Inspirational Woman: Dina Henry | Chief Operating Officer, CAF Bank

Dina HenryDina Henry is Chief Operating Officer at CAF Bank.

She is responsible for leadership of the operational team and driving the growth and impact of the Bank in the charity sector.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I joined CAF Bank in 2014 after having worked for specialist private bank Duncan Lawrie for 33 years.  The highlight of my time there was being appointed Regional Director in 2013.  During my career at Duncan Lawrie, I represented member banks as a Director of Visa UK, Europe’s largest payment provider, serving on strategic committees considering the future of payments and new card and payment technologies.

CAF Bank provides specialist banking and financial services to UK charities and social purpose enterprises and as Chief Operating Officer I am responsible for delivering the Bank’s operating plan, ensuring that we offer a first class banking service to charities. 

I feel privileged to take everything I have learnt in the banking profession and put it to work for a unique, ethical and charitable organisation that seeks to make a difference by supporting charities to make a better society.

I am passionate about the county I live and work in and I am proud to be an official ambassador for Kent.  Last year I volunteered at the Sevenoaks Medical Centre as part of the vaccination programme and despite standing in snow on some days, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many in the community.  I am delighted to be able to use the skills and experience gained during my career for the benefit of the county and its people.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No! I believed there were good prospects in banking and my parents felt it was the better choice from my long list of career options. It would seem that we have been proved right!  My first role was with NatWest Lombard Street and I then moved to Duncan Lawrie a year later.  It was my choice to move away from a larger to a much smaller bank – at the time of joining there were 25 of us – and I had a wonderful career at Duncan Lawrie.  It was there I was extremely fortunate to be involved in every service and product we offered to our customers.  I also had the opportunity to work with some top authors and artists and I am still in contact with many of them.

With hindsight, had I thought to plan my career, I think I would have liked a career in the field of gemology, which may have satisfied my fascination with all things sparkly!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

In my early years confidence was a challenge for me and still raises its head from time to time, but I found that as my knowledge and experience grew I became more confident in my own abilities.  When I joined the financial world it was male dominated but I never expected to be treated differently, and nor was I.  I was fortunate to be surrounded by men who didn’t make gender an issue, although I appreciate that this not everyone’s experience.

Assisting my fellow executives with running CAF Bank through the Covid-19 pandemic has been a huge challenge.  Forethought and effective planning meant that we were ready for the first Government lockdown and I co-ordinated the technical and physical logistics to ensure that our staff could work remotely.  I also saw this as an opportunity to streamline some of our processes to help staff and customers. I am very proud of the fact that CAF Bank has been there for our customers throughout the pandemic, providing continuity of banking services for existing as well as new customers. 

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I have had many achievements throughout my career, working my way to management level at two wonderful institutions, and have been fortunate enough to be recognised via awards from my peers.  However, I do not believe that achievements can be measured purely by commercial success.  My career has provided the opportunity to work with some wonderful people and to meet interesting, successful and inspiring people who have enriched my life.

I also find it very rewarding to introduce like-minded people and to see new relationships form and flourish and I am particularly happy when I can benefit charities from such introductions.  I also feel a sense of achievement in helping a customer or assisting a colleague in achieving their own ambitions.

My greatest personal achievement has been achieving my success in a male-dominated profession at executive level as well as raising a family.

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What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

The challenge of managing CAF Bank is a key driver of my enthusiasm and to do so in the Third Sector is a privilege.  Offering banking with philanthropy at its heart holds huge personal and professional reward and inspires me to find more ways that we can make a difference.  I am motivated by a personal desire to be the best, for my employer, and most importantly for our customers.  I have always been driven to offer the best customer service and I encourage my colleagues to cultivate the same ethos.  I am constantly searching for knowledge and enjoy the challenge of solving problems.  This has been the foundation and path to my success.

I have also been extremely fortunate to have a number of strong men and women in my life who influenced me to be confident, hard-working and supportive of others, and who encouraged self-belief and showed me what good leadership is. I also have the most wonderful family and friends who have supported me throughout my career.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

During my career I have been fortunate to have been mentored by colleagues at the top of their profession who were generous with their time and knowledge.  I believe it is my responsibility and privilege to offer my time and knowledge similarly.  My experience has brought an appreciation of the importance of investment in people.  I believe in giving colleagues the necessary tools to enable them to perform their role to the best of their ability and to aid their confidence and career progression.  I have mentored a number of people throughout my career, especially women, who have felt their career goals were unachievable because they had chosen to have a family.  I am passionate about helping people believe in themselves and face the barriers of combining a career with a family and accepting that they can, with the right support, do both roles.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I realise I have been extremely fortunate to have worked for organisations which have rewarded merit and where gender has not been an issue.  I do feel a sense of responsibility to strive for gender equality for the next generation of women.  I believe that increased participation by women in local, regional, and national legislative bodies will give women a voice and is fundamental to empowerment.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

I would advise my younger self (if I would listen!) to retain that sense of excitement, optimism and enjoyment felt at the start of my career for as long as possible as experience has taught me that this viewpoint helps you cope with challenges in healthy ways.  A second piece of advice (if I’m allowed?) would be not to underestimate my own strength and abilities.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My future plans include focusing on the transformation programme we are undertaking at CAF Bank to ensure that our technology and the products we develop are those that are required and needed by our customers to enable them to continue and develop their own charitable endeavours.

I also feel it is important as we hopefully come through the pandemic to bring some normality, optimism, and fun back into our working and home life.  The pandemic has brought new ways of working, which I hope will improve everyone’s work/life balance. 

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