Pat Sharman is the UK Managing Director for Dutch custodian bank, KAS BANK.
She heads up the UK branch and is dedicated to enhancing governance frameworks for schemes across the UK pensions industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I began my career in the City at the age of 16, joining Midland Bank with an ambition to be independent and self-sufficient. I rented my first flat at 17 and bought my first property at 19. I planned to stay at the Bank for only five years and ended up staying for nearly 30 years (as an organisation it obviously changed significantly over that period including the takeover by HSBC in 1992)!
I enjoyed many happy years at the Bank, met some great people and had a wonderful team, many of whom I still keep in touch with and are good friends. I worked in the Securities Services division of the Bank, carried out a few operational and project roles and then spent the majority of my years in client-facing roles, specialising in pension funds. I spent the last 8-9 years leading the Relationship Management & Sales, Pension Funds team.
Over time, the working environment changed into one that I no longer enjoyed, and I felt that the Bank was no longer aligned with many of my core beliefs. I am a great believer in standing by your principles, and I had got to the point where I felt it was time to move on to a new challenge.
I had, however, applied for and was appointed as a Trustee Director for HSBC Pension Trust (UK) Ltd, one of the largest and best governed DB and DC pension schemes in the UK. This role confirmed my passion for pensions and improving/safeguarding retirement income for the members. For the first time in a very long time, I actually felt like I added value to something versus just growing the bottom line of a big corporation.
I had spoken to several of the big banks and was offered some attractive packages; however this wasn’t what motivated me. I wanted to add value, make a real difference, and most importantly feel aligned with the core values of the organisation for which I worked.
I was looking into moving into pensions (technically a new career), and along came KAS BANK, a Dutch custodian bank. I knew them on the circuit as a friendly organisation, and they had decided they wanted to focus purely on pensions in the UK and needed someone to build and grow the business. I knew it had its risks, however I really liked some of the products they were developing (i.e. cost transparency for pensions) and liked the fact they would focus on my passion – “pensions”.
I joined KAS two years ago as head of sales & relationship management, and was promoted to managing director, UK, six months later. It’s been a fantastic two years from an enjoyment, personal development and career perspective. I am also lucky to have another fantastic team!
Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?
There have been times where I’ve experienced periods of extreme stress due to long working hours, tremendous pressure (especially when your team are feeling the strain) and managing difficult expectations for example.
However, challenges such as these are how you learn and develop and have helped shape me into the person I am today. You need to be tough, resilient, determined and focused to succeed in the financial sector, whilst still maintaining your core beliefs and not compromising your principles.
Do you have a typical workday? How do you start your day and how does it end?
Not really; I travel a fair amount so it can start at 4am (to catch a flight to Amsterdam) and finish in the early hours.
The odd “normal” day in office starts at 7.30am (my alarm is 5.20am) and finishes around 17.45, so I can ride one of my horses in the evening. I may still check emails or log-on later in the evening if there is anything urgent to be completed. It varies a lot as I am often out in the evening networking at industry events or with clients.
Have you ever faced sexism in the workplace? How did you respond/deal with this?
Yes, often; unfortunately, it’s part of life, whether you are female, male, gay etc. Obviously, I don’t agree with it; however, on the whole I have always considered it an advantage to be a woman in a man’s world. I have always done my utmost to be extremely professional and not attract the wrong attention. I am not afraid to step forward with my opinion, and often find that being a woman amongst many men that I bring different ideas to the table.
How would encourage more women and young girls into a male-dominated career?
My advice, would be to first decide what it is they want from a career, be it money incentives, a desire to change the world, doing something they believe in, a good work-life balance or if they have an ultimate goal they believe attainable.
The financial services sector is still male dominated (albeit much less so), however it’s a tough environment regardless of whether you are female or male so decide what you want to do and then go for it!
The moment you think, “I am a woman and therefore am disadvantaged”, you are disadvantaged. I would also suggest that you observe and speak to successful men and woman, to find out how they have succeeded in the financial sector and learn from their mistakes.
I actually think it’s an advantage to be a woman and make the most of the natural skills I bring to the table.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?
I love helping people grow in all aspects of their lives, and it brings me so much satisfaction when someone I have advised or coached or managed makes a success of their lives or achieves a goal they have been striving for.
Despite not yet having the chance to formally mentor someone, I think I have managed to help and motivate a few people to develop and achieve their ambitions over the years and this is something I’m extremely proud of achieving.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
I don’t have anything specific to change for women, as I think it’s more about improving diversity in general. I believe in having a team with different personalities, backgrounds, skills and experience, albeit with similar core values. This encourages a positive working environment which I think is key to building a successful business.
What I do feel we need to change is the general working environment in the financial services sector whereby people are often treated more like objects rather than human beings.
The prevalence of bullying and blame cultures is unfortunately still too common and the people at the top of some these organisations who often recruit mini versions of themselves or “yes” people!
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
It has to be the success we have enjoyed to date at KAS BANK! The Bank has allowed me to create a clear strategy for the UK business, shape and develop a fantastic team, significantly improve client satisfaction, build a positive and “clearly different” brand, as well as create and deliver a unique product (the UK’s first Cost Transparency tool for pension funds). All our hard work has allowed us to build a substantial new business pipeline and win some exciting mandates.
What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
On a personal level I want achieve my goal of competing in dressage at Grand Prix level. Professionally, I want to make a positive difference to the pensions industry through the data services we develop and deliver at KAS BANK which provide better governance through more informed decision making, develop and improve the lives of the people who work in my team and build a successful business for the Bank in the UK.