Friday 11 September 2020 10:50 am WIBF Talk

What it’s like to be a volunteer with Women in Banking and Finance

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My name is Jennie Koo and I’m a serial volunteer! 

Volunteering takes time and dedication but that shouldn’t put anyone off. Like finding a job you enjoy, when you find an organisation that fits with your values, volunteering becomes an addiction. 

When I stepped onto the Management Board of Women in Banking & Finance (WIBF) in 2017 as the founder and subsequently Chair of the Birmingham Branch, I didn’t realise the intense satisfaction I would get from doing so. What started out as simply bringing development opportunities and shining a light on female talent in the Midlands, became my go to “happy place” when I needed to decompress from the day job. 

As a not for profit, members run organisation, I know I am working with like-minded passionate individuals who are volunteering for no other reason than to bring the WIBF mission of bringing a gender lens to financial services to unlock the full potential of financial services for all to life. 

But what does it mean to volunteer for WIBF? My volunteering hours vary from week to week but I’m honest about the sacrifices I also make to enable be to do so. Whilst my colleagues may be going out for social catch ups (pre-Covid), I have opted to attend arrange a meeting to discuss upcoming partnership opportunities or grabbing a coffee with a potential stakeholder to raise the profile of WIBF. 

But it’s not simply about what I can give to WIBF, volunteering is embedded in my personal and professional development plans. Personal development isn’t always about technical capabilities but extends to skills such as emotional intelligence, cognitive psychology skills along with general mental behavioural awareness, can all add huge value beyond the more traditional leadership skills training. Through the different people I meet and get the opportunity to work with through WIBF, I immerse myself in absorbing knowledge from every opportunity and that’s not something that’s always readily available. 

Working in financial services, it’s important to stay grounded and I do so by connecting with individuals and organisations through WIBF and other volunteers commitments, such as my role on the Enactus Aston Advisory Board and as a mentor for The Prince’s Trust. They provide me with a wide spectrum of society and perspectives that continually challenge my way of thinking and approaches. There is no training course or textbook that could give me this exposure to real life experiences and the emotions that come with interacting through this method.  

Women in Banking & Finance has enabled me to combine my career in Financial Services with my inner passions of supporting others to succeed. It never feels like a chore as the reward of continued personal development, and the successes we achieve together are worth the effort and the perceived sacrifices which are ultimately for the greater good and future of financial services. There is nothing more rewarding than giving back to others. Paying it forward doesn’t mean you have to go without, the opportunities of volunteering with WIBF has as much payback as the effort you’re willing to put in.