Asset Management Is For Women Too (featuring Kathryn Gillum)

March 8, 2021 Judi Hess

One thing I have been noticing more and more is the number of women entering the field of Asset Investment Planning & Management (AIPM). In fact, many of Copperleaf’s clients are women who are taking a leading role in their organizations in planning and managing their asset investments more strategically, to minimize risk and create the highest value for their organizations.

Certainly the prevalence of women is not evident by attending an asset management conference…yet. But it occurred to me that this is a great role for women in a field where you might not expect to find many women! And I believe this is the beginning of an exciting trend and would like to highlight some of these women—and the interesting work they’re doing—to establish some role models and shine a light on this as a possible career path for young women.

In this article, we are featuring Kathryn Gillum, Investment Optimisation Manager at Powerco. Powerco is New Zealand’s second-largest electricity and gas distribution utility with approximately 1.1 million customers across 446,000 connections. 

How did you get involved in the field of asset management?

I’ve always struggled to label myself as an engineer—not because I didn’t like engineering as a discipline, but because I wanted to broaden my horizons and keep my options open. With an engineering degree in the bank, I went on to complete post-graduate studies in finance and economics. Over the years, I’ve had a diverse range of positions, moving between engineering and project management roles, and branching out into commercial and strategic roles. I’ve often referred to myself as a specialist generalist, and it wasn’t until starting at Powerco that I was exposed to the world of asset management—the perfect niche for a generalist!

What attracted you to this field? 

I’ve always had an interest in ‘the art of a good decision’. We are never presented with perfect information to make the perfect decision. But a good decision is the best decision you can make based on the information and knowledge you have at the time. Asset management is all about making informed decisions, whilst recognizing the limitations and uncertainties of the information available.  

Kathryn and fellow Powerco employees celebrate the go live of the Copperleaf Decision Analytics Solution with a special gift from Copperleaf. The significance of New Zealand's All Blacks jersey is to say thank you for making Copperleaf feel like we’re part of the Powerco team, and the Vancouver Canucks jersey is our way of saying welcome to the Copperleaf Community.

What excites you most about this field? 

I enjoy the complexity the field of asset management brings and how it is evolving as a profession in itself. Asset management is supported by such a diverse range of disciplines and perspectives that provide endless opportunities for learning and development.

What are the most rewarding aspects of the work you do?

The most rewarding aspect of my role is being able to influence business direction or outcomes in a way that you know will have positive value.

Where are you (and your team) making the biggest impact?

My team is focused on helping the business make rigorous and consistent investment decisions and recently led the implementation of the Copperleaf solution at Powerco. At the heart of this project was leading the business through a cultural change to embrace value-based decision making. This included guiding all stakeholders to define and agree on what is ‘value’ when making investment decisions about our network assets.

What do you think are the biggest challenges?

I think the biggest challenges we face are around long-term business sustainability in an environment of increasing uncertainty and complexity. The rate of change in technology presents a myriad of challenges and trade-offs between the more traditional asset management focus of managing aging infrastructure and meeting demand growth, with the need to be ready to meet the future expectations of our customers. Add in other external pressures, such as energy affordability, climate change, and decarbonization, and the complexities of asset management only increase.

Would you recommend asset management to other women as a career?

Yes, I’d definitely recommend asset management as a career. Asset management roles provide opportunities to influence the direction of a business whilst developing a diverse skill set that will open up a world of possibilities.


To learn more about other women making an impact in this emerging field, feel free to check out the rest of the articles in this series here.

About the Author

Judi Hess

Judi has been the CEO of Copperleaf since 2009. She recently won the BC CEO Award, was named BC Tech Person of the Year, and was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women.

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