International Women’s Day 2024: Spotlight on Coral Durham

This month, to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, we are sharing a series of profiles on inspiring Kaizen women. First up is Coral Durham, a sales and relationship manager in our European Team.

How did you get to where you are today? 

It has been a long road, but I have been fortunate in that I came into the city at a time when there were few women in IT or banking. The 80s were an exciting time and I felt like a pioneer in this new rapidly moving world.

I started in 1982 in what was then called ‘IT computer operations’ and within two years was managing my first team running DEC PDP 11/70’s (amusingly another similar DEC computer is now on display in the Science Museum).

Those were the days before email, the internet, laptops, and mobile phones. I worked shifts (nightwork included), soldered hundreds of cables whilst always or nearly always being the only woman, and definitely the only 5ft blonde in make-up and stilettos in IT.

At the beginning of 1990, I joined ICMA (then AIBD), to set up its technical helpdesk team. I spent the first two years installing Trax systems, diagnosing, and fixing faults across all the Trax subscribers in London ranging from tiny brokers to the biggest global institutions – just me, my trusty soldering iron, a few 5 ¼ and 3 ½ inch floppy disks and an ex-army field telephone in a wooden box (seriously – it was bigger than my briefcase). I learnt so much during that time.

I loved every moment – it was the early nineties, and the Canary Wharf tower was still being built. There were so many buildings springing up that I once had to install a Trax system via a builders’ lift with a hard hat as the building was still a shell.

By the time MiFID I was launched in 2007, I was running a team of technical helpdesk analysts, a team of consultants, and a compliance function. Migrating all the Trax subscribers to the new MiFID version was an enormous project but I had an amazing team and together we worked a 24-hour shift system over the final three days with four hours on and four hours off, until the job was done. I worked with the Trax service for over 22 years and will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given to prove myself as a woman in IT and Finance.

Since then, I have set up customer relationship functions for CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System) and even decided to leave the city for a while, but I so missed the buzz that when I got the call to join Deutsche Boerse in its new Regulatory Reporting Hub venture I was there in a hot minute. This time I moved into a sales and relationship management role utilising the skills gained over the years in supporting and listening to customer needs.

What motivated you to move into Sales and Relationship Management as a career?

I didn’t choose relationship management, it chose me and felt like a natural progression. Whenever I’ve been asked what I do for a living, I say ‘I talk for a living’ which is partially true but more importantly I listen.

My sales and relationship management role at Kaizen allows me to combine my technical knowledge, compliance, risk, governance and regulatory experience with soft skills such as listening and communication.

Being part of the European Team within Kaizen offers me yet another exciting new opportunity as we navigate along this post Brexit world with its lines of divergence and ever changing Regulatory landscape.

Regtech can be male dominated, what positive steps do you think we could take to help women overcome the challenges they face in our industry?

I’m not sure I ever believed in quotas when it came to ‘women in the boardroom’ for example, as inevitably it was the male members of the Board who chose them based on their idea of what a female Board member should bring to the table.

Sadly, I’m still reading the same articles stating women feel overlooked, ignored and not listened to in the workplace and this may well go back to how we were brought up and how we still bring up our daughters. We may not be able to change that but what we can do is work on a positive continuous framework that addresses and challenges the areas of concern. For example training for women in public speaking, debating, training on building self-confidence and self-worth.

These suggestions may sound obvious, but they are the foundations from which women can start challenging other inequalities and stereotypes.

Finally, demonstrating and setting success criteria within this framework will make it harder for it to be ignored and who knows, we may even see a few men taking some unconscious bias training.

Who’s had the biggest influence on your career? 

That’s a difficult question as I’ve always followed my own path. Rather the people that have encouraged me to pursue my career in my own way are the people that have shaped my life.

My earliest influence was of course, my mum – who had to leave school at 15. She was never given the opportunities I had and was determined that I did not suffer the same fate.

She loved to hear my stories about the banks I had visited and the people I had met and would always wear her best suit or ‘costume’ as she called it if she was meeting me at the office.

The other major influence would be my mother-in-law who was one of the Windrush generation that came over from St. Vincent in the late fifties and although she was well educated, suffered prejudice. I have never met such a strong woman. Fearless in so many ways, not loud but just magnificent. Between them they have given me the confidence to shape my own career, on my own terms, in my own way and enjoy every moment.

Coral’s story is part of a series on inspiring Kaizen women to mark International Women’s Day 2024.