With Money Management’s Women in Financial Services Award nominations closing soon, we spoke to last year’s Business Development Manager (BDM) of the Year winner Jeannene O’Day about how a love of foreign affairs and international relations from a young age led her into global financial services.
O’Day was the BDM responsible for Australian institutional clients at First Sentier Investors’ (FSI), formerly Colonial First State Global Asset Management.
“When I was a young girl, I did a lot of Model UN-type things in high school, and I really loved doing it,” O’Day said.
“I grew up in France and went to a French international school, so I got to meet a lot of people from different places.”
After high school, she went to university at the London School of Economics, where she studied International Relations and Economics.
“We studied things like international economic institutions and foreign policy analysis, so we were looking at international relations with an economics perspective,”O’Day said.
“When I graduated university, I did postgrad in public and private international law, because I thought that was where I needed to continue my studies, if I wanted to work in the Foreign Service.”
Although it was that Model UN experience that led her ambition to being in the Foreign Service, she later felt it wasn’t the exact direction for her.
“I still wanted to work in a cross-border role and the financial markets seemed the most obvious choice,” O’Day said.
As time went on, she realised she had made the right choice and it was the dynamism of markets she enjoyed.
“Having had that sort of international relations focus, you start to realise how important geopolitics is in the context of financial markets, particularly now more than ever,” O’Day said.
She said she sees her role as developing a deep understanding of clients’ needs and requirements, while building awareness of what they do.
“I think because FSI has capabilities across equities both global and Australian, global fixed income and cash, multi-asset strategies and direct infrastructure as a business development team we tend not to be product focused,” O’Day said.
“When we are speaking with clients there is a much broader conversation about what are the big issues they are focused on.
“That broader conversation means that as an organisation we have a good idea of and empathy for client needs, I think that is a critical ingredient for success.”
O’Day said there’s a whole range of skillsets required for organisations to succeed in the industry, so there are many options for women to take part even if they’re not “numbers” people.
“There’s always a role for you in financial services, whether you're a creative person, a numbers person, a great writer, or you have a passion for managing or interacting with people,” O’Day said.
“There is always a role for you and don't feel like you necessarily have to be hugely financially literate.”
Over the last couple of years, she had been on the Women in Super NSW committee, helping organise events to promote women with their mandate being gender equity across the industry.
In her time in the organisation, she had established the first-ever Women in Super Melbourne Cup, which had since turned into a significant industry event.
“The great thing about that event was the objective of raising money for a women’s charitable interest, which the last few years has been Women’s Legal Services Queensland,” O’Day said.
FSI had been an employer of choice for her and she had found no reason to move.
“If you talk to anybody who works here, you'll know we have very low turnover, I've been here five and a half years, and I'm probably one of the people that have been here the shortest amount of time,” O’Day said.
“Culturally, people are generally very nice, it’s a social place, people enjoy working together and for the most part it’s a great place to work.”