‘Irish financial services companies have struggled with their diversity profile’

29 Oct 2019

Cathy Bryce. Image: Eva Power

AIB’s Cathy Bryce discusses the challenges facing the banking sector and making diversity a ‘personal priority’.

Cathy Bryce is managing director of corporate, institutional and business banking at AIB. She was appointed earlier this year, rejoining the bank from the NTMA, where she was director of the National Development Finance Agency and NewERA.

Prior to that she was AIB’s head of syndicated and international finance, with more than 20 years’ experience in various capital market roles. She is a business graduate of Trinity College Dublin and holds an MBA from INSEAD in France.

‘I now realise that taking on challenges at appropriate times is the best way to keep learning and developing’

Describe your role and what you do.

I am managing director of the corporate, business and investment banking business segment within AIB. We support the largest business and personal customers of the bank both in private and public markets. Our holistic, differentiated offering aims to meet customer needs from business start-up, growth and expansion, to personal investment from business exits.

We have created centres of excellence with sector focuses, all delivered through quality relationship management. Our goal is to partner with customers and add value through knowledge and insights, while providing financial solutions.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I try to split my time relatively evenly between strategic direction, client engagement and team engagement.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Our two biggest challenges today as a bank relate to managing change, particularly technology and regulatory, and retaining our people.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

We benefit from the strong economic growth that Ireland has achieved in recent years and are continuously looking to support our business customers in their growth plans.

Our purpose is to back our customers to achieve their ambitions. For the business customer this means being a bank that really understands their businesses and helps them navigate through their strategic challenges.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I’ve always had an interest in finance and banking. I got a chance to do a summer internship with Morgan Stanley in New York in my third year in Trinity and that set me on the path of corporate finance.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

At times in my career I was too cautious about moving roles. I now realise that taking on challenges at appropriate times is the best way to keep learning and developing.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I believe in empowering, collaborating and celebrating success. I think that when we feel we’re making progress on clear strategic goals, we’re being valued and having good teamwork and fun along the way, that helps us all outperform.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

I have made diversity a personal priority. It is recognised that Irish financial services companies have struggled with their diversity profile, with female diversity at senior levels being one obvious issue. Irish financial institutions have also been trying to reflect an increasingly diverse population in our workforces.

It’s essential that we keep this at the front of our minds when we’re recruiting and that we’re all aware of the unconscious bias that can affect our mindsets. We also need to do more to retain our diversity over time – taking actions that make all our team members feel understood, included and valued over the long term.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

I’ve had several great mentors and they have been superb at encouraging me and having trust in me to deliver.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Over the summer I read a really interesting book called How to Raise Successful People by Esther Wojcicki. She is the mother of three highly successful daughters, one of whom is CEO of YouTube. I’d recommend it to parents. A key message is that we should empower our children more whilst also not demanding too much of them. Maybe this is a message for work teams also.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Some direct customer meetings to keep me in touch with their views and a few business wins are always good. Keeping in touch with family life even when very busy, some exercise, muesli and fruit in the morning, some good coffee, and plenty of chat and engagement with my team!

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.