Sydney CEO says drive and hard work led her to the top of her game

The ability to prioritise, influence outcomes and think critically to solve problems has led Sydney CEO Rachael Lavars to the top of her game. 

Sydney insurance executive Rachael Lavars didn’t specifically set out to land the CEO role at the country’s leading providers of insurance premium funding.

The CEO of Macquarie Pacific Funding joined sister company Macquarie Business Banking in 2001 in a relationship management role.

She’s held a variety of roles in the years since. She was the National Segment Head of Insurance Broking Services for Macquarie Business Banking when she was tapped on the shoulder for the role, commencing in January 2015.

“I never consciously set out to climb the corporate ladder, I’ve been more simply driven by a strong work ethic, a willingness to take on tasks big and small, a sense of ownership and pride in my roles, and a strong personal desire to stand on my own two feet,” Lavars explains.

“I have always just set out to learn as much as possible from everyone around me, and I put my all into every opportunity that came my way.”

“I have always just set out to learn as much as possible from everyone around me, and I put my all into every opportunity that came my way.”

With that approach and mindset, her roles evolved and expanded in their responsibilities over time. This moved her through the management tiers within Macquarie and through two director levels before assuming her current role.

She’s the first to admit that her professional journey has stretched her out of her comfort zone at times but her experiences and commitment has led her to become a highly regarded member of the insurance industry.

“Macquarie Premium Funding started as an after-hours project with a couple of colleagues as part of our wider aspiration to deliver customised financial solutions to the insurance broking sector. The initiative enabled me to be part of a start up small business inside the corporate structure of Macquarie.”


   

Advice for women wanting to work or secure a promotion in the finance sector:

   
 
  • Be prepared to put your hand up and make your aspirations clear.
  • Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone.
  • Back yourself and don’t underestimate your ability to do a job well.
  • Don’t be afraid to bring yourself to a role.
 
     

 

Males continue to dominate leadership positions in Australia, with Australian Bureau of Statistics figures revealing that only 17% of CEOs in Australia were women in 2013/14.

Lavars has over 20 years’ experience in financial services, including: sales, strategic planning, business management, product development, IT and project delivery, risk management, operations and service delivery.

Nurturing the right culture starts with the appointment of the right people in the right roles.

Nurturing the right culture starts with the appointment of the right people in the right roles, she says.

“The financial sector is becoming increasingly aware of the value of diversity, with a strong focus on supporting women to reach more senior roles, Lavars says.

“There’s more opportunity now for women to seek senior roles than I’ve ever known, and it’s great to see the evolution of flexible working arrangements.”

One of the greatest pressures of her role is having to be a lot of things to a lot of different people, she says.

“There are often a lot of competing demands. Your stakeholder groups span the Board of Directors, shareholders, clients, staff, your leadership team and other professional bodies. You need to prioritise and integrate a lot of demands on an ongoing basis.

“I’ve learned to minimise stress levels around things outside my control. You need to accept that you’ll be faced with unexpected challenges and you need to just face the issue and work to solve it. If you step up to a problem, you can get past it.”

“It’s also essential that you provide clarity across your team and set goals. Ensure there’s a clear understanding of what you stand for as a business, what you’re working to achieve, and stay accountable to results. I’m also a believer of building a culture that instils pride and positive energy.”

Rachael's story is a good example of how following a career path that you love and working hard can result in a natural career progression toward the top positions in your organisation.

Macquarie Pacific Funding is a 50/50 joint venture between Macquarie Bank and Steadfast Group.

© 2016 Steadfast Group Ltd All rights reserved.