Working Your Way up in Investment Management Marketing

Anne-Marie McConnon, BNY Mellon’s Chief Marketing Officer - International, and previous winner of Marketer of the Year award, with her team winning Marketing Team of the Year (amongst other accolades) at the Investment Week - Investment Marketing & Innovation Awards.

Anne-MarieAlso part of the Investment 2020 team, Anne-Marie is incredibly passionate about improving diversity within the investment management industry at the grassroots level. We were keen to find out more about her career so far, as well as hearing her opinions on getting more women into senior leadership roles (within financial services), and she was generous enough to share her insights with us over some dim sum.

Why did you choose a career in investment marketing?

I chose marketing because of the sheer variety of the role, but in all honesty I fell into the investment industry and then fell in love with it. The investment management industry is an extremely important one, as it is the home of our pensions, our smaller personal investments and our insurance funds. This £5,000,000,000,000 (five trillion) of funds is crucial for our financial futures and we all look to the industry to keep it safe and make it grow. It is a dynamic, exciting, innovative, and most importantly a friendly industry to work in. Millions of everyday people rely on its expertise, and the number investing will keep on growing as older people live for longer; and as younger people start saving earlier.

From a marketing perspective, I think to be successful in investment marketing you need to understand the products and distribution as well as drive innovation in marketing – no mean feat.  So, if you like a challenge – this is the industry for you. 

What was it about BNY Mellon that made you choose them as an employer three years ago?

I was looking for a new challenge - BNY Mellon is one of the largest and most successful companies in the world.. Who wouldn’t want a chance to work for a company like that? With our multi-boutique model, we also have an interesting challenge on our hands from a brand strategy perspective. This is something I was keen to be involved in. In my role, I get to deal with more CEOs, CMOs/Heads of Marketing, fund managers than ever before. Being given the chance to work for this many talented people is really exciting and also gives me the opportunity to learn from them as well as contribute my own ideas. In my years, BNY Mellon has been open to new ideas, embracing change and I have had the opportunity to work on game-changing projects like the boat race sponsorship, which in a world first for sponsorship, we recently donated to Cancer Research UK and alongside Newton Investment Management we previously achieved equality for the women’s race. I have also had the ability to reinvent teams and campaigns such as creating an in-house publishing machine in BNY Mellon and launch the first infographic blog in the industry Marketeye

What’s the biggest achievement in your career to date?

(She answers modestly) Obviously, getting Team of the Year at the 2015 Investment Marketing awards (and being nominated for the Marketer of the Year category by my own team) are right up there. I am particularly proud of my involvement in launching the Bond Vigilantes Blog alongside Jim Leaviss and his team at M&G Investments, which was ground-breaking at the time, as well as my time spent on Investment 2020

Looking at your progression to date it seems you have had the perfect career in investment marketing so far. Is there anything you would you have done differently?

Not really and I’m definitely not someone who has regrets. I can, however, see the value of starting a career with a creative agency (before going in-house) for the exposure it gives you to different marketing disciplines. In terms of my career, I started at the bottom and worked my way up slowly and have held most roles within investment marketing from design to channel marketing. I think this has put me in good stead to build high-performing teams as I have a good appreciation and understanding of all of the functions within it.

Have you experienced any gender stereotyping (in your career so far) and has being a woman ever held you back in your career?

I think we have all experienced some “closet” stereotyping at some point during our career.  By closet stereotyping, I mean cases such as women being placed into “planning” roles post-maternity on the same pay, but not in the same job with equivalent responsibility. Addressing gender diversity is key to improving things. I think there has probably never been a better time to be a working woman, but we are still far from being equal. Asset management has a lot of catching up to do in this regard as we are lagging many other industries. Gender stereotyping

However, I believe we have made great strides in raising awareness of the importance of gender diversity at board level through initiatives such as the 30% club.  BNY Mellon overall is very committed to advancing the role of women in the industry and society as a whole and I have had the opportunity to work on some important initiatives such as our Womenomics event, which we launched the same year that the Women’s boat race was given equal rights on the tideway alongside their male counterparts.  

Marketing is somewhat different to other careers (in financial services) as there are often a high proportion of women in marketing functions if anything we need to redress the balance of men. I think as long as you are determined you can always find a way (to achieve what you want to achieve), the key thing is to work for the right people – who inspire you but will also sponsor you to progress further in the business regardless of your gender. 

What is the gender balance like at your peer level and do you think there is a glass ceiling on careers in marketing for women?

As I said, I think marketing typically attracts more women than men – so the challenge, and where the glass ceiling may be still in place (in asset management), lies above Head of Marketing level. There are still not a lot of women holding Head of Sales or Head of Distribution roles and breaking into P&L positions that then give them access to C-Suite positions. I am proud to say that BNY Mellon has bucked this trend and we have a number of women in these roles today. It is important to raise awareness of the boardroom diversity issues, but I also believe it is so important to do some work at grassroots level to change this such as promoting different career opportunities in schools, universities and taking part in initiatives such as Investment2020

Do you envisage the gender balance in marketing changing with the growth of digital marketing (as research shows that there is more than double the number of men working in digital than women)?

Yes – there is an interesting stat which states that in five years’ time the CMO will spend more on IT than the CTO. As the worlds of tech and marketing continue to merge, we are likely to see more men coming into marketing careers, attracted by the more technical, KPI and data-driven marketing, which are crucial to success.  And it is likely that in the future digital will become more integrated into the overall marketing function, as opposed to a separate function.

What’s the current gender balance of the marketing team at BNY Mellon?

It’s pretty balanced compared to most marketing departments actually due to the strides we have made in digital, database marketing and operations. It’s probably about 60% women: 40% male at the moment.

Are you in favour of positive discrimination to get more women onto Boards (in financial services firms)?

No, I don’t agree with quotas. I think most women would agree that they would want to achieve a promotion because they were the best candidate, not because they made up the numbers. 

What changes would you like to see happening in the industry to help move the dial on gender equality?

It’s all about a change in culture and it needs to start at grassroots level and have full support from the top for it to be sustainable. And it’s not just about a male-female balance, but about the investment industry attracting and retaining talent from more diverse backgrounds not just the traditional economic degrees. Outside of work, I’m really excited to be part of an initiative that is starting to tackle this - Investment 2020 (an industry wide scheme which aims to attract energetic and diverse young talent to fund groups).

Do you think businesses should give more flexibility to working parents?

Yes. The way people are working is changing - technology, data analytics, social media and ways of communicating are evolving. Different and diverse generations mean that traditional career models could become extinct in 10 years. These changes will have a fundamental impact on how our businesses will attract, retain and motivate a talented workforce.  Flexibility for working parents

I think flexibility is important but it needs to be flexibility for all. So it’s not just about support for working mothers but also working fathers and people who care for elderly or sick relatives. There should be a set of (flexible working) rules, but with options as one size doesn’t fit all. And now we have the technology to be more creative so that it’s no longer about face-to-face time, so long as it doesn’t impact teams and people achieve their KPIs. 

This shift will also require major cultural shifts in organisations. To effectively re-energise their workforces, organisations need to shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing more in them, so they are motivated and able to bring more of themselves to work every day. Measuring output and not time spent at their desk. Research has proven that those companies offering flexibility and valuing happiness as a key part of their culture are rewarded with higher output, loyalty and commitment. 

Knowing that you have a young family, what flexible working options are available to you at BNY Mellon​?

I believe you should fit your job around your life not the other way round and the culture at BNY Mellon helps me achieve that. We also have a very good parent mentoring scheme that starts even before a woman goes on maternity leave and supports her when she returns. 

What other solutions would you like to see (for helping create a more meritocratic environment) in financial services?

There is a great book by Stephen Frost (previous Head of Diversity and Inclusion for the London Olympics). He talks about moving away from what he calls ‘diversity 1.0’ (setting up a women’s network to one of ‘real inclusion’). I would like to see the industry move towards ‘real inclusion’. The latter is about committing to driving real efficiency of the organisation and making the world a better place as a by-product of this. This requires cultural change - changing the system and realising you can’t do it all on your own and the results would be worse if you did! So overall I’d like to see the industry having more transparency on these topics as well as tackling the issues at the grassroots level. 

What advice would you give to individuals starting their careers in investment marketing?

I would say follow your passion and always stay true to yourself. By the latter I mean don’t focus too much on your weaknesses but play to your strengths and always work with and for great people. Finally, don’t be afraid to fail. This is particularly true in marketing – you have to be willing to go against the grain every now and then by trying new things. Sometimes you won’t get the result you wanted – but you will always have learned something new by trying. 

When you recruit what do you personally look for in potential new talent for your team?

I always hire for attitude and train for skill. You can train anyone to do anything, but if they aren’t inspired, motivated and passionate about what they do – they are unlikely to be the best they can be.

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