Cris Topfner-Rigby


MME_Topfner-Rigby_Cris_Q-A.jpgCris is an advisory board member and senior executive with expert knowledge of digital technology and transformation across payments, real time systems, business transformation, IT privacy, data management and security. Worked in heavily regulated environments – military and financial services ­ managing risks and compliance. Drives performance through strategic management, culture change, operational re-engineering, business process and complex digital technology transformation.

Respected for creativity and strategic insight, enterprise and industry-wide mindset and delivering outstanding results that balance dual customer and commercial outcomes in both profit and not for profit commercial structures. Named one of the top 100 influential payments leaders by Fintech Asia in 2016.

Cris brings to boards an ability to positively influence people and situations, assimilate and synthesize complex information, integrity and high ethical standards. Understands and identifies issues at both the detailed and big-picture level. Ensures a clear and in-depth understanding on how to define and meet customer demand.

Passionate about diversity and use of new technology that enable standardization, international interoperability and transparency.

What boards do you sit on?

After starting up the Australian Women in Payments presence and being a board member for 3 years, I am now serving on the Australian Red Cross National Board, as well as Friends of Coolart, a volunteer organisation which supports Parks Victoria in the promotion, preservation and enhancement of the Coolart Wetlands & Homestead for its environmental, cultural and educational value to the community.

When and why did you decide to become a director?

Starting Women in Payments has given me an insight on how the capabilities, skills and desire to give back, support and help others grow can be used in in a broader context by helping organizations with a far broader reach than an individual. Board membership also allowed me to learn and grow as a professional and individual.

What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?

I would like to gain a board role involved in the financial services sector, thus levering some specific industry skills. It is important that the organization is heavily focused on social and community support, rather than commercial gains at all cost.

Touch on the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?

The outmost difficult challenge was to believe that I can do it, followed by the how to approach this new direction. I was fortunate the old mighty google search brought up Women on Boards and I attended an information session. Realizing Your Board Potential helped me build my confidence, understand how my skills were relevant in the board context, as well as providing clarity on the type of board roles I am suitable for. I followed that with a CV Masterclass and Financial Literacy. Throughout my journey and since, Ruth, Claire and the team have helped with advice in the pursuit of roles, always just a phone call away. Always a Wobber, I will also undertake the AICD course sometime in the next 12 months, as the AICD membership has been valuable in my learning.

Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why?

Madeline Albright has always been an inspiration for her leadership qualities and the manner she leveraged her formidable intellect as a forceful champion of both democracy and human rights.

Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?

I did not - friends, advisors, but never a real mentor, especially a sponsor. For those reading this, please do find that special group of people that will help your career, it will enable you to grow and make a difference much quicker.

What’s the diversity (gender & other) like on your boards?

I am very fortunate to be on boards that are exceptionally diverse across the whole spectrum, however I do not believe they are indicative of the broader community. I have recently applied for a board role with 90% male representation, it will be interesting to see how it compares if I am successful.

Any tips for women starting out in their career?

Restructure your thinking and capabilities with a board lens perspective with help from those that have travelled the path – you do not need to figure it out on your own! Create, join a network where you can meet and learn from current or aspiring board members and, most of all find a sponsor. What is also important to remember is that a board role is like any other job, you can and should learn as you go, you do not need to know it all from the beginning.

Interview published: August 2018