Claire Hafner, Chief Financial Officer for Fintrax, participated in FV’s October 2017 panel event Leading through uncertainty hosted by Dow Jones. Find out more about Claire and her career below.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
I suspect that the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind me is that they may get despondent, given their higher expectations of work life balance and of being treated fairly in terms of promotion and pay. On the first point, the issue still arises that if you wish to build a family, one member of the couple may need to take more of a career break / put their career a bit on hold than the other And I still don’t see many men ready to do that. So the work life balance may not be easy to reach. On the second point, we are still very far from having a fair number of women in senior roles or of having equal pay and I don’t see that changing fast.
What was your dream job as a child and why?
My dream job as a child was to be a writer, to allow people to escape. I still can’t think of a nicer job to have, and wish I could have the creative drive to write a good story. I do my best when I produce my finance slides for the board, but it is not quite as gripping!
What is the best and worst decision you’ve ever made?
The best decision was to not follow the family path of going into academia, and to choose accountancy instead. I have never regretted that choice. My worst decision is probably…. Well actually, I never dwell on poor career decisions, it is all part of challenge of being a business person. I suppose I would say that I sometimes believe too much in people and can get disappointed if I feel that they let the side down. But I can’ t change myself, I just get a bit more cautious about what drives people to do certain things.
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
I don’t have problems motivating myself if I feel I can make a difference and that it is recognised. If this is not the case, I get a little despondent and start to lose heart. And then move on. To the next challenge.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to trust my instincts and remember that most people are no more clever or talented than me/you. They might just be better at persuading others that they are! So have confidence in yourself. I would also say, make sure that you can have a good conversation on any subject, it is very useful in day to day life. Read the FT, read the Economist, don’t just focus on your core subject. It will expand your views on life and make you more interesting.
Who is your role model, and why?
I admire some bits in people, and can get inspired by those traits, but nobody is quite perfect enough to be a 100 pc role model. I don’t want to idealise people, it is not fair on them either. If I had to really pick a role model, it would be someone who has done great things for humanity, probably in medical research.
What’s your own personal mantra?
My personal mantra has always been: when you do something, do it as if the whole world depended on it, but also, as if you were to die tomorrow i.e. do your very best, but remember that it is all a game in the end.
What do you think makes a successful leader?
I think a successful leader should be someone who has gravitas, is an excellent communicator and shows integrity and empathy towards his/her teams. In reality, many leaders give the impression of integrity and empathy, but are really, deep down, driven by self promotion and self interest and will stop at nowhere to get to the top. However, some people do seem to reach the top of their game with genuine qualities, and they should be applauded for having remained sane and decent. I don’t think it is a man or woman thing, it is all due to strong emotional intelligence and integrity and some people just have it. They are special people.
Claire joined Fintrax in July 2016 from her most recent role as CFO and Board Director of Vocalink, the UK payment systems company, where she worked for six years. Prior to that Claire worked for the law firm, Eversheds, as Finance Director for four years, and has also held senior finance positions at Barclays and BT. Claire previously worked for Guinness, Euro Disney and Ernst & Young. Claire has sat on several Board, Risk and Audit Committees.