman was seeking to hire non-executives to help advise on future strategy. The role seemed to be a perfect fit for Caroline, and her experience provides the board with the broader perspective required to embark on their planned global expansion. Caroline will soon travel out to Nassau for her first round of board meetings and to help the organisation plan their future.
Caroline is also seeking a pro-bono trustee position and is currently going through the recruitment process for a role with a charity that operates in a sector in which she has a personal interest. She believes there is great value both personally and professionally to working with charities and not-for-profit organisations:
“When I started out on my portfolio career journey, I made a commitment that as soon as I was comfortable with my compensation I would take on a pro-bono role. The reason for this is simply because I want to be able to use my skills and experience in an organisation that would benefit from what I can offer, whilst simultaneously helping a cause that is close to my heart.”
Aside from growing her portfolio of clients, Caroline utilises the variety of resources on the In Touch portal, “I feel comfort knowing that the resources are there, so if I have a question about governance or anything else, InTouch provides a starting point to help me with the answers.”
When searching for advice, Caroline recognises the wealth of non-executive members on the network she could reach out to, having already used In Touch’s forums to gather insight from other professionals.
What’s next for Caroline?
Having begun her career at HSBC on their graduate scheme, Caroline later became an executive sponsor of the graduate programme. Her role included the mentoring and coaching of graduates to ensure they gained rounded experience, built their skillset and were ready to take their next steps within the organisation. Looking to build on this mentoring experience, Caroline plans to pursue an executive and business coaching qualification in the near future. In order to further broaden her areas of expertise, Caroline also hopes to gain board experience in companies outside the financial services sector.
Caroline is looking to expand her portfolio further and build on the successes she has enjoyed since joining In Touch. Caroline reflects on the value of embarking on a portfolio career and how joining a network like In Touch can play a key role in an aspiring NED’s mind-set:
“My rationale for joining In Touch was to ensure I was going to commit to my new career and having made that change I feel more fulfilled each day. My career is much more intellectually stimulating now, and I want to continue to support my clients by remaining at the top of my game - that’s what I’m here to do.”
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