The WFE's Women Leaders 2022 - Felicity Gibson, General Manager, Market Operations, NZX Limited
Member: NZX Limited
Nominee’s name: Felicity Gibson
Nominee’s job title: General Manager, Market Operations
1. - Brief description of nominee’s role/job:
As part of the senior leadership team at the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX), in my role as the general manager of operations I provide leadership to the teams responsible for the pre and post trade operations for the exchange and take ultimate responsibility for the accurate delivery of the market operations. This includes both the depository and clearing house functions of the business.
My role has responsibility for oversight and delivery of the governance and regulatory obligations of the clearing business. This includes oversight of the development and delivery of the risk management framework for the clearing house. I also support a range of key projects across the business, especially the development of technology solutions for operational matters.
Finally, the role includes oversight of the energy clearing house operations run by the NZX for New Zealand’s electricity market and the New Zealand Carbon Auction.
2. - Short bio (career highlights, education, interests/hobbies):
I have been with NZX for nearly 9 years, coming into the organisation as a lawyer in the regulatory function, before moving into the clearing house and operations five years ago, as the head of clearing. In 2021 I was promoted into the newly established role of general manager of operations.
I trained as a lawyer in New Zealand, and before NZX worked in market regulators in New Zealand and the UK. I have enjoyed bringing that legal and regulatory background to the clearing and operations functions of the business and find it useful given the heavily regulated nature of our business. It especially helps in participating in the conversation as our regulatory environment continues to develop.
In addition to work, my life is full of family and friends, music, books, and travel adventures.
3. - What were your professional highlights and challenges of 2021 (ie why should you be on this list):
2021 was a big year for me personally and career wise – I was promoted into the new role of general manager, market operations the same week I went on parental leave for my first child.
I’m particularly proud of this achievement, for two reasons:
First, for what it says about NZX. While pregnant, I talked to many people about their lives in being both parents and employees – some had great stories, others less great. It would be easy for an organisation to overlook the person heading on parental leave as a valuable candidate for promotion.
Second, the personal achievement of becoming a mother was also a professional highlight for me, following a number of miscarriages. I speak to this here because of the tenacity it took for me to continue moving forward in a professional environment during these difficult times. I feel a huge sense of achievement that I was able to demonstrate value to the organisation during a time when I felt such a sense of loss within myself. While a very personal experience, I think it is important to speak openly about this to support those who are turning up each day, while working through their own difficult personal circumstances. There are many female experiences, including fertility, motherhood, miscarriage, menopause, which are only now being included in the discussion of creating work environments for women to succeed. I believe these conversations need to continue as part of the work towards gender equality.
This ties to my professional challenge of 2021, that of managing people through the ever-changing environment of the global pandemic. It is a rare experience for all our people to be going through a personal challenge at the same time. It has required focused leadership to maintain business performance while giving space for our people to manage their own personal situations. Regular check-ins with staff on mental health and wellbeing have been key to our business success – to look after the business we first need to look after the people.
Leading through the pandemic has thrown up some unique challenges: a constantly changing and unknown environment, a merger of work and home lives beyond that previously experienced, and challenges of maintaining team culture.
Bringing people on the journey of what the business is doing to respond to the pandemic has been a key role of leadership – for us that has been how we keep our people safe while building resiliency so that we can keep functioning as an essential business.
I am proud to have been a key part of the business’ response to the pandemic, designing and implementing the response from the operations perspective. I’m also proud of how our people have responded – being flexible and collaborating to deliver during the pandemic.
4. - What and who inspires/has inspired you to achieve your professional success:
Inspiration for me comes from looking behind and looking ahead. Looking behind me I see my parents and grandparents, and the women who came before me – who worked to give me the opportunities I have. I feel it’s my responsibility to take that forward. Looking ahead I see the women still to come, including my own daughter, and I am inspired to create opportunity for them and role model one future option for them.
There are a range of people who have helped me seek opportunity and given me the belief I need to take the next step in my career. I have a great group of women I turn to for advice and inspiration – my mum, sisters, aunties, close friends, and colleagues. There are lots of uniquely female experiences that I have needed to turn to them for support. I am also lucky to have a number of senior leaders who have given me their time and counsel on career steps and opportunities. I am so grateful for these relationships.
5. - What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions:
You can be a leader at any time. Take the chance to practice your leadership skills – lead that meeting, lead your peers on a piece of work, lead your social club – whatever it may be, just practice. Most people become the leader and then get promoted into the position not the other way around. And don’t be afraid to also step back and let others lead. Follow, learn from them, and use that experience to hone your own leadership skills.
The views, thoughts and opinions contained in this Focus article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the WFE’s policy position on the issue, or the WFE’s views or opinions.