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Q&A WITH Martina Keane, Head of Assurance, EY Financial Services Ireland

Martina leads the Assurance practice at EY Financial Services. She works extensively across the global insurance and banking landscape and has significant experience leading large teams in an environment where there is on-going change. In 2019 she was awarded Accountancy Leader of the year at the Women in Finance Awards.

Martina will be on a panel at the Women in Finance Ireland Summit 2020 on 19 November speaking on leadership styles for 2020/2021. 

”My best advice is to be honest and authentic. I have to sleep with ease at night, so I have to be happy with my decisions during the day. I also think it’s important to always live by your values and do something which puts you outside your comfort zone a few times a year.”

Martina Keane, Head of Assurance, EY Financial Services Ireland

1. What have been your biggest professional challenges over the last 6 months?

Covid-19 has created significant personal and professional challenges for people across the globe. For business leaders, I think the key initial challenges were around managing the transition to remote working at scale, staying close to clients and teams in this new environment and prioritising the wellbeing of our people, all while managing our own personal lockdown challenges. 

At EY we have fortunately been championing remote working for some time now, which meant we had the systems, tools and technologies in place to enable us to transition quite smoothly to working from home. However, professional services is a very relationship-driven, client-facing industry and it does take longer to build trust and relationships over video calls, instead of face to face. I find personal contact is more important than ever and that applies as much to our own people as it does to our clients.

2. Which qualities are most important to you when leading a high-performance team?

I have learned that no matter how strong you are as a leader, you need a stellar team with a mixed skillset if you really want to succeed. I firmly believe that delivering the best possible service to clients requires a diverse pool of talent and thought, and that the highest performing teams are those that harness the power of different opinions and perspectives. It’s important to attract and recognise individual strengths, whether that be strong communication skills or great attention to detail.

Across the board, I look for emotional intelligence and empathy because these are what really fuel good teamwork, co-operation and commitment. As with any relationship, trust is absolutely essential and I think it’s also important to have a strong shared sense of purpose across the team so that everyone is aligned on vision and values.

3. For young professionals, why did you pursue a career in finance?

Interest in finance probably goes back to my school years where it was nurtured by good teachers. I continued to have an interest in all things business and naturally pursued this to a professional qualification which I think gave me a very good all-round grounding in finance; for example, the finance and leadership skills I gained in EY were easily transferrable when I was seconded to a senior finance role in a large UK based Corporate. Being at the centre of finance touches off every aspect of an organisation and even our everyday lives. In this industry, you are faced with lots of complexity and challenges on a daily basis which genuinely excites me as I love finding solutions to problems -particularly for my clients. It’s never boring as finance is an ever-changing landscape that’s at the forefront of innovation and smarter ways of working.

4. And finally, what is your golden nugget of advice for future finance leaders?

My best advice is to be honest and authentic. I have to sleep with ease at night, so I have to be happy with my decisions during the day. I also think it’s important to always live by your values and do something which puts you outside your comfort zone a few times a year. Focus on what you know and not what you think you don’t know. Try to achieve a good work-life balance – you will enjoy your job much more as result.


You can hear more from Martina at the Women in Finance Virtual Summit on 19 November 2020. To find out more and register your free place, please click here.