When Debbie Bennett joined BetaShares as the Chief Operating Officer in 2015, it was a boutique Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) firm with just 18 employees and almost AU$2 billion in assets under management. The firm has now grown to over 70 employees with AU$21 billion in assets under management, making it one of the largest Australian ETF issuers. Bennett attributes the firm’s focus on diversity as a key factor to its success. “It’s important to hire diverse teams to help us know where our customers are focused and what’s important to them.”
Bennett is a relative newcomer to the asset management industry, having spent most of her career on the sell-side. First working in finance and accounting roles at investment banks and then moving to investor services at a number of global banks, holding senior roles across client solutions, operations, and fund administration. In those roles, she had the opportunity to work with a number of asset managers, including BetaShares, who she worked with to create the operating model to support their ETFs. They were so impressed with her work that a few years later they offered her the Chief Operating Officer position and she hasn’t looked back. She now oversees operations, infrastructure, systems, and processes for the firm’s suite of over 60 products, the broadest range of ETFs offered in the Australian market.
Bennett credits her success to her ability to identify her strengths. “It’s really important to back yourself and play up to your strengths. For me personally, my strengths are my technical capability, attention to detail, caring about the output and overall risk management,” says Bennett. “So I found myself looking for opportunities in roles that played to those strengths.” That said, like many people she readily admits that there were times she didn’t feel that she earned the right to be in a role. “I think everyone feels this way at some point in their career, but you need to remind yourself that you’re there for a reason,” Bennett says.
Over the course of her career, she has seen the investor services ecosystem evolve through the functionalization of operational processes and become more efficient through the creation of centers of excellence around the globe. “From a customer perspective, we see that as being all very positive,” Bennett notes. “We have a lot more scalable solutions and it does allow more technology to be used more effectively.” For asset management, she expects technology to continue to be a key focus but she believes it must be used intelligently. “It can’t just be technology for technology's sake. It needs to be used with the right risk focus and in a way that it makes the best solution for customers.”
Bennett stresses the importance of feedback in young women’s career development. “Find opportunities to get constructive feedback, not only from internal stakeholders but also from your clients.” She feels that these types of conversations with her clients often helped lead her to her next opportunity. However, she also reminds young women to celebrate their achievements. “Take feedback on board but try not to take things personally. You must continue to reflect on the things that you've done really well.”