Keri Pratt

Director

WOBSX-Keri-Pratt-Homepix-Photography-0004.jpgKeri is a professional with significant experience in investment sales & marketing, management, superannuation & business consulting and strategy, and is an experienced company director. She sits on several finance industry association committees/ boards and has developed extensive networks in the industry. She is also involved in industry advocacy for women and fund raising. Outside of the finance industry, she is a NED on a national sports board and a disability services business.

What boards do you sit on?

Currently I am on just 2 boards whilst I am working in a role in the NSW public sector: Deputy Chair of The Junction Works (a disability & community services business in Sydney’s south west) and the CIMA Society of Australia (a membership organisation for investment professionals). In the last 2 years I was a director of a national sports organisation (Gymnastics Australia) and Women in Super (a membership organisation providing networking & education opportunities for women in financial services).

When and why did you decide to become a director?

My first experience in a governance role was back in the late ‘90s, as a member-elected director of a corporate super fund. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and it gave me an insight into board room dynamics and decision making processes. Fast forward to 2007, where I had another opportunity to serve as NSW Chair and State-elected director for an organisation of which I was a member (Women in Super). This organisation provided me with a way to ‘give back’ to the superannuation industry and to tangibly assist women in the industry in progressing their careers (through WIS’s activities and fund raising efforts). Common purpose and passion across the board and membership has delivered fantastic results for breast cancer research and to raise awareness about the gender gap in retirement savings.

What are your short and medium term board aspirations?

My aspiration is to build a diversified board portfolio over the next 2-5 years that maximises the value of my executive experience as well as harnessing the governance skills and insights I have developed over all my years on not-for-profit boards. I expect this will include boards in the finance & insurance sector, public sector, and disability sector.

Outline your career background.

I began my career in the superannuation and consulting world. From there I moved in to roles with a number of global investment management firms running institutional distribution/relationship management teams and in investment specialist/ product roles. More recently, I took on an investment governance role with NSW State Super, a $42 bil pension fund.

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

My advice is be prepared for rejection and accept that this is part of the journey. In the end, I have found that failure often provides more learning/ development opportunities than a string of minor successes. The more research that you do before you make an application for a board, the better prepared you will be for the interview when you are shortlisted. It’s also important to remember that whilst it’s flattering to be asked to join a board, insufficient due diligence can expose you (and your personal reputation) as a number of women who joined ASX boards in recent years have discovered.

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

I have worked with/for a number of inspiring women (and men) throughout my career. When I think about why they have left a lasting impression on me, the common thread seems to be: high levels of integrity and trust, high on EQ, generous with their time to develop others, and their ability to give and receive frank and unbiased/open feedback. To me, these are the true marks of a great leader, whether operating as a director or in any other leadership role.

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

I am currently in the WOBSX mentoring program, but prior to this I have never been formally mentored or sponsored. Rather, I have sought out people I have worked with or met through work contacts with whom I have developed a rapport and that I felt I could learn from. My experience is that people are prepared to invest the time in others where they feel there is some value for them as well: either they learn something about themselves in the process or perhaps you can provide them with a fresh perspective on an issue they are dealing with. In this way each person gets value from the relationship.

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

Both of my current boards have good gender balance. In fact, the disability board is a little light on for males (duly noted for the next time that we do a director search)..

How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?

I joined WOB a number of years ago and attended their excellent workshop to help me create a ‘board ready’ CV. In the years I have been a member I have attended plenty of useful networking and educational events and gotten to know other female directors. WOB’s board positions board has also provided me with 2 board roles: my current disability board and Gymnastics Australia (which I served on for 2 years). Ruth and Claire have always been supportive of me in my director journey, and I have posted a role on the positions board in the past (and would do so again).

Any tips for women starting out in their career?

Get involved in your industry/ community. Not only does this help you make connections which could provide future job (or board) opportunities but it also helps you to understand industry dynamics and how your employer compares to others in the industry. Information is power!