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Barclay's Christina Lonergan talks sponsorship, female role models and a work/life balance

August 15, 2019 | Daisy Bernard

The financial sector pioneer shares her insights

Christina Lonergan, Head of Banking and Credit at Barclays Private Bank, started her career as a graduate with Barclays in London in 2007. After several years as a foreign exchange sales-trader she took on the role as Head of FX Execution for Barclays Private Bank UK & Channel Islands.

After 12 years in the UK she has now returned to Dublin to take on the position as Head of Banking and Credit for Barclays Private Bank European HQ in Ireland.

Christina graduated with a First Class Honours Bachelor of Commerce from UCD and holds a First Class Honours Masters in Finance from the Michael Smurfit School of Business, UCD.

Ahead of her session at Women in Finance Dublin, we spoke to Christina about diversity, career advice, sponsorships and work/life balance. 

Christina Lonergan

Tell us a bit about yourself

I grew up in Dublin but in an Indian / Irish household. My mum is from India and my dad is from Tipperary, so as Irish as I am, I strongly relate to many aspects of Indian culture as well – including eating rice with my fingers! Family and friends are extremely important to me and I am lucky to have them dotted all around the world since travel is a passion of mine. Other than that, I love to play sports – tennis and netball in particular – and recently I also qualified as a professional make-up artist. It’s always been important for me to have hobbies outside of work to keep the creative side of my brain functioning!

How did you get to where you are today? How important was it to have a sponsor?

I would say a positive outlook and work hard. I have been knocked back for countless roles or opportunities, but I always believe what was for me wouldn’t go by me so I never gave up and kept pushing for what I wanted. I never really realised that I had sponsors until I needed them! They have been friends, bosses and colleagues that I just got on with who unbeknownst to me had been
helping me behind the scenes.

My main sponsor was my most recent boss Julian, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be sitting here in Dublin in this role without his help, guidance and support to get me here. 

Why is it important for events like Women in Finance Dublin to take place?

I think it’s important to keep the circle of support and sponsorship going. Events like this get together like minded people who want to help and support each other and it’s a great way to listen to other experiences to help remind you that it can be done and you don’t need to be anyone but yourself to get what you want.

Why do you think there is a lack of senior female role models in finance?

I think that life gets in the way sometimes, and that causes attrition at the higher
levels. However, I think the change in attitudes and also working patterns means that we have more and more women breaking that mould and going all the way to the top.

In sectors that are very male orientated it can be hard for a woman to challenge outdated ‘norms’ and be the first senior leader in that area. But again, I think that we are starting to see this happen more and more. All you need is one senior person to realise that a diverse team (not just by gender) is more likely to be a
more successful team. 

Work/life balance is very much a buzz word at the moment. Do you think a lot of women feel that they have to be superwoman all of the time?

Yes but I think that’s most women all the time – no matter what job they do!

Finally, what can our readers, as individuals, do to push for gender diversity and help their organisations invest in the right teams of people?

In my experience the best thing you can do is help each other – anything you know, teach it to someone else, anyone you know – introduce them to someone else. Be a sponsor, a mentor and a friend – because half the time at work that’s the person you need the most!

On 12-13 September 2019, Christina will be on a panel discussing diversity at Women in Finance Dublin. With speakers from Paypal, Google, Barclays, as well as government officials, join the conversation in two days of talks, skill-building workshops and dedicated networking opportunities. Get your tickets here.