Author: Maha Khan Phillips
Catriona Buckley, CFA, is Institutional Business Development Director at Gresham House. She talks to Professional Investor about her career, about the importance of having female mentors, and about advocating for her clients.
Catriona Buckley, CFA, was immersed in the world of business from a young age. “I grew up in a family with a business in manufacturing, so the topic of conversation around the Sunday lunch table or at family events was around currency movements and port strikes, and tangible issues which had the potential to impact our business and family,” she explains.
Buckley, who grew up in Dublin, began to observe how economic theories were having practical impacts. “I was naturally drawn to business and finance, not necessarily from an investing perspective, but more that I had a genuine interest in how companies were run, decisions were made, and how they adapted to change.”
She studied business and economics at Trinity College Dublin, and joined Goodbody Stockbrokers in 2006. She knew she wanted some real life working experience, but was also interested in further education. “I was planning to go back to university to complete a master’s degree, and it was the stock brokers who said ‘would you consider doing something like the CFA?’.”
After completing the CFA Program, Buckley shifted to research, taking on a credit analysis role within Goodbody’s parent company, AIB. She says she enjoyed the experience. “I liked being an analyst, I liked the fundamental analysis, and I loved the fact that on a Friday I got to present my case to the wider credit committee, to get out of my box and speak to people,” she says.
Over time she realised that she wanted to be in a more people-facing role, however. She joined what was then Pioneer Investments in 2012, and remained with the firm for nearly five years, both in Dublin and in London, becoming client director. “I loved Pioneer. It was later taken over by Amundi but at the time it was a fantastic melting pot of Irish, Italian and American culture. It was actually a really interesting dynamic. There was a huge focus on people, and it behaved like a family,” she says.
The firm also gave her a global perspective, working with clients in different channels and geographies. “I was working very closely with the lead business development people in various regions around the world. That gave me a really interesting perspective on the different cultural dimensions of working with clients in different geographies.”.
Her time with the firm also helped inform her own style and approach to business development, she says. “I try to have a very consultative approach, and I always try to be of service to the client or the prospect, to really understand, relatively quickly, if there is a fit between what we offer and what the client is looking to achieve and what their priorities are. I see my role sometimes as to be a translator between our investment teams and the clients.”.
In 2016, Buckley joined Fidelity International, where she was Investment Director. She was then approached by Heather Fleming, Managing Director at Gresham House, the specialist alternative asset manager, and a former Fidelity colleague. Buckley is currently institutional business development director at Gresham House.
She says she feels lucky to be have been mentored by senior women in her career - specifically highlighting the impact that Charlie Wood, Head of Consultant Relations at Fidelity, and Fleming herself, have had on her career. “Senior women have always been a huge support to me in my career, and in my life. My aunts who were involved in our family business, and the women who have been sponsors along the way. If it wasn’t for Heather, I think I would have found it much more difficult to transfer the skills gained in the public markets to that of private markets”. Now I’m trying to figure out how I can help other women coming up behind me.”
She also says that becoming a CFA charterholder gave her confidence in herself, and also made her realise the importance of asking the right questions, no matter how simplistic they may seem. “In this role you are an advocate for your client, and the client doesn’t have time to spend three minutes just trying to understand something. If I don’t easily understand it, then we are just making it difficult for our clients. We need to be able to simplify things and explain the “so what”. Investment teams are sometimes not used to be challenged in this way, and often not by someone more junior, so I think the CFA Program really helped me have a well-rounded knowledge base to start from.”
In her free time, Buckley plays tennis and enjoys pottery. “It’s very different to writing an RFP and pitching to clients,” she jokes.
Catriona Buckley, CFA, Institutional Business Development Director at Gresham House.