True to her philosophy on life, Jennifer Gillespie has worked hard to get where she is, but always found ways to have fun along the way. As a working mum, she firmly believes in “not sweating the small stuff”.
Head of Money Markets
In 2008 Jennifer Gillespie joined LGIM as Head of Money Markets, moving from Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP) where she was Investment Director, Money Market Funds. Prior to this Gillespie also held the role of Treasury Manager with Scottish Widows Bank (SWB). She has more than 18 years’ industry experience covering segregated cash mandates, liquidity and cash funds. Gillespie graduated from the University of Waterloo in Canada with a Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) in Soviet Studies. She is also an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland.
What is your career-defining moment?
When I talked myself into a treasury job at Scottish Widows without finance or treasury experience. The company had created a bank and was in the process of setting up a treasury dealing room. As the treasurer wrote the job description for a treasury assistant, I would say “I can do this – what about me?”
Which women in business most inspire you and why?
Other working mothers. The women that tell me how they rushed home and baked a cake, then helped with the homework, etc. Seeing other mums doing it makes me think that I can do it too.
What couldn’t you manage without?
My friends. I need friends to call, have a glass of wine with, laugh and moan. My de-stressing activity is being with other mums and kids from school, mums from the City, friends and family – I couldn’t do without them.
What is your next major objective?
I believe I have one more career move forward left in me and am just working out what that will be. I would like to look at a non-executive role, not necessarily in business. It’s nice to give back to others by sharing your experiences, explaining what you have done and how you can help them.
What advice would you give to other women in treasury?
Work really hard and have fun. You won’t get anywhere unless you work hard –whether you are male or female. And have fun because the moment that it isn’t fun, then you need to figure something else out.
If there is one thing you could have done differently in your career path so far, what would that be?
Taking an objective look at my strengths and weaknesses, I might have chosen a different career. But this is an answer I could only give with hindsight – I didn’t know this when I was 20.
Do you agree with current proposals for a quota of women on the Board?
This is a forced solution to the problem of not having more women executives. On the flip side, however, fixing a quota puts it on the agenda and makes people do something. But it needs to be more than a tick-the-box exercise – we need a plan to change the status quo.
“Mentoring can be really effective, but a good mentoring relationship is based on personalities not gender.”
As a working mum, Jennifer Gillespie has to be incredibly organised. “My kids laugh at me because I will email them about putting something in the diary that is three months away. But I know that if we don’t then it will get close to the day and I will have forgotten,” she says. She finds inspiration in other mums that are juggling similar workloads. “However, it’s important to always remind yourself not to sweat the small stuff. I can’t do everything, so I am only going to accomplish what is absolutely necessary.”
Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) is “great” when it comes to work-life balance, according to Gillespie, for working mums and employees with other commitments. She comes in early in the morning but leaves at 5pm in order to have the chance to see her children. “It is nice to work for a company that respects that you are a working mum and agrees to work through it with you. They recognise that getting the job done and parental responsibilities are not mutually exclusive. They acknowledge that you have other priorities in your life and are willing to work with you to get the best out of you,” she explains.
Canadian by birth, Gillespie came to the UK in 1994 after completing a History degree in Soviet Studies. She wrangled herself a job in treasury at Scottish Widows in Edinburgh, first as treasury assistant and then treasury manager. She stayed with the company for 14 years, every few years moving into new spheres as the company changed and grew, re-inventing herself along the way. Five years ago, Gillespie decided to move from Edinburgh to London and join LGIM.
She fits well in treasury and money markets because she is good at numbers and loves the fast pace and talking to people. “In the early days, you could spend your whole day on the phone talking to people; certainly in those days you did a lot more telephony work. Although Bloomberg was available, it wasn’t quite the same automated system it is today. So I started working my way through different jobs and then realised four or five years later that this was something that I really wanted to do.
“Fixing a quota puts it on the agenda and makes people do something. But it needs to be more than a tick-the-box exercise.”
“I didn’t see this as a stepping stone into fixed income or CFO roles, but stayed within money markets and watched the whole industry change with the invention of the euro and new products,” she explains. “I keep saying to myself that I have been through it all – up yield curve, flat yield curve, down yield curve – and there is nothing I haven’t seen. But then something comes up and I will realise that I haven’t seen that yet.”
Gillespie’s day-to-day tasks include looking at the markets, the fund and some things that the team may or may not be doing – effectively getting up to speed each morning. Then she does client meetings, presentations and participates on a number of committees. Together, the operational and investment trading sides take up most of her time. “And chatting to people on the phone. I love talking to the market and finding out what’s going on,” she says.
Although proud of her career and achievements, in hindsight there are certain instances when Gillespie believes she was perhaps too risk averse. “If I could go back, there are little points in my career that I could have said no or yes to, and maybe I should have. Sometimes women are just not as big risk takers as men are. Many men will immediately take a job when offered, move to a different location and take the chance; whereas it doesn’t come as easy for women. At least it doesn’t come as easy for me because I think of my kids, husband, dog, cat, etc. In that way, your choices are made for you because you are looking at the bigger picture. But for most men it is easier for them to make that quick-fire decision.”
Interestingly, she doesn’t think that woman-to-woman mentoring in a company quite works. “It is important for companies to have career progression paths in place, although I think that broader-based leadership programmes are the best way to do this” she explains. “Mentoring can be really effective, but a good mentoring relationship is based on personalities not gender. If a company identifies a woman or man who can come up through the ranks and be exceptional, then the most appropriate mentor is the one who believes that that person will be successful and can help them achieve that.”