Caterina Nesci, La Trobe Financials’ Director of International Partnerships & ESG has never been one to follow convention.
As a daughter of Italian immigrants, she bucked the pressure from her father to marry young and start a family, to pursue her passion for building great brands, which has included stints living in London and Hong Kong and working with some of the most prestigious brands in financial services.
“It was the Italian way,” Caterina said.
“All my friends were getting married and having children whereas I was going to University and then I went overseas to work. I did the total opposite to all my friends and everyone else in my family. I was following my dreams.”
They were dreams that has seen her work with a global law firm Hogan Lovells, where she worked with some of the industry’s most known banks including Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas and Standard Chartered and leverage all her skills as a marketer to promote banking brands during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and more recently amid the global pandemic.
She joined La Trobe Financial in June 2010 just following the GFC to help build the organisation as a powerhouse brand in financial services and has held a variety of roles within the marketing division. In her current role she is responsible for the management of La Trobe Financial’s environmental, social and governance framework and driving a number of projects.
Diversity is a key priority area for La Trobe Financial and as part of this, Caterina is currently promoting a financial literary campaign for women to help empower them to become more financially savvy.
Caterina knows first-hand the importance of promoting a work environment where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, gender beliefs and identity, are encouraged to be themselves and feel included and supported.
Working in the cultural-melting pot of Hong Kong demonstrated what it felt like to be in the minority for Caterina and she had to adjust her style to fit in at work. She also learnt to speak Mandarin.
“I thought I was going to have it easy and would fit in,” she said.
“But I had to overcome all those obstacles – I had to adjust to the Hong Kong culture, I started speaking more softly – I was quite sensitive and became a softer person.”
“I’m very Italian. I’m very passionate so that was quite hard.”
But she considers her time in Hong Kong as one of the best experiences of her career, teaching her resilience and adaptability but most importantly the value of making the effort to embrace another country’s culture and customs.
“By making an effort to understand and involve myself in the local culture, I was given more respect,” Caterina said.
“And learning that different culture also made me much stronger. Hong Kong was the best time of my life – every experience makes you a better person as well as the people you meet along the way.”
Just as Hong Kong has historically been a mixing pot of Cantonese and British cultures, Caterina says Australia’s cultural tapestry will increasingly become more diverse and embracing diversity will only serve to benefit the mortgage and finance industry in the longer run.
“The future in Australia is going to be more immigrants so if you are not embracing diversity today, it’s going to be even harder in the future,” she said.
“Finance brokers have a perfect opportunity – we will grow, and the momentum won’t stop but think about what the future holds because there is more diversity in customers.”
She also believes that achieving increased diversity in mortgage and finance brokers will help the industry improve how it solves problems and ensure its ongoing sustainability and longevity.
“The more diverse people are, there is more balance in solving issues through different ways of doing things and different ways of solving things,” she said.
Caterina is seeing more female participation and recognition in the mortgage and finance industry but says the industry needs to continue to help “women find their voice”. Women also have to be honest about their experiences and what support they need because men want to help but are often unsure of what they need to do to help.
“We’ve got to allow diversity to come by supporting each other and that includes men supporting women and women supporting women through mentoring and coaching and sharing experiences,” she said.
“We need to be able to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly and learn from it. If you really want success you need to be persistent – don’t give up because we want to make it easier for others.”
And what’s Caterina’s secret to success?
“Work hard, be persistent and don’t give up,” she said.
“Dream big and go for it.”