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Catalysing Change

Georgina Jarratt, Managing Director, Head of Fintech and Digitalisation at ICMA talks to Shanny Basar about transformation, finding catalysts for change and the importance of diversity.

Georgina Jarratt joined ICMA (International Capital Market Association), the non-profit industry organisation that promotes the development of the international capital and securities markets, in August 2022 in the newly created role of Head of Fintech and Digitalisation. Her job is to survey the changing technology landscape, to evaluate what is on the horizon in terms of innovation, and to ensure it is harnessed effectively and for the benefit of the entire fixed income industry.

Jarratt said: “My network extends beyond the modest internal team at ICMA to the experts from across the industry who are involved in this work at the various member firms in which they work. My ability to network is key in bringing people together to achieve our collective goals.”

She is used to bringing people together to achieve change as her first job in financial services was at the London Stock Exchange in 1997 while working as a senior manager at consultancy Accenture. The team took the entire market into the electronic era implementing SETS – The Stock Exchange Electronic Trading platform for equities.
“One of the questions I have is ‘what will the catalyst (or catalysts) be for the wholesale transformation of fixed income?’” Jarratt added.

Before joining ICMA Jarratt was Global Head of Transformation, Digital and Innovation, Global Private Banking at HSBC, the bank where she had a number of roles involving transformation.

“I ran the biggest cloud transformation ever conducted in HR in one of the world’s largest financial services firms, HSBC,” Jarratt added. “I had a team of circa 500 staff working across 66 countries, and the project touched all 285,000 staff at the bank. It was the most powerful, amazing thing I’ve ever done professionally, and I am so very proud of it.”
After nearly 16 years at the bank, another change led to a new role at ICMA. Jarratt was drawn by the job description which promised many challenges and learning opportunities. “I was back at the ‘coalface’, as opposed to being in a departmental leadership position,” she said.

Jarratt explained that the fixed income business is on the forefront of a major evolution, with new technologies and products emerging and being tested, such as distributed ledger technology (DLT) and bonds being issued on blockchains, which she finds deeply interesting.

She continued that the fixed income industry has done a lot of work in terms of transforming and making the secondary market more efficient through the introduction of electronic trading over many years, but it has done much less in primary issuance. There are signs of progress in the primary market as, for example, Germany’s KfW became the first issuer to launch a digital fixed-income bond via Clearstream, Deutsche Börse Group’s post-trade service provider, in December 2022. The issue followed German legislators passing the Electronic Securities Act (eWpG) last year which allows the dematerialisation of a bond through an entry in an electronic securities register.

“I need to understand the technological advancements on the horizon to work out which will, and importantly which will not, come to fruition, as well as when and how,” Jarratt added. “Demystifying and simplifying that story for the benefit of all ICMA member firms is mission critical in my work.”

There are approximately 630 member firms at ICMA across a wide range of market participants, including fintechs, so Jarratt is working on understanding who they are and how best to engage with them. Although her job title makes it sound as if Jarratt exists simply to look after the fintech members, digitalisation cuts across the entire debt capital markets industry so ICMA needs to work with all its members to truly harness the potential transformation.

ICMA’s role is also important in terms of how the organisation best works to provide advocacy with the regulators so that innovation is not stifled, but implemented safely, effectively and efficiently and for the good of the market as a whole. Jarratt believes the core of her job is to promote interoperability across the market by ICMA setting the standards, frameworks and models needed to enable technology to live between and link to the different players.

“We have done some of this work already, which is foundational, and now we need to move to be more pro-active in really leading the agenda,” she said.

For example, in 2022 ICMA published a set of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ on DLT and blockchain in bond markets to raise market awareness and clarify some of the fundamental questions. The industry organisation and its DLT Bonds Working Group developed the FAQs to serve as an entry point for non-experts to gain a basic understanding of DLT bonds and their impact on capital markets.

As well as running established working groups on DLT and blockchain in bond markets and market electronification, ICMA has a number of other technology initiatives under way including the Common Domain Model (CDM) for repo and bonds and the Common Data Dictionary for primary bond markets,

Jarratt said: “This is going to be a five to 10-year evolution, certainly not an overnight transition.”

Diversity

Bryan Pascoe, CEO, ICMA.

At the time of Jarratt’s appointment, Bryan Pascoe, Chief Executive of ICMA said Jarratt brought a huge breadth of experience across transformation, digitalisation and leadership. and that she will be instrumental in advancing ICMA’s work in fintech and digitalisation in a broader and more strategic way to bring further efficiency, standardisation and subsequently, automation to the capital markets.

In addition, her experience in executive leadership and people management will also help drive forward ICMA’s diversity, equity and inclusion agenda. Jarratt is passionate about DEI as she believes there is no doubt that true ‘diversity’ in teams fosters innovation and more effective and successful outcomes.

“When I was running transformation, I often didn’t directly manage the staff that made up my team(s),” she added. “I found that the more diverse we were – especially from a mindset perspective – and the more we treated everybody equitably and used their skill sets effectively, the more we delivered.”

She would tell women who want to work in finance or in technology to just “go for it” as she has had a wonderful career in both areas and a huge amount of fun along the way.
Jarratt said: “An ex-colleague once said something very inspirational to me, on the topic of leadership that I have never forgotten and that was … ‘You are only a leader if people choose to follow you, and it is a human choice.’ You are not a leader simply because you manage people.”

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