In the traditionally male-dominated arena of finance, the emergence of female leaders has become a transformative force, challenging stereotypes, and reshaping the narrative. Anna Barrell, an Audit Partner at KPMG UK, is one such professional who has played a significant role in breaking down barriers and contributing to the changing face of success in finance.
Please could you introduce yourself and your role at KPMG?
“I’m Anna Barrell and I’m an audit partner based in our Birmingham office. I originally joined KPMG as a summer vacation student in 1999 and loved the time I spent there so jumped at the chance to return after university. After graduating I spent 10 years with KPMG, working my way up to Department Senior Manager where I led a team of around 50 people. I then left the firm for a few years and went to work for a global engineering business, where I was lucky enough to live and work in Switzerland. I really missed KPMG though, so after taking a year of maternity leave with my first child I returned to the firm as a director in 2015. I’ve been a partner for 5 years now, leading listed and regulated audits. I live in Wolverhampton with my husband and two children, who are 9 and 6.”
Could you please describe any challenges you encountered while entering the financial industry as a woman?
“I found KPMG a welcoming firm to join. I worked with lots of interesting businesses, made great friends and found the training environment supportive, so actually joining the firm felt as easy as it could do given the big change from university life! It was as I got more senior and started to think about where I’d like to progress to, that I started noticing there weren’t that many senior female role models at many of the companies I was working with.
That impacted my confidence in my ability to progress to a senior position. Thankfully that’s changed in recent years and KPMG and the entities I’m working with are much more diverse now.”
How did you overcome these difficulties?
“I’ve been lucky to have great mentors over the years, male and female, as well taking advantage of development programmes offered at KPMG. An example of one of these programmes is GROW, which supports the development and career journey of under-represented talent, aiming to diversify the talent pool for senior positions.”
If you could offer some advice to the female readers of this newsletter, what would it be?
“Follow your curiosity and say yes to opportunities that interest you, even if you feel nervous or are lacking in confidence. You’ll learn new skills and will almost always surprise yourself with skills you didn’t know you had. Also be proud of your differences – that’s what will make you stand out, add value, and bring insights that other people don’t have.”
Thank you to Anna for her engagement in this interview. Witnessing her achievements is truly inspiring, particularly as a woman myself, and I am confident that the readers of this newsletter will share that sentiment.