Amanda Pullinger was recognized for Lifetime Achievement at the 2015 Women in Finance Markets Choice Awards.
Markets Media: Describe your role at 100 Women in Hedge Funds.
Amanda Pullinger: As CEO of a global association for over 13,000 professionals in the finance industry, my main role is as a global ambassador, visiting the locations where we have members, and doing outreach to individuals and other organizations with whom we may partner to achieve our goals. I also manage a small staff who work with me to support our three pillars: industry education events, philanthropy initiatives and peer leverage opportunities.
Prior to being CEO of 100WHF, I consulted to a number of organizations that were keen to engage professional men and women with non-profit causes. I believe one of my skills is to help professionals make this connection in a way that provides them with opportunities to give back to their community while giving them a the professional benefits of a peer network.
At 100WHF, I work with more than 200 volunteers globally in our industry education programming. Members volunteer to find hosts for events, access speakers, and put on events so that we can offer them for free to our members. In return, those volunteers often benefit from professional opportunities and connections that they wouldn’t necessarily have come across through their day job.
I also see my role as being an advocate for and facilitator of effective philanthropy. Our organization has raised over $38 million over the past 14 years, for charities in six countries, where the bulk of our members reside. Our members volunteer to do due diligence on prospective non-profits and are then involved in monitoring outcomes from the grants made. But we don’t just fund raise and write a check. We are also provide access to the talent within our membership who might serve on a non-profit board or volunteer in some other capacity with the charity.
MM: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
AP: I think it’s the growth of the organization over the past 14 years – both in terms of global locations, and in terms of quality and visibility for each of our three pillars. And doing it all with a very small staff team, and increasingly large number of volunteers. It is an unusual non-profit model to have just three staff members and around 350 active volunteers globally, being able to host over 100 free education events for for more than 5,000 individuals, raise $4 million for charity, and provide many opportunities for our senior practitioners as well as next-gen members to connect for business purposes each year.
Given the global reach, over time I think that what I was able to put in place some best practices around how the local committees best worked with the global network. So now, when new locations on-board, we have a process for how we engage new members within the organization and its global network. I do think part of what I’ve been able to bring is a global perspective. Having been brought up and educated in the UK and having traveled quite extensively, including working overseas, I have learned how to be sensitive to where we need to be flexible in terms of cultural differences, while still enabling a coherent organization to be built.
We’re now in 20 locations globally, all of which were grown by professional women who approved us enough to say ‘We want to be part of this organization.’ To which we can now reply “Okay, these are the parameters. This is what you need to do locally to set up a committee to ensure that we will succeed in this location” and to provide a framework within which they work locally but can connect globally.
If I may add another personal achievement, it would be the part I played in creating the successful partnership with TRHs The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, all of whom are patrons of our UK Philanthropic Initiatives. And the recent new professional partnership with HRH The Countess of Wessex, now Global Ambassador of 100WHF’s Next Generation Initiatives.
MM: What is your advice for young women who aspire to a career similar to yours.
AP: In high school and in the early stages of considering university, I’d say one of the best things she can do is to see the world. Understanding different cultures and having a global perspective is really valuable in today’s global environment. So, find any opportunity to travel.
Obviously, I’m biased, but I also think she should access every opportunity to get to know the finance industry. It may have been a challenge to do that in the past. But one of the areas that 100WHF is now focused on, through your Investing in the Next Generation Initiative is giving young women at university or business school access to the finance industry through role models, education, internship and shadowing opportunities and ways to engage with other professionals in the industry.
I’d also suggest that young women seek out other women who have been successful and learn from them. Figure out a way to get to those successful women in a thoughtful way and then learn what they’ve done to get there. I know everyone is looking for a mentor, and I’m not saying go and bug someone to be your mentor. Instead, figure out why these women have reached the top and mirror their path, if you admire them.
Young women have to learn to be resilient. The financial world is a very competitive. You definitely have to have a thick skin. You also have to figure out how to engage with men and women alike. You definitely have to look beyond the stereotypes in The Wolf of Wall Street and the cable television series Billions. Of course those characters exist, but I believe this industry actually is a great industry for women, especially on the investment side of the business.
Ultimately it’s about performance and not your gender. So the industry can give women an opportunity to excel in a way other industries might not. But you need to recognize it’s often a challenging and competitive environment.