Julia Britton: Embracing new roles at HSBC with C-suite in mind
Title: IT chief operating officer, Middle East, North Africa and Turkey
Home base: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Mentor: Diane Reyes, Group general manager and global head of liquidity and cash management at HSBC
Tenure at HSBC: 11 years
What she does: Britton's primary responsibility is supporting the regional chief information officer from an operational and a budget perspective. She helps ensure that the company adheres to local, regulatory and compliance policies, and drives the regional IT people strategy to improve employee engagement.
Pack your bags: Julia Britton has an international background, having spent five years in the Middle East as a teenager. She lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and then Dubai, after her father, who worked in the oil industry, took jobs in those cities. She returned to her native United Kingdom for college and then joined HSBC after graduating. Since then Britton has spent time in five different areas around the world — the U.K., Hong Kong, Czech Republic, the United States and her current posting in Dubai. “I work in a global organization. There are significant opportunities if you are willing to be mobile and I’ve taken advantage of those opportunities,” she said.
For the children: A big motivating factor in Britton’s willingness to travel is her two children, Freya, 6, and Harry, 4, and an amenable husband. “Our home is us as a family; so long as we move together they have stability. The opportunity for children to move around is significant,” she said, adding that she wants them to experience different cultures the way she has. “We’ve been in Dubai now for a year and they are already learning Arabic. They both learned how to swim. They have children in their class of different religions. They are becoming much more well-rounded individuals than if I had just stayed in my hometown.”
Eye on the prize: Britton is clear on her career goals: She wants to be a chief operating officer — then maybe one day chief executive officer — overseeing HSBC’s operations for a country. Her current post was a step to help her get there, bolstering her management experience and giving her more exposure to technology. “I proactively sought this role knowing that it checks a number of boxes. I am quite driven. I know what the end goal is, and I just need to keep performing to get there,” she said.
All about expanding her expertise: Britton has been in her current role for about a year. She oversees a team of 14 people across the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Oman, Egypt and India. “Technology is a new business area for me, and this is the first role in my career where I have managed a regional team,” she said. “It has been a steep learning curve, and every day I learn something new.”
Mini me: Diane Reyes sees a bit of herself in Britton. She admires Britton’s persistence, her willingness to adapt her style to be more effective and the fact that she’s not intimidated by executives who are higher up on the corporate ladder. “Julia is almost like a daughter,” Reyes said.