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Finance, Flat Structure and Female Talent with VoxSmart COO Adrienne Muir.
Since joining VoxSmart as COO, Adrienne Muir has been determined to drive change across the company for many reasons! Adrienne discusses, what makes her tick, why VoxSmart, Women in FinTech and her passion for VoxSmarts Future with VoxSmart intern Mahreen Shahid.
by Adrienne Muir
on 7th March 2018
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The Future of Fintech
VoxSmart
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Credit: Oliver Harkishin
Adrienne, before you worked in Tech, you worked on the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, can you tell us about that?
Working at LIFFE was an incredible opportunity and experience. I had just arrived in London with a Sociology Degree and was flung headfirst into working with senior technologists and Project Mangers on a project to implemented one of the first electronic trading platforms in London. Looking back, working at LIFFE we were at the cutting edge of FinTech, before it was even called FinTech. Today, smaller FinTechs and RegTechs, like VoxSmart, get so much more support and profile especially when it comes to developing the talent pipeline. We have so many young people wanting to join smaller companies these days, and we are also seeing more opportunities for key roles. Looking back, when I was at LIFFE there weren’t many women across the project but the ones that were there showed a lot of talent and initiative around things like testing, project management, account management and sales. That was nearly 20 years ago, today, I’m surrounded by highly successful women in Finance especially in start-ups, it’s great to see! But we’ve still got a way to go!
Adrienne, you grew up in New Zealand, which must be very different to living and working in London. How has this influenced your work and career choices?
Ah, well to be honest I have been in London on and off now for around 20 years, but 100% Kiwi at heart. In regards to the Kiwi girl coming into the big London Financial centre in 1998 it was a culture shock. There was a real sense of hierarchy around what school you went to, where you lived, your accent, what you wore that you really didn’t get at home. When I started at LIFFE no one could really place me into a bucket. I was just the Kiwi girl working in project support. When I think about it, I’d say I’m not a big fan of hierarchy, or actually I just don’t really “get it”. Don’t’ get me wrong, I respect it, but growing up in NZ I felt that there was very much “flat structure” in my world. I was at one of the lowest decile schools in one of the poorest parts of Wellington, but my father was a high ranking police officer. I understood hierarchy, but I was always taught to be just as polite to the school cleaner as I was to the headmaster “we all put our trousers on one leg at a time” has stuck with me over the years when I have felt overwhelmed by the presence of someone. In 1893 New Zealand women were the first in the world to get the right to vote. Women who had travelled to NZ to start their new lives in NZ were tough. An early influence in my life was my grandmother who moved to New Zealand from Scotland on a boat with 9 of her siblings. One of whom died on board. They did not have a host of people to help support them so she had to roll up her sleeves and get amongst it, and that’s a very New Zealand attitude. I like to apply this attitude to the companies I’ve worked in, sometimes in smaller companies you have to have a flat structure to get things done and empower people! Here at VoxSmart, we utilise and practice collaborative working regardless of individual employee seniority, we all put our trousers on one leg at a time here.
So it sounds like working in Start-Ups is a clear passion of yours, what is it you love most about Start-Up life?
It’s got to be the diversity of daily working life. In one day I may be figuring out how to fix office lights, recruiting senior developers, reviewing a service contract or working on an organisational strategy, so my role can go from office guru to operational executive. Some people love that, some people will hate it, but I like diversity in my role. I love watching and seeing people develop and learn. Watching teams collaborate and grow and people feeling they have outperformed, gets me out of bed in the morning. In small companies you also have to be humble, never assume you know everything, I know I don’t. The best small companies respect that everybody has a diverse set of skills to bring to the table to form a great team. That’s what I love about VoxSmart.
Adrienne, as well as your role at VoxSmart, you’re also Chair of the Board of Directors for Women in Listed Derivatives. How do you think the finance industry is helping young women forge a career in this industry?
I am passionate about people, but in an industry which is predominantly men it’s important to also champion women. WILD really helps women navigate the world of Financial markets, offers mentoring and advice when needed. I have had some incredible support over the years from both men and women to support my career which I am always going to be grateful for. From my perspective, I personally have always said that I don’t think there is a career path, instead there are career opportunities and we need to support and empower young men and women to grab them. I have done everything from project support, through to testing over the years to learn everything I could and prepare me for the role I am in today. With Women I think we sometimes forget to tap into our natural capabilities, aptitude is crucial and it is important to understand what you’re really good at and play on your strengths to benefit yourself, your team and your company.
So what made you choose VoxSmart as your next career move?
Well first and foremost I adore the product, its genius and I totally get why it’s important for the market we are selling into at present. VoxSmart as a company was only 10 people when I started and that also attracted me to the role. To be able to help shape the Vision and Culture of a company is a real gift and I am incredibly proud of Team VoxSmart and the company it is today. Also from a personal perspective, VoxSmart gives me flexibility, which is crucial to my working life as I am a mother and that comes first when you have small children. I appreciate that we have respect and trust in place to allow me to do that and for me my norm is now doing a little work later in the evenings once the kids are in bed.
You’ve been in the business just over a year now, what are you most proud of since you joined?
When I started the Service Delivery function felt like the end game, the place where we ran in circles helping clients but with little purpose. The team were awesome, but we were not getting the best from them or challenging them. Now we have worked hard to standardise processes to support the client and maintain quality of service and product. We have carved out a new area to field support requests and also Technical account management to keep our client in the forefront of our mind. Looking at the team now, they are the centre of ensuring that the product is received, tested and released to the client in a much more professional manner and its fantastic to see how far we have come.
And is there anything you are particularly looking forward in the future for VoxSmart and this industry as a whole?
Yes from a technology perspective, what we are doing around WhatsApp and WeChat really excites me. I know Brokers who are over the moon they can now chat to clients on WhatsApp in a manner that is not restricted by their business. I totally appreciate that with new technology comes education, I recall in the 90’s and 00’s people worrying about Electronic Trading Systems and Direct Market Access crushing companies when they were first in the market, and the reality is, both have only strengthened markets. I am not surprised some brokers are worried about having their mobile phones recorded, but in time with education and user experience they will see that the VoxSmart product on phones makes sense and it will become the norm. That’s exciting. And I’m looking forward to building out new teams and seeing growth and developments in those teams. If I see a person come in as a support desk analyst and end up salesperson I would be one happy lady. We want people to come into the company and know how they can grow, actively contribute and have fun at VoxSmart!