For the fourth day of our #WonderWomen week of interviews, we spoke to Claire Carter, UK & Ireland Managing Director for Wolters Kluwer, Tax & Accounting.
With experience in the banking, tax, and accountancy industries, she’s made her mark on fields that are typically dominated by men. She believes that success in business is directly linked to authenticity, regardless of gender.
What does a typical day as Managing Director for Wolters Kluwer look like?
I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a typical day!
When I joined Wolters Kluwer in 2015, a big priority was to understand the ways in which the accounting industry was changing. For me, this meant getting closer to our customers to fully comprehend the challenges they were facing.
In turn, this allowed me to realise the product strategy that we had to build and that we needed to put customers at the heart of all that we do. I visit customers every week and constantly speak to them on the phone. How else would I obtain their honest feedback, demonstrate how seriously we take our partnership and gain their insight on our strategy?
A big focus for me is our personal leadership initiative, which I introduced to Wolters Kluwer. It allows every employee to have the opportunity to become a leader, the freedom to make mistakes which they can learn from, and the chance to effect long-term personal and workplace change. It’s a serious commitment (both financial and time) from Wolters Kluwer and I am one of the accredited trainers for the company, as well as being a qualified executive coach.
Great leadership is about continually developing your people and enabling them to have freedom to innovate and to be the best they can be while retaining their own identity and aspirations.
In the past, you've said that you want your legacy to be 'to transform the UK business from an on premise provider to a thought leader in advisory services through cloud'. How do you plan to make that legacy a reality? What steps need to be taken?
Historically, the richest integration between a client’s online accounting system and their accountant’s accounts preparation software was only possible if both used software from the same supplier. Accountants were sometimes supporting many different bookkeeping solutions, leading to inefficiencies.
My solution was to create a hub where cloud vendor competitors could partner for the good of accounting practices. This hub is called the CCH Open Integration Programme and its popularity amongst customers means we have now forged relationships with suppliers including Xero, Exact, QuickBooks, FreeAgent, and Sage One.
If you look at the stats for the accountancy industry for the next 10 years, compliance growth will be quite minimal - maybe 0-3% - but advisory services will account for 20 to 30 percent. It’s a huge shift from the past where, for practices, the business need wasn’t entirely there - but things are now changing at pace.
We identified that what was required was the automation of compliance products to enable that capacity within accountancy practices to be used for other advisory services, and to focus on growth opportunities within the advisory ecosystem.
To that end, we have built a workspace called CCH OneClick which creates a connected home for all advisory services. It’s a cloud solution which enables collaboration through mobility and links to HMRC and the banks in the most efficient and automated way.
Looking ahead, we are also incorporating artificial intelligence and bots to maximise automation and provide data rich insight.
Financial services is commonly cited as an example of a male-dominated industry - would you agree? What needs to happen to balance things out?
I think it’s indisputable that the financial services industry remains a male-dominated environment but it seems that things are changing. There are concerns however around the pace of change.
The gender pay gap is just one example of inequality that must be addressed. Under legislation introduced in April 2017, businesses in the UK with 250+ employees have until April this year to publish data on the difference between how much it pays men and women at different levels, but there are those who claim that the data will not be sufficiently detailed to effect real change.
Employers need to take responsibility for their pay gap and change the workplace culture to break down structural barriers to engender true equality – or risk never achieving it at all.
What is critical is to have the right people in the right roles, and you must never compromise on your recruitment. I always balance the candidate’s experience and skills with the need to get the right culture fit for our business. We must see people for what they contribute and how well, regardless of their gender.
What piece of advice would you give an aspiring leader?
I have seen many instances of women across a range of industries creating a persona because they think they need to be more assertive or more bullish in the way that they communicate versus their male counterparts. There’s a bizarre pressure to become more dominant than you are, and this is dangerous as it can cause people to lose their empathy and what makes them their valid selves.
Rather than mirroring those around them in the boardroom, women must acknowledge and celebrate their own knowledge, behaviours, and ability to empower.
Authenticity is very important to me irrespective of gender. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you say you are and what you say you will do. By being transparent and genuine in all that you do, you will earn the respect and support of those around you to create a winning team and a winning mindset.
I believe there’s now an abundance of role models in our industry who should inspire young women. In my own organisation, we have significant female representation at the most senior levels - our CEO and Chairman (Nancy McKinstry), our CEO for Tax and Accounting (Karen Abramson), and myself as UK & Ireland MD are all proud to be successful and inspirational women in the world of technology and business.
And finally, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is a celebration of women's achievements and I wholeheartedly applaud the initiative. What I would like to see is an ongoing acknowledgment of these achievements as, while it’s a great motivator, it’s a point in time.
For me, an interest in technology or any of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) must be sparked way before girls start to consider the career choices they’re going to make. It must begin at school. We must continue to encourage girls to develop the sort of critical thinking skills needed in the high-tech workforce, both now and in the future.
Over the past decade, employment in the UK technology sector has grown 2.8 times faster than overall employment. Cultivating girls’ initial interest in STEM subjects and encouraging them to pursue careers in these fields will not only create greater job security for the next generation: it will also act as a boost to the wider economy and ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the global cloud-enabled economy.
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