Financial Services Ireland


This Working Life: Business Post Interview with Lisa Kealy

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The best business relationships are based on loyalty, trust and value, says Lisa Kealy of EY in conversation with the Business Post. Read the article below. 

One encounter I had early on in my career with my first boss has always stayed with me.

I was straight out of college and he asked me to do some photocopying. He then spent an extraordinarily long time inspecting the results, from the paper alignment to the staples.

He explained that every task deserves 100 per cent effort and that you make an impression with everything you do. This really resonated with me. To this day, I try to approach everything with enthusiasm, focus and attention to detail.

I think this is particularly important as a leader, because you are modelling by your own example.

I grew up in Raheny in Dublin and graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1995 with a first class honours degree in pure mathematics. I chose a mathematics degree simply because I loved maths at school.

Initially, I thought I would be an actuary or investment banker. That seemed like the natural next step, but as my degree progressed, I realised that accountancy would probably offer me a broader base to progress from.

I joined Arthur Andersen the year I graduated, moved to EY as a senior manager in 2003 and became a partner in 2006.

I was appointed European Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) leader at EY four years later and chair of the firm’s Global ETF Committee. I’ve been leading the wealth and asset management practice at EY in Ireland for four years now and I’ve learned that, while planning is important in any career, circumstances can sometimes force your hand.

The closure of Arthur Andersen in 2002, precipitated by the Enron scandal, taught me some of my biggest life lessons. It was a time of great confusion and uncertainty, but it led to my move to EY and everything that followed.

I learned that we can’t always control our environment, but that’s not always a bad thing. It is often when we embrace uncertainty and relinquish our safety net that we can achieve the most. Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of being proactive in your career and asking for opportunities. If an opportunity presents itself, go for it and deliver to the very best of your ability. Don’t wait for anything to land in your lap.

No matter what your role or career, authenticity really is everything. Be true to yourself and don’t be afraid to be different. You don’t have to be anyone but you to be successful. Stay true to your values and never feel like you have to hide who you really are.

I think it’s important to inject positivity and humour into the working environment wherever possible. Humour can diffuse tension and relieve stress in high-pressure situations.

I really enjoy coffee breaks with the team and chats around someone’s desk. This is probably what I miss most while working remotely.

I would describe my work style as collaborative, high energy and solution-focused. I try to create an atmosphere of trust, where people can be confident about speaking up and sharing their ideas.

I make it a priority to be present for people, to make time for them and make them feel heard. I take great pride in helping my team realise their potential. I see my ability to influence people positively as a great privilege in my role as partner.

An important part of leadership is enabling others to achieve their full potential. You have to invest a lot of time and energy in achieving that goal, but it is incredibly rewarding.

On this front, I think it’s really important to empower people. Give them opportunities to stretch and grow. My approach is to try to nudge people out of their comfort zone while offering them encouragement and support.

Challenging people is important, because it gives them scope to develop the skills they need for the next level of their career, along with confidence in their own abilities.

Honest feedback is also key. People need to be made aware of any areas that need attention and further development for them to progress.

Developing the leaders of the future, especially future female leaders, is a big responsibility of leadership. It is something that I am very aware of in my industry.

One of my election commitments for Irish Funds was to further increase female representation and visibility within the industry at a senior level.

I’ve found mentoring to be a really good way to do this, be it via a structured programme or more informal arrangements.

I believe in open and transparent communication and, in these peculiar circumstances in which we find ourselves, I find it’s more important than ever to connect emotionally and to use the virtual tools that we have to stay in close and regular contact with team members.

Networking is important in any career or industry, but I think that’s particularly true when it comes to the asset management industry in Ireland.

The community is very close-knit, full of great people, and investing the time to build relationships is incredibly important.

I was lucky enough to learn this lesson early in my career and some of the most important relationships in my life – including with my husband and my children’s godparents – started out as industry connections.

When you are networking, it really matters that you are sincere. Build relationships based on loyalty, trust and value and never forget that networking is a two-way street.

This article was published on 02/06/2020 in the Business Post.  Read more about Lisa Kealy here. 

Lisa Kealy

Financial Services Markets Leader
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