Jennifer Mathis, the chief financial officer of Coutts, talks about the banks expansion in the Middle East and Asia.
Crowning career move at bank fit for a queen
Q: Since you graduated from university in 1995 until this year, you worked at Lloyds TSB. Spending 16 years with one company is quite unusual these days, isn't it?
A: It's becoming more unusual, but I had lots of opportunities there and was fulfilled. Going forward, longevity with an employer … [leads] to quality [employees]. Coutts has lots of very loyal, long-serving employees and that comes through in our brand values and our service. We have really been able to maintain that traditional base of expertise. So it was unusual, but I think it's now turning into being quite a good asset - a good grounding in one company.
Q: As a woman, did you have to work twice as hard to get where you are?
A: I've been really lucky. I've never come across [discrimination]. I had a fast-track career at Lloyds and I had a lot of male sponsors. Again, joining Coutts, one of the big attractions was CEO Rory Tapner, who has always run his boards 50-50 men/women.
Q: What prompted you to make the jump to Coutts?
A: I ran out of road. There were only two or three more jobs to do and I wanted to go and try something quite different. I had obviously accelerated quite fast and there were only two more steps to go. The real selling point of joining Coutts was the growth strategy, the expansion strategy internationally, so that was an area I was keen to share my expertise and getting some different experiences in the Middle East and Asia.
Q: So Coutts is growing here?
A: We have hired 20 bankers this year [in the UAE] and we are investing in the Asia team [too]. There have been lots of hires [in Asia] in the past six months. We are very much focusing on ultra high-net-worth individuals. It's very interlocked with our UK side of the business because a lot of clients here spend a lot of time in London, so we really have that depth of knowledge about their lifestyles and their needs. The entry point [for joining Coutts] for clients in the UK is £1 million [Dh5.8m]. It's slightly higher here: £3m-£5m. [About 90 per cent of Middle East clients have assets of at least £10m.]
Q: And who are your clients in the Middle East?
A: It's a mix; lots of families with inherited wealth, a big impetus on entrepreneurs - they have created a lot of wealth here in the past few years. We have a huge entrepreneurial client focus in the UK, so we actually understand that group particularly well.