Dominique Layt CMgr AFIML, Head of Stores and Speciality Banking Delivery at Suncorp and Board Director has built her leadership career from the ground up, over 30 plus years in the financial services industry. After finishing Year 12, Dominique’s parents encouraged her to take all the Banking entry exams, which lead to her first job as a trainee bank teller with NAB. She was keen to learn, asking other colleagues to show her their different roles so she could cover their days off. Dominique worked her way up to a senior role in the State Office over 17 years. She then moved to Westpac as a Regional Manager, but found that she’d need to move to Sydney or Melbourne for further promotion.
Dominique joined Suncorp in 2007 in business banking strategy just as the global financial crisis was biting, which she credits as an amazing learning experience working on the restructure. She moved into risk management, setting up the bank’s risk frameworks and committees. Dominique’s subsequent role was to establish the bank’s customer retention and insights strategy and capability, handpicking a team which took Suncorp to #1 in customer satisfaction over that time. The team implemented a new way of having a conversation with customers, which lead to positively impacting Suncorp’s S&P’s rating.
You’ve enjoyed an incredible career in the Financial Services industry, and you describe coaching, mentoring and leading high performing teams as your greatest passion. Tell us how you’ve built your leadership step by step over your career.
One of the things I learnt early in my leadership journey was that each individual is different and to be an effective leader I needed to adjust my approach to the individual where needed. The other thing I learned with experience and growing confidence as you get older is to be factual, clear and open when giving feedback and coaching. Most people do not like conflict and they expect they will receive it if they provide constructive feedback to individuals. Whilst this can happen I have found the majority of people are grateful for honest feedback especially when it comes to career development.
I have lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had where someone has said they have asked many other leaders why they had missed out on roles. Or, why they hadn’t progressed and they had never been provided with tangible feedback that would allow them to develop and grow. One of my strongest influencers today is Brene Brown who talks a lot about vulnerability and authentic leadership. These practices are critical to developing high performing teams and being an effective coach and mentor.
You recently obtained your first Board Director role with the Somerville House Foundation. What are your initial observations on the different style of leadership required of Boards versus Management?
The Board is a team and whilst the Chair is in essence the leader of that team it is different than organisational leader roles where the leader has the ultimate decision making authority. Similar to organisational teams a Board has a mix of skills which, when fully leveraged, allows the Board to be effective at its role. The role of the Chair is much more about ensuring the key skills are fully utilised, each member is actively contributing and the focus is absolutely on the objectives of the organisation the Board is privileged to govern.
What has been your greatest challenge?
There have been many challenges throughout my career, as there are for most people, including strategic and operational challenges during the GFC, shifting from a defensive to a growth strategy and transforming cultures from a merged organisation into one cohesive team. The one that stands out the most is maintaining team members motivation and energy during extended periods of multiple restructures and change which involved carrying vacancies for several months.
What are you most proud of?
There are many team and individual successes over my 30+ year career I could talk about, but whenever I am asked this question the moments that make me the proudest have been individual coaching sessions. Those moments where you help someone realise what is possible and the only thing standing in their way is their own self-confidence. When you literally see the light bulb go on and they realise they can achieve what they are aiming for. Those are the moments where you know you have made a difference to someone else and then to watch them achieve their goals and grow and grow from there is truly rewarding.
What motivated you to pursue the internationally recognised Institute of Managers and Leaders’ (IML) Chartered Manager Accreditation?
I have invested most of my career into becoming the best leader I can be. I’ve pursued my own development, sought out mentors who are strong authentic leaders and consistently sought feedback from peers and direct reports. I once commenced a Master of Leadership through a University only to find it was cancelled after less than a year.
How has achieving Chartered Manager status impacted your leadership journey, and what do you see are the future benefits to come?
I found the application process another learning opportunity. Completing the application provided me with an opportunity to review, self-assess and consider other areas I wanted to delve further into as part of my growth and continual improvement as a leader.
Now being a Chartered Manager I feel I have the opportunity to expand my career beyond financial services and potentially into areas such as executive coaching or leadership coaching.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Read Brene Brown’s books and work out who you are and what sort of leader you want to be. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self. We do not need to be like anyone else nor do we need to compete with others. If you can be an authentic leader with the right values as your anchor, your team will follow. Servant leadership is a great foundation but authentic leadership means you are “all in” and people will respect you for that; but it takes vulnerability and courage.