Published 11th May – Caroline Lacocque is an experienced financial services professional whose career has taken her all around the world. The native Belgian began her career in New York and went on to hold various positions in technology, consultancy, and banking before joining Coupa in Amsterdam. With Coupa’s INSPIRE conference just around the corner (taking place in Berlin next week, 16th-18th May) Caroline sat down with us to speak about her career and the importance of gender equality: a key topic of a dedicated morning panel discussion, at INSPIRE, organised by Coupa’s Empower programme.
Tell us a little about your professional background and the moves that have led you to this current role at Coupa?
I have spent most of my professional career working in financial services, mostly in transaction banking, global payments, cash management, treasury and trade products. I have a particular passion for technology and innovation. After getting my Master’s degree in Law, my career started at the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York and eventually I joined Sungard’s AvantGard, which is now known as FIS, where I was selling treasury systems.
In 2008 I then moved to SWIFT in Hong Kong for the launch of SWIFT for corporates there. After three years, this was followed by moves into banking with HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and KPMG. There I worked for a man who was really inspirational, and a critical force in helping my career. In 2019 I moved to Amsterdam to be closer to my family and went to work for HSBC again in the Global Liquidity and Cash Management division. Earlier this year I received a call from Coupa, I was wowed by the people and the company and couldn’t resist the chance to move again and really loving the Coupa Culture.
Tell us about your experiences with gender equality and DEI over the course of your experiences in technology and finance?
My first working experience in technology was with the Belgian fintech company Trax. Technology has always been a passion of mine. By the time I moved into banking with HSBC, I worked with a mentor who was at the time the Regional Head of Sales for HSBC in APAC. He was very important in helping to progress my career. Gender equality, diversity and inclusion in all its forms have always been important to me. The concepts of fairness and justice are integral for me, and throughout my career the issue of gender equality has always been important, as I have always worked in a more male dominated industry and often been the only woman in the room throughout these experiences in technology and finance.
The first negative event that happened to me was back in 2008 when I was Director of the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce. I was the only female director at the table, and one of the other directors tried to order a coffee from me because he presumed that I must be one of the staff. That wasn’t the only time I experienced discrimination in my career, I was also once denied a promotion because, as a woman, I could not manage a team of men. It’s great for me now to be at a company like Coupa where everyone is very committed to gender equality. For example, we have a programme called Empower which strives to progress and support diverse talent inside the company and in general across the industry and beyond. We believe in the fact that diversity drives better business results. It’s just nice to see that there is a commitment at Coupa to breaking down boundaries to women’s success, and I also feel like this is the reality and not just empty words since joining this community and working together with my colleagues.
What work is Coupa doing to address gender equality within its ‘Empower’ initiative which will be showcased at next week’s Inspire event?
The Empower initiative wants to break down barriers and unleash the potential of women in business through three pillars:
Discover – we focus on the individual. Discover provides development skills for career growth and allows for talent that is diverse to rise up. We facilitate mentorship both internally and externally and offer high quality training programmes.
Connect – we try to facilitate events and talks around different, relevant topics where we aim to connect women and allies. We have many different partnerships globally, 51 in total to be exact, and we are constantly looking for new ones. At our EMEA Inspire event we are hosting an Empower breakfast dedicated to the topic of female development which falls under this pillar also. There, an impressive panel of leaders will be sharing their inspiring, insightful and empowering stories.
Impact – this pillar leverages the power of the community to deliver positive change to the world that we share, live and work in. For example, we support different charities such as When She Speaks, which is a Silicon Valley initiative that features senior women leaders in tech, and the Renand foundation in Haiti, which is dedicated to eradicating child slavery.
So what can people expect from the Inspire conference and how can our Treasury Today community get involved?
Inspire is taking place in Berlin from 16thy-18th May where we are uniting our community from across supply chain, procurement, treasury, finance and IT. On the morning of 18th we are hosting as already mentioned an Empower breakfast panel session dedicated to the themes of diversity and equality. Female speakers from Maersk, Barclays, Bourne Leisure and a male ally from the Metropolitan Police will join Helen Trim, Coupa’s SVP of Marketing EMEA & APAC, to speak about how they overcame (or helped others to overcome) numerous hurdles to succeed in their careers, to reach senior positions and deliver great impact in their organisations. Hopefully attendees will walk away with invaluable insights and concrete actions and techniques, while feeling a greater sense of belief and empowerment to realise their potential, raise their profile and reinvent their future – supported by the wider community.
We believe this is a great moment to bring everyone together. We also have a specific track focused on treasury that includes sessions on, for example, cross border disruptions, and the power of the SWIFT payments network to arrive at payments transparency and efficiency. There will be demos and conversations and in general this is a great opportunity to break down the silos between procurement and finance to unlock new opportunities together.
Anyone in treasury interested in attending can use the ILOVETREASURY code to get their free ticket and join us!
Any final thoughts on the issues we’ve spoken about today?
As we progress further, I think solutions should stimulate education and learning. Equality and inclusivity are long-term goals to work towards and there is still much work to be done. We don’t want to just have diversity for the sake of it, but I believe we should focus on how we can deliver better belonging and wellbeing. Gender inequality issues have certainly improved over time, but I think equal rights in society and access to family care still have some way to go. Stereotypes within gender roles at work are still visible and need to be done away with. Equality is fundamental for a prosperous, sustainable, and peaceful world.
For more about Coupa Empower visit: www.coupa.com/empower
For more about Coupa Inspire visit: www.coupa.com/inspire (and don’t forget to use the code ILOVETREASURY if signing up)