An executive coach, City high-flyer and former ‘Harpers & Queen’s Young Business Woman of the Year’, alumna Kate Jones is well placed to champion talented women in the workplace, but it was only a last minute decision on A-level results day that saw her take the path she did.

A graduate of Mathematical Economics (1999), Kate said she was “…all set to do a Physics degree, but I had a change of heart on the day of my exam results. I enjoyed Economics at school and decided at the last minute that it was what I wanted to do, with just a very quick look at the course prospectus. An example of exactly how not to make an important decision, but definitely the right one for me.”

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Kate’s career has taken her through increasingly senior roles in the financial industry, but her leadership experiences started early while still at Birmingham.

“I was Manager at the Griffin Close bar,” she recalled, “which gave me early experiences of managing people and difficult situations – especially supervising people you are friends with and dealing with the challenge when no one wanted to work a busy Saturday night bar shift.”

“I was also a member and then Chair of (youth-led leadership organisation) AIESEC, responsible for organising an undergraduate careers fair in the Great Hall. On the day of the fair I remember looking out at all of the companies that we’d convinced to attend and the students and volunteers taking part and getting a real buzz from leading something and achieving really tangible results.”

Post-graduation, Kate began a graduate role at Prudential, training as a Junior Portfolio Manager.

“I was given my own funds to manage very quickly which was a big achievement, but it was also the time where I started to develop my own style of working. I put a lot of effort into the marketing side of the role which was a fairly unusual approach - promoting the funds I worked on, speaking with journalists and communicating as widely as I could about what I was doing. It showed me how, with the right effort and by striving to do your best, you will be recognised and good things can come out of that.”

One of those “good things” was Kate’s ‘Harpers & Queen’s Young Business Woman of the Year’ award in 2003. “It was fantastic,”, she said, “but also a real lesson that if you actively manage your own personal brand and how you want to be viewed, you can put yourself in the driving seat of your career.”

After her graduate role, Kate moved on to senior positions at Barclays Global Investors, BlackRock, and Schroders, leading teams responsible for the management of billions of pounds. Throughout, she has remained passionate about championing women in senior positions.

“While at Barclays I chaired a Networking committee to create opportunities for employees to network successfully. It wasn’t exclusively for women, but we were very aware that many women don’t have as many natural networks as men, and this helped to address that imbalance.”

Kate has also been involved in mentoring within and outside of the organisations that she’s worked for and, after leaving Schroders last year, she’s taking on new challenges through setting up her own consulting business and training as an executive coach.

“In my coaching role especially, I’m actively looking to work with talented women in the financial sector,” she said. “I’ve always been passionate about helping people to be better than they ever believed possible, and I’m really excited to be using my skills and experiences in this way.”