Monthly Feature: Frances Torsney
Frances, tell us about your career so far?
"I commenced my career journey within the insurance industry at a junior entry level, with Hibernian Insurance, now rebranded Aviva. I subsequently switched into investment banking and operations support, working with the Investment Bank of Ireland, and then moved to a start-up pension/investments funds business, Montgomery Govett Ltd and progressed to Associate Director in that company. I then moved back to the insurance industry, but into the investment operations arm of AIG Investments, had various operations and leadership roles, progressing to Managing Director and Board Director of AIG Europe Asset Management Company. After 25 great years at AIG, 2.5 of which were spent working in the U.S, and a very short journey with JP Morgan, I am now primarily progressing a non-executive career path and want to give time back to the not for profits sector. I am currently a non-executive director of YMCA Dublin, have helped to mentor students at Dublin City University and continue to be a strong supporter of the ISC".
What has been the driving force to your career decisions so far?
"Initially, my primary driving force was my desire and determination to learn and progress my career path, both to enrich my overall job satisfaction needs, but also to secure financial stability. My parents were a key influence. My father was entrepreneurial and set up many businesses, originally in the UK and then in Ireland. Both my parents had to emigrate to the UK because of the dire economic situations in Ireland at the time and had to be resolute in their efforts to succeed.
I have a type A personality and from an early age have always wanted to achieve high results and to always succeed – so I was and still am, my own worst critic and driver! I love working with entrepreneurial, dynamic individuals, and companies with strong leadership and opportunities to continuously learn and that also played a key role in my career path decision making process. I have had the privilege to work with some wonderful leaders, both men and women throughout my career journey. Their support, encouragement, and belief in my ability to succeed were a key driving force in helping me to make my various career moves".
What is your hardest challenge and proudest achievement?
"I think the hardest challenge for me was the 2008 /10 financial crisis and the devasting impact that had within the industry, and the split of the AIG Asset Management Business, and the loss of many wonderful colleagues. I assumed the role of COO for the remaining AIG Asset management business in Ireland, and Global Head of Operations for the broader AIG Asset Management firmwide business which was my proudest moment.
On a personal level, the birth of my son and daughter was both the most difficult, but proudest achievement of my life"!
What advice would you give your younger self?
"I lacked confidence in my ability and ‘imposter syndrome’ was a constant niggle in my mind. I would tell my younger self – to have more self-belief, have stronger negotiation skills, especially when it comes to compensation discussions, not to take negative feedback personally, and always listen to your gut"!
In your opinion, what can businesses do to better retain key talent?
"Having a strong leadership team, who truly lead by example, are visionary, have charisma and pro-actively engage and effectively communicate with key talent is very important. Key talent needs to respect, admire, and learn from their leaders.
On a more practical level, enhance and establish a clearly defined career progression program. This should start with a well-defined rolling intern programme to attract and develop bright young talent. Well defined job specs and responsibilities I believe is also very important, to ensure all clearly understand job roles and expectations, with flex built in, as roles adapt to changing circumstances and business needs. Creating a culture of continuous learning, both with a mix of quality on the job training, but also with complimentary smart and practical learning options, that simply won’t be seen as a tick box exercise.
Many organisations have established programs but then fail to further establish an effective and clear career path for their next middle layer of talent. This is not easy and there are simply not enough roles for everyone to continuously to progress within, but identifying this talent, and helping to equip talent to further train, learn and succeed in other possible cross company roles is also key.
Flexibility is also very important, and post covid – companies have had their eyes opened to the possibilities of remote working – which in many industries was originally frowned upon. A focus on ESG also continues to be a very important feature of changing individual’s value perspectives. Successful companies will be those that can help differentiate themselves in this space and tap effectively into key talent’s related values.It's important also to establish effective compensation programmes and facilitate a more individualised tailored approach to select as individuals needs change over their life journey".