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Paula Kenee

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How did Paula Kenee go from working in corporate actions in London, to capital markets in Chicago, to establishing the Philippines office in her 28-year career at Northern Trust? The chief operating officer for Capital Markets credits the four Cs of career development: curiosity, collaboration, communication and continuous learning.

Curiosity led Paula from maternity leave from her second child to accepting the post to set up Northern Trust’s new office in the Philippines. Her whole family moved together, and spent six and a half happy years there. During her time in Manila, Paula grew the office from three partners to more than 900.

“My first reaction was ‘No, thank you, I just need to survive being a working mother,” Paula explained. “After lots more conversations and an extremely supportive husband, we went to have a look and decided ‘Why not?’”

To cultivate curiosity, Paula advises being open to looking at things from different perspectives and asking different questions. Consider how the curiosity in your role today connects to the overall strategy and to the upstream and the downstream processes.

Paula recommends developing your collaboration skills as a way to network and grow your relationships at Northern Trust. As partners have returned to the office, she’s been excited to build on the tools and partnerships established while working remotely during the pandemic to enhance the working environment.

“I enjoy working with other people–solving problems together, delivering against client experiences, growing the business, being innovative,” says Paula. “We don’t work on an island, so you’ve got to make sure you’ve got good collaboration skills.”

Clear communication is important both for partners and for Northern Trust as an organization. Whether you’re talking to a client or an internal group, you’ve got to have good communication skills.

Paula notes that Northern Trust is not as siloed as other organizations, enabling teams to connect across business units. “It’s an open door to speak to partners even at the senior levels,” she says. “We have a very accessible leadership team.”

Continuous Learning
Relocating to the Philippines and setting up a new office was a huge learning experience for Paula, both personally and professionally. Adjusting from the role of operations manager to a general manager working with multiple business units gave her a different appreciation for corporate functions.

“I honed some of my leadership skills there, especially influencing without authority. That’s a key skill for people in any position,” she says.

Whatever your role, Paula encourages partners to seek out learning opportunities–from developments in the industry to exploring new technologies–and consider how you can contribute. “You cannot stand still. You’ve got to be continuously learning.”

Hometown: Dagenham, England
Current location: Loughton, England
Favorite food: Cheese—all types from all around the world
Hobbies: The weekend is spent with my family between the soccer field and dance class. I love to travel so that’s my main hobby.
Favorite sport: Formula 1, specifically the Mercedes team. I’m a big racing fan and I’ve been to races all around the world.
Cause you’re passionate about: Breast cancer research. I run a bra bank, which means that I collect people’s old bras and I package them up. It’s both sustainable and it helps raise money for breast cancer research.
Currently reading: “Essentialism - The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. It's about prioritizing, thinking about your goals and the things you take on. It’s the art of doing less but achieving more.
Best advice: Be curious and hold your story lightly. Your opinions aren’t always facts. Other people’s opinions are just as important as yours.