Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: Kim Hochfeld, State Street Global Advisors

Published: Dec 2020
Kim Hochfeld, State Street Global Advisors

This much I know

Kim Hochfeld, Global Head of Cash at State Street Global Advisors, shares her thoughts on what individuals can do to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace – and why it is important to build a strong network.

Kim Hochfeld

Global Head of Cash
State Street Global Advisors

Headquartered in Boston in the United States, State Street Global Advisors is the asset management division of State Street Corporation. Operating around the globe, it is the world’s third largest asset manager, with over US$3 trillion in assets under management.1

Kim joined the firm in March 2020 as Global Head of Cash. Her previous roles include Head of Liquidity Sales for EMEA and APAC at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, as well as leadership positions at RBS Global Banking & Markets and BlackRock.

1 As of September 30, 2020.

Tell us about your current position.

I’m currently the Global Head of Cash at State Street Global Advisors, which means I’m responsible for the distribution of our liquidity investment expertise to cash investors around the world. I joined the firm in March earlier this year just before the pandemic kicked off, so I had less than two weeks in the office before everyone was sent home. Starting a new job in the middle of a market and health crisis, having to work virtually and while juggling young kids being at home and then needing to build and nurture relationships with a bunch of strangers on whom I was entirely dependent for the success of my business – it was a life learning experience!

In my previous role, I was running the European and Asian Liquidity Distribution team for Morgan Stanley Investment Management. I had been extremely happy there and really enjoyed my team, my manager and the overall working environment. Yet an offer from State Street Global Advisors to take on global responsibilities (whilst staying based in London), to expand my experience within the US market and to grow my management and leadership responsibilities in an exponential way, was too compelling to turn down.

How can junior professionals be empowered to challenge bias and promote diversity?

We must all own this issue, regardless of your role or where you fit within the corporate hierarchy. This is not just a management issue: bias –conscious and unconscious– is an issue that we all need to be challenging, all the time. As leaders, we need to ensure an environment is created where people aren’t afraid to use their voice. In other words, we should all feel empowered, if something appears to be wrong, not to accept it – make sure you escalate it, and find somebody you can talk to about it. That means it’s important to ensure that everybody is encouraged to use their voice and that we create an environment where people aren’t afraid to speak up, even if their opinion is an outlier from the group.

At the same time, we should all be trying to promote diversity and build relationships with colleagues who come from different cultural, racial and language backgrounds from our own. We all need to be conscious of, and temper, our natural inclination to form groupings only with people who look and think the same as us.

What advice would you give to women in finance in terms of establishing and developing a career?

Don’t be limited by your own thoughts or existing skillset. Believe in yourself – and if you are offered a stretch opportunity, take it and push yourself. It can often be challenging to quash the inevitable self-doubt but ensure you’re always open to seeking new opportunities and not waiting for them to come to you. By actively looking for new experiences, relationships and networks, you will ensure people know you are open to maintaining your career trajectory.

Make sure you’re behaving professionally at every point in your career. There is truth in the adage that the treasury and financial services world is a small community. The more senior you get, the greater the likelihood that your next job is going to come from someone you’ve already met along your career journey. Don’t leave an organisation on a bad note if you can help it and don’t bad-mouth anyone on the way out (even if they are more junior colleagues – they might be offering you a job at a later stage in your career!)

And of course, needless to say, you need to work hard and keep your focus. Find a way to manage stress in a way that works for you (there’s no one-size-fits-all) and find the right balance between your work and where it fits into your life’s priorities.

Do you think it is important to have a defined career plan?

I never had a defined career plan – and I wouldn’t change that, because having an open mind took me to places I didn’t know existed. So, clearly, I would recommend having an open mind and making sure you are open to all kinds of opportunities.

At a recent panel session, , one of the panellists said, ‘Don’t be afraid of taking a sideways move.’ That really resonated for me. You don’t always have to move upward,. At certain times in your career – particularly if you have a change in your personal circumstances – it might help you not to have an all-consuming role for a period of time when you need to focus more on your personal commitments. Moreover, a sideways move can often give you a breadth of experience that you might not otherwise get, so don’t automatically dismiss these kinds of opportunities.

What is your motto in life, or your greatest inspiration?

I was inspired by this quote from the German playwright Goethe, which my father had up on the wall of his office when I was growing up: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” My other favourite mantra is “Just do it” (thank you Nike!)

The power of networking

At the beginning of the year, Kim was recruited into her current role by a former colleague she has known for a number of years. “We worked together at Merrill Lynch in 2005, and our paths have crossed a number of times since then,” she says. “He actually tried to hire me seven years ago, but I had already committed to start a new job at Morgan Stanley.” As Kim points out, this only underlines how important it is to network effectively and to display professionalism in the workplace – “you never know who is going to help you get your next role.”

Working virtually

Since moving into her current position, Kim says she has learned many valuable lessons. Building new relationships and establishing trust in a virtual environment is a challenging task. “All of us need to find something to counter-balance inevitable virtual meeting fatigue, as well as the numbing effect of spending the entire day sitting at a desk without the variety of environments and stimulus that a real-life office would bring you.” As Kim notes, informal, spontaneous interactions are missing from the virtual world. “So much comes from the informal discussion you might have after a meeting” and our challenge is to recreate that somehow in a virtual environment.

Driving diversity and inclusion

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Kim observes that the last five years have brought a real step change across the industry. “I’ve held a number of positions on diversity committees in different organisations, and I felt like we were always pushing against a locked door,” she reflects. “But now it feels like we’re pushing on a door that is slightly ajar.” Another encouraging evolution of the discussion is the “the understanding that diversity doesn’t just mean gender diversity any longer, but is much broader than that.”

She believes that, in part, this change is the result of the work people have done to keep the topic of diversity and inclusion at the forefront of conversations: “We talk about this all the time, and it’s now become both acceptable and expected to talk about it.” Large asset managers like State Street Global Advisors have pushed companies to drive change at Board level and include female directors.

Another factor, says Kim, is that diversity is increasingly being tracked and measured. The publication of pertinent data not only helps to keep the topic in the public eye, but is prompting companies to strive for change, “rather than just paying lip service to it.” And of course, the events of 2020 have also played an important role in moving the discussion forward. As Kim notes, the acceptability of flexible working has undergone a revolution this year and that helps drive diversity in a meaningful way.

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