Kimberley Warren, Global Procurement Director at HSBC, talks about the key to success and taking risks

over 1 year ago Kimberly Warren

​Kimberley Warren is Global Procurement Director at HSBC. With an incredible career spanning 24 years in the IT and Banking industries, Kimberley demonstrates that through hard work and determination you can be a very successful senior woman in procurement. Balancing a demanding job, five children and a three hour commute, Kimberley talks candidly about being a good role model, diversity and never letting the grass grow under her feet.

The key to success and taking risks

I think there are two key areas which have contributed to my success; the first is having great role models and managers. Early in my career I was part of the graduate scheme at ICL and was fortunate enough to work for a lady who was a Procurement Manager, but also a qualified Solicitor. She had moved out of the law profession and into procurement and every Friday afternoon she would train me on contract law and it gave me such a solid foundation. I understood early on how we can learn a huge amount from the legal profession, being able to navigate a contract should be a given for any procurement professional. From ICL I went to Barclays - I was only three years out of university and this was a senior role with a lot of responsibility but again I was fortunate enough to work with an extremely talented female consultant who coached me, encouraged me to take risks and was undoubtedly one of my strongest early career influencers.

This leads me to the second key area which has contributed to my success; during my career I have tended to change companies every 2 -3 years, thriving on working in different companies with different cultures and challenges. I'm equally comfortable moving between permanent and contractor positions and I think that is quite rare, especially with women in senior positions who have families to support. The one exception in my career was RSA, where I stayed for 8 years, until one day when I recognised I had become too comfortable and needed to rebrand. I resigned a few days later! Of course having a supportive husband who also has a successful career enables me to take risks and for that I am very grateful. Having the opportunity to resign before I’ve lined up my next role means that I can live by my life’s philosophy of “life is too short”.

“I'm equally comfortable moving between permanent and contractor positions and I think that is quite rare, especially with women in senior positions with families to support”

Taking risks throughout my career has helped me challenge myself. As I typically haven’t had my next role lined up , I’ve tended not to know where I’m going to land but what I do have is confidence that wherever I do land, I'll work hard to make it a success. I always tell myself that I can walk into a contractor role tomorrow if something doesn't work. By maintaining a sense of realism, not overselling myself nor having an inflated day rate or salary expectations has meant I have been able to work in a variety of roles and companies that enable me to work in challenging environments, deliver successful results and to continue to develop and grow personally.

“What I…have is confidence that wherever I do land, I'll work hard to make it a success”

HSBC - the opportunity and initial priorities

In HSBC Procurement we have three key priorities; cost reduction, stakeholder satisfaction and managing he risk agenda. However, the opportunity to get involved with more than just procurement at HSBC is vast. Procurement is viewed as a trusted partner to the business and with that comes respect and a licence to operate more freely. As a function that is still undergoing transformation we have a long way to go but, we have built the solid foundations and have earnt the business’ sponsorship which is a great start.

“Procurement are viewed as a trusted partner to the business and with that comes respect and a licence to operate more freely.”

One of my early priorities was to make sure we had a seat at the right table to enable my team to be able to provide a proactive service to our stakeholders and to be accepted as a trusted advisor. I am now a member of HSBC’s IT Exco – it’s the first time Procurement has sat on IT Exco and with that comes responsibility and big expectations. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was very demanding and tough at times!

When I arrived at HSBC I was double hatted and today I'm triple hatted! I look after Global Technology Procurement, I also head up Commercial Banking (CMB) Procurement - our most profitable business - and from January I took on responsibility for Global Banking & Markets (GBM) Procurement. I quickly realised that the demand was significant and that demand is exasperated by not having full capability or capacity in my team yet. My priority has been to get the right people into the right roles. Whilst I am a strong leader, I cannot deliver without my team.

“My priority…has been to get the right people into the right roles - without my team I cannot deliver… My success…is paramount to having the right team”

I believe a great deal of my success has been due to the people I have hired. I take pride in building diverse teams – whilst there is a key subset of qualities and abilities I look for in all my candidates, having a diverse team ensures that we never take a one-dimensional view of things.

“I'm…renowned for building very diverse teams - there is a key subset of qualities and abilities I look for in all my candidates”

Women in leadership roles

There are a number of women in senior roles here at HSBC but we are driving towards a 50/50 target. The technology business focus on this is very poignant. In my early career I was often the only woman in the room with IT procurement not being a desirable category back then. However, in recent years I have seen a big shift in technology procurement with the number of women coming through. I absolutely see the need for parity in the industry, but I don’t recruit based on gender, I want the person that's right for the job.

“There are a number of women in senior roles here at HSBC, but we have a 50/50 target”

“I…see the need for parity in the industry, but…I'm not interested in gender, I want the person that's right for the job”

There's been a huge push in Financial Services to drive the diversity agenda. HSBC has an aspirational diversity target to ensure global leaders are accountable for improving our gender balance. Each global business and function is expected to take action to continue this progress. We are set to getting to 50% and we hope to achieve this by 2020. In 2016, we launched a new leadership development programme – ASPIRE – to support talented female senior managers and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic senior managers to become senior leaders. A quarter of participants in the first programme have already taken the next step in their careers at HSBC.

“HSBC has an aspirational diversity target to ensure global leaders are accountable for improving our gender balance.”

Negotiating with Technology suppliers

Negotiating with Technology companies can be materially different but if anything, they can be a little cautious. I think my natural style helps - gregarious, friendly, collaborative, firm but fair - I know what I want to get out of the deal and I'm not afraid to call that out. It doesn't matter how senior the counterpart is, I do my homework in order to avoid my pet hate - escalations. The aim is to get the right outcome for the bank.

Being a role model: a senior position, five children and a long commute

My career stalled when I was at RSA and I became too comfortable. At that time I had three children and I had just lost my mother who was the corner stone of our family and the sole support for me and my children. I was a contractor so when I was offered a permanent role, I agreed on the basis that I could have location flexibility and I negotiated to work from home two days a week. I worked so hard, my results were very strong and I pushed myself, but the fact that I was at home two days a week absolutely hindered my career. Thankfully, I do think the workplace has moved on slightly since then.

I’m very vocal about the need for a strong support network at home as it's definitely a team effort. Without having the support of my husband, I absolutely wouldn't be where I am today despite him also having a demanding job with travel and a long commute.

“…my family will always come first”

Whilst working and travelling I'm in regular contact with all my children and technology allows me to do that. We Snapchat, use Instagram and Facebook and when I'm travelling I tag the children into things which they love. My children think it's incredibly glamorous that I'm jetting off here there and everywhere, but more importantly I've always communicated to my girls that it all comes down to hard work and determination. The quote in our house is, 'what you get out of life is commensurate with what you put in.’ All my children are academic and very hard-working and I do in part attribute that to being a good role model and leading by example. My children are also acutely aware that I do what I do because I love it, but it's important to recognise that it’s not for everyone. It is all about happiness for me - as long as they are happy, that's all I care about.

“The quote in our house is, 'what you get out of life is commensurate with what you put in.’ ”

Social life

Getting up at 4:15 every day and being in the office for 8am means that I don’t really have a social life. Most days I am diligent at leaving at 5pm to get home to my family by 8pm. The benefit of a 3 hour commute each way means that I can use that time to work! I’ll spend my evening with my children and then if required I’m happy to log back on once the children are all in bed. Working at HSBC and operating on a truly global scale means that our roles are never going to be 9 to 5. I firmly believe that there is no shortcut to success - you are going to have to make sacrifices. Your family is also going to have to make sacrifices. HSBC is a fantastic employer and very supportive and I can work from home whenever I want to. I don’t believe you can be a mother, work 9 to 5, have long lunches each day, work two days from home and expect to get a senior role. The men and women that do get those senior roles are absolutely working 14/15 hour days.

“There is no shortcut to success - you are going to have to make sacrifices”

The future

Procurement has always been a big part of my career and I’ve never tended to plan in terms of “what's next”. However, I’m on the HSBC Executive Development Programme with Cranfield, so we'll work together on what's next for me. I’m at a stage in my career where I would like to invest in a company that also chooses to invest in me and stay longer than 2-3 years! At HSBC we’re not doing traditional procurement, I thrive on transformation rather than generic ‘business as usual ‘which is why I'm really enjoying HSBC and I can’t think of a better company to invest in!

You can read similar articles in our Women in Procurement insight magazine. To recieve a copy of this magazine please contact angharad.kenward@investigo.co.uk