Rachel Phillips works in the alternative investments team at KPMG and co-Chairs the Australian Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Committee. She is currently a Mentee in WiFA’s MMP 2021. In her 2021 Spotlight Series interview she discusses her motivations, the role of mentors in her life, and much more.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Hong Kong and my education included many years in the international school system here and Tokyo, before attending an all girls boarding school in Adelaide, Australia. Growing up in different cities and cultures instilled a “give everything a go” attitude. At school I took part in movie making, pottery, concert band, and a variety of sports. I eventually found my stride in public speaking and debating, which sparked my interest in politics and international relations. After graduating with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts, I moved back to Hong Kong with an open mind to everything this city has to offer. 

I joined KPMG in 2018, and it has unlocked more opportunities than I could have possibly imagined. I particularly enjoy contributing to thought leadership and have co-written a piece entitled “Hong Kong Catching – Modernising Hong Kong’s Tax Loss Relief”. I am currently a member of my firm’s asset management team, which includes working on pursuit campaigns and content production. 

What drew you to a career in finance? What has motivated you to stay?

Growing up in the expat community I was immersed in the finance world from a young age.  However, it was not until I started looking for jobs that I understood how much variety existed, and that starting a career in finance is not only limited to those who graduated from commerce related degrees. I studied law, Mandarin, and politics at University which, I originally believed would put me behind some of my finance peers. However, I quickly realised many of those skills are transferable, and that by reading and observing the world around me, I could begin to make up my knowledge gap. 

The variety and fast pace nature of finance has motivated me to stay. Being curious by nature, I have always enjoyed learning new things and I think finance is so dynamic that there are always new things to learn. Most recently I completed a course in private equity online in order to upskill and develop my interest across all asset classes. This course has sparked my interest in impact investing and how investment can be multifunctional to achieve more than just capital returns. 

Mentors play an important role in the developments of many careers. Did you have a mentor? If so, what did you look for in that person?

I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by many mentors, and I strongly feel that mentorship takes various forms and is usually available all around us. I believe that the best mentor/mentee relationships are founded on trust, two-way communication and reliability. However, the best mentor relationships will be able to transition through the various stages of someone’s career, and pivot to new challenges as and when they arise.  Through the WiFA mentor program this year I was paired with a wonderful woman, Yasmine Barlieb, who is guiding me through the complexities of the early stages of a finance career and navigating the intricacies of working at large companies. She is a great source of support and an avenue to bounce ideas off.  

Outside that I have various informal mentors within, and outside my team at KPMG. There are people who are always there to listen to and support me. These people are of various backgrounds and perspectives who often foster a new way of thinking and looking at issues. 

In a personal capacity, I have a wonderful mentor in my dad who has worked in asset management for over 30 years and continues to be a passionate advocate of the industry. He has taught me about the power of investing from a young age and how compounding my investments will lead to better returns. He is also a forward and progressive thinker who holds strong ethical values and has always taught me to stay true to doing the right thing.  I am very lucky to have parents who champion my career and have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams no matter how untenable they may have seemed.