Creating a ‘top talent partnership’

Having the flexibility to job-share their chief executive and managing director role has been a key decider in the career advancement of Generation Life’s Lucy Foster and Catherine van der Veen.

The pair, who jointly won Money Management and Super Review’s Life Insurance Executive of the Year award, were praised by the judges for their great leadership and innovative job-sharing abilities at the life insurer. 

Van der Veen works the first half of the week while Foster does the second and both meet together on Wednesdays for the role which involves full responsibility for everything from distribution, marketing, operations and finance. 

While it may seem unusual to job-share such a senior role within a company, both said it had positive characteristics and suggested more firms take up this idea. They also felt this arrangement enabled them to enhance their careers while still being able to work flexibly. 

Foster said: “Rather than splitting the role in half, it’s about creating a top talent partnership. There was a stigma [with job shares] before but you are getting the best of two people, it is very difficult for one person to meet all the requirements of a job.”

“We are well-matched, our strengths and weakness match, we learn from each other and that makes us better than one person,” van der Veen added. 

“If firms want access to all the talent that is out there then job sharing should be an option, there may be women out there who would be excellent for a role but have commitments that mean they don’t want to work five days,” said Foster.

Asked if they had encountered any difficulties as a woman in finance, van der Veen said she had only had positive experiences so far but Foster admitted it could be tough. 

She said: “In my 20 years in finance, I am often the only women in the room and there hasn’t been a significant change there. The structure of the roles and the culture that exists can put women (and men) off those senior jobs.

“I think it is harder for women because if it wasn’t then why don’t we see 50/50 representation at those levels?”

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