Leading from the top with Jacqueline Fox

Jacqueline is a fantastic boss in her own right, but in order to do her job properly she needs the support of one special individual. Cindy Smith is Jacqueline’s PA and an integral part of her leadership journey. Primarily, Cindy helps to schedule her time efficiently and prioritise tasks and alerts

General Manager, Capital Markets & Advisory, Corporate and Institutional Bank at National Australia Bank and runner-up Boss of the Year 2019 Jacqueline Fox is no stranger to leading great teams. Her remarkable relationship with her PA and passion for volunteer work is testament to that. Jacqueline has a wealth of experience under her belt and isn’t afraid to pass on this knowledge to her team to develop a truly inspiring workplace culture.

Jacqueline’s journey to where she is now started right after university. Once Jacqueline completed a Bachelor of Business in Tasmania, she was able to secure a job on the “#mainland” with Bendigo Bank—a building society at the time. There she had the pleasure of working within their treasury team and observing some exciting times, like when they acquired a banking license and developed their treasury function. While she was there, she had exposure to a type of funding and capital management tool—which was emerging in the financial markets in Australia—known as securitisation. Jacqueline ended up in a securitisation capital planning role with Bendigo Bank and through developing Bendigo’s first securitisation program, she had exposure to Standard & Poor’s, who were rating these types of transactions and asked her to join them.

“I really did enjoy a period of time of getting that exposure and meeting a lot of different types of entities in the market, engaging with CFOs and treasurers in terms of their funding activities predominantly using that tool in securitisation. As well in a period where there was criteria development and expansion of the market, so that was a great opportunity.”

During that time, Jacqueline rated National Australia Bank’s first RBS transaction, which lead to discussions about joining NAB to help broaden their third-party securitisation business within their corporate finance area. So, in 2001 Jacqueline made the move and has been at NAB ever since.

While Jacqueline is a fabulous executive with years of experience and a skillset to admire, it’s her ability to lead a team that won her recognition at the 2019 Executive PA awards. At NAB, professional development and team building is at the forefront of office life and Jacqueline is no stranger to facilitating this.

“Generally speaking, it would work on a 70/30 basis where there is a lot of on the job training and development into subject matter expertise. We do have informal, as well as some formal training, associated with that. We also have industry-based training; there is the APRA accreditation type training as well. But a large portion of learning and development, in terms of the skills and capability required in the role, is on the job through a lot of coaching and mentoring.”

For Jacqueline, the starting point for developing a good workplace culture is understanding what the team’s common purpose is.

“We all have roles within these teams, but we are connected by a common purpose in our capital markets business. Understanding what that purpose is and understanding how each role contributes to that is important…And how does that connect with the division where we sit? And then how does our division connect into the enterprise’s common purpose? I think understanding that connectivity is really important, and it gives people a sense of how what they’re doing every day is of value and how it connects into a bigger picture.

“I think the other thing for me is also being able to recognise people, and there’s obviously different ways you can do that. I think it’s not just the big ways, in terms of salaries and incentives. What actually makes the difference in terms of culture, is just the ongoing recognition for the small things as much as the big things. And trying to facilitate that kind of culture where that doesn’t have to be a top down recognition, it can be a peer-to-peer recognition… That’s really important when you’re trying to have a strong culture of engagement and work enjoyment and value in terms of what you do on a day-to-day basis. I think we’re all learners of that.”

At an enterprise level, NAB is known to support volunteering and Jacqueline is big on enforcing this within herself and her team. Whether it be taking a trip to the local blood bank to donate or volunteering half a day at a food centre, any kind of volunteering helps to boost morale.

“At the end of the day people just feel good and it makes them feel appreciative for what they have in their life and makes them feel good for giving something back to the community…Sometimes we’ll organise team events where a whole team will go and do something. It’s also team building, where people feel grounded in a common connection in the experience itself and the way that makes them feel.”

Jacqueline is a fantastic boss in her own right, but in order to do her job properly she needs the support of one special individual. Cindy Smith is Jacqueline’s PA and an integral part of her leadership journey. Primarily, Cindy helps to schedule her time efficiently and prioritise tasks and alerts.

“But it’s so much more than that as well. She also understands a lot of the objectives I’m trying to achieve so she does actually help me stay true to achieving those objectives. If she sees me prioritising time in a space where she knows it’s important, but she also knows that other objectives are equally as important, she’ll remind me we should designate some time in the calendar associated with that other objective. So, she’s integral to helping me operate and I mean that in the fullest sense.

“We talk about being your whole self, she can sense when I’m needing to get home earlier because it might be that the prior week, I’ve been home a bit later than I ideally wanted. So, she’ll know where those personal tools are and she tries to help me balance myself as a whole person, be it work and personal.

“And she also helps my leadership team as well. And I’d say that’s going over and beyond her role but because she understands the business and where there may be demands on the business. If she’s got capacity to do that she’ll proactively look to support my leadership team because she knows they’re integral to achieving the goals and objectives I have for the business.”

People in the business know that the PA is the doorway into the executive’s mind, which is an important recognition. But Jacqueline sees Cindy as much more than that. To her, and those in her leadership team, Cindy is the heart of the business.

“This is in part to her individual personality as well, but she will look for opportunities to instil joy. She runs these little sessions at 3 o’clock where everybody stands up and does squats for 30 seconds. But you know, someone’s got to organise that and yell out that it’s 3 o’clock and we’ve got to get up and do our squats. And it’s quite funny. And I join in on it as well, that’s part of being an authentic person at work. Just because you’ve got a title doesn’t mean you’re not a person like everyone else. I’ve seen people with headphones on talking away while they’re doing their squats. It’s those types of things that are great.”

Being crowned runner-up Boss of the Year at the 2019 Executive PA awards was not only a huge achievement for Jacqueline, but also a surprise.

“Cindy surprised me with this nomination. And it’s such a humble recognition for your PA to go out of their way and nominate you for something like that, which completely took me by surprise. And she also organised for my whole leadership team to be present on the night of the awards. So, I think it’s a wonderful thing that’s done for both sides of that equation. For bosses, in my case I found great pride and joy because she’d done that for me. And also, for the EAs and the PAs, for their bosses to recognise all of those things we’ve just talked about in the form of a nomination, irrespective of whether they win the award or not.”

Jacqueline is the prime example of a great leader and what nurturing and mentorship can do for workplace culture. But the strength of her relationship with PA Cindy is a heartwarming reminder of the impact administrative assistants can have. Jacqueline’s experience and progression in her industry is something to admire and is nothing short of inspiring for all those who wish to follow in her footsteps.