Q&A with Lizzy Buss, State Street

Introducing Lizzy Buss - our friend, mentor and role model! We love her because she's one of those women who breaks all stereotypes and asks the questions many women are too scared to ask. With a 20 year career in the City, Lizzy is currently at State Street as head of business development, InfraHedge for EMEA & APAC. As well as the demanding day job, Lizzy is also a board member for Help the Children charity, contributor to the Hampton-Alexander Review (FTSE Women Leaders) and an ambassador for inclusion which involves mentoring returners, fellow women in the city and championing socio-economic diversity and neuroinclusion. She's also a wife and mother of three. Superwoman? Most definitely. 

Madderson London Muse Lizzy Buss State Street

Pictured here with the Fearless Girl statue in Canary Wharf while campaigning for gender diversity in 2017, you can't help but notice they share the same determined expression. And then below, Lizzy opens the London Stock Exchange in March to mark International Women's Day 2019.

Lizzy Buss at London Stock Exchange

We caught up with her at the Wharf and found out just what drives her to advocate so passionately for change...

Can you share some background on your career path? 

I work at State Street, a US bank responsible for more than 10% of the world’s assets.  My job is to help clients run their investment programmes safely and efficiently.  I am head of business development in EMEA and APAC for my business unit, InfraHedge).

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Nottingham in 2000.  Looking back, I think I wanted to prove a point – girls “like me” can do it too!  After Uni I took a short trip to see the world then started in technology at JPMorgan.  I moved into credit derivative operations at UBS Investment Bank and enjoyed a baptism of fire, working through a historic market boom (no doubt you’ll have seen “The Big Short”…).  My next role was in equity prime brokerage on the trading floor. I worked hard to become a Director of sales & relationship management.  It was a role I had always wanted.  I got to travel, work with great people, and I loved it.  I left on maternity leave just before the global financial crisis unfolded in 2008 and I spent the next 8 years concentrating on raising my family.

 I had three children under four and got involved in all kinds of interesting things on the side too, but I always put the children first.  As my children got older I found myself giving them little motivational speeches along the lines of “you can do anything… don’t let anything hold you back... use all of your strengths... all two eyes are equal... the world is your oyster”.  Once my youngest was about to start school, I suddenly felt that talking wasn’t good enough any more, I needed to lead by example.  With overwhelming support from my children and husband, I returned to the city in 2016 to show my children: Mummies can do it too.

My role now is a great mix of everything.  Technology, innovation, operations, sales, marketing, strategy, relationship management and parenting! 

What motivates you / gets you out of bed in the morning? 

Making a positive change in the world that will outlast me.

What has been the stand out moment in your career? (Good or bad!)

 A recent highlight was opening the London Stock Exchange with Bev Shah and City Hive.   It was a glorious celebration of diversity in the City and everyone was literally beaming.  We all got to sign the book and it felt like a real “moment” - a bucket list tick for me!

I also have to mention the launch of the Fearless Girl statue in March 2017, which raised awareness of the shocking lack of gender diversity across businesses globally and acted as a call to action for us all.  I was in my first year at State Street and I felt so lucky to be working for the company behind this campaign.

 Small and slight, but strong and determined, the  young girl faced the large aggressive bull outside The New York Stock Exchange.  She embodied so much of what I felt at the time and she has ignited conversations in every Board room across the globe since.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Once I’m at the office I’m in and out of meetings and presentations all day and I usually have around three early morning / late evening client events a week.  I hugely value being able to work from home once a week too, to get through my desk-work in silence – not everyone’s preference but it works for me!

Regardless of how late it is, every day ends the same – planning for the next day and getting as much as I can done in advance. 

 

Lizzy pictured with Alex Theis, director, Barclays. Read Alex's interview here

Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

Working hard and making accelerated positive contributions to the workplace/society/planet.  My children will be 17, 19 and 21 and I really hope I will have been able to show them more of the world by then too.

In an alternate universe what career path would you have followed?

Children’s TV presenter.  

 

 

Lizzy wears Madderson London's navy Miranda dress

You’re doing a lot of work around inclusion & diversity both at your bank and for women in finance more broadly – can you tell us what kinds of things you’re involved in?

I’m passionate about connecting people and creating positive change to help make our world a better place.  I find it so exciting that we’re sitting on such huge potential.  Companies need more diverse leadership teams to help them succeed in our diverse world; meanwhile there are millions of stellar candidates who are feeling overlooked because they don’t fit the stereotypes of what’s gone before.  I don’t fit these stereotypes either and I feel a sense of responsibility to do everything I can to help.

I was very lucky to be able to contribute to the 2018 Hampton-Alexander Review into increasing the number of women in senior positions in FTSE 350 companies, led by the inspirational Denise Wilson OBE.  The results showed us how much we can achieve when we work collaboratively, but also how much we have still yet to do.

I have recently joined the TISA council for children’s financial education.  My aim is to break down perceived barriers to entry and increase the diversity of young people coming into the financial industry.  In the words of the awesome Terri Duhon: #FinanceIsFun

I am an ambassador for neuro-inclusion through the Diversity Project.   My aims are to increase awareness of what neurodiversity is; how important it is to understand and respect our differences; and to help provide practical advice on getting the best out of everyone, to optimise team / company success.

 

What are the challenges for women in finance today? And what are the opportunities? 

In many ways, the challenges remain the same as 100 years ago!  We need to work 100 times as hard to get a seat at the table, to be heard, and to feel included. I don’t blame anyone for this though - the world of finance has been built by men, often with strong women raising families and acting as backbones of support in the background.  This has changed so dramatically in a relatively short period of history; now we must focus on finding ways to work together in this new world of gender parity. 

In terms of opportunities, they are there.  Be hard-working, persistent, clear about what you need, and ready to negotiate.

Has this changed while you’ve been working in banking?

The biggest change has been the exponential increase in data and communications in the last 20 years.  When I started in banking so much of what we now take for granted hadn’t even been invented.  There were no iphones, no apps – in fact we were still using dial-up internet.  Now there are so many ways to work on the go, it’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

What advice would you give young girls starting similar careers to you?

The team around you is everything; choose wisely.  Find ways to understand the team’s culture before you sign up for a new role and if it feels right, it probably is.

Also - consider creating your own, internal, personal “Board of Directors” in your head.  The people who hold you accountable in life and the people you go to for advice.  Who would be on it?  Your parents?  Your best friend?  Your old boss?  Your sibling?  Consider your Board as a whole.  Is it diverse?  If not, think about what you could do to change this - and you might just find that new career possibilities open up.

 

 

Which one person alive or dead is your biggest inspiration? 

This is the most tricky question for me - I have so many and the list is added to daily!  Greta Thunberg is certainly a real life Fearless Girl and she has inspired me in many ways.

What’s your mantra? 

Carpe Diem. 

What is your morning routine? 

I wake up naturally at 5am and do 20 mins pilates before having a refreshing shower and a enjoying a mug of hot lemon water while I read the morning’s newspapers. 

I wish!  In reality - I hit snooze a few times before jumping up and getting ready as quickly as possible, whilst checking emails and reading the news from overnight on my phone at the same time.  I try to get ready before the children wake up.  Once everyone is up, it’s all about ponytails, cutting nails, homework, book bags, school forms, feeding the children and pets, getting the laundry on etc, before leaving the house at 7am.

How do you alter what you wear at work and off-duty?

I separate my work and home clothes – although in both cases I choose clothes that make me happy.  I like tailoring and heels at work; jeans and flats at home. 

What’s your favourite piece in the Madderson workwear collection?

It would have to be the Lisa black silk dress.  Classic and chic but also so cool and trendy!  I also love the Leonie tulip silk blouse and Elizabeth silk tulip dress.

Madderson London Black Silk Lisa DressMadderson London Silk Tulip Print Elizabeth Dress Madderson London Leonie Silk Tulip Blouse

 

What do your clothes say about you?

To be honest I don’t know!  I hope - happy, enthusiastic, kind, practical, thoughtful.

 

 

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Helen Hughes is co-founder and head of marketing at Madderson London.
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