By Cathie Ericson
WEX’s Kim Ford has always worked hard to create and drive a positive and satisfying career.
“I believe in giving my very best to any role I am in and making the most of it. To do that, I try to make sure that I actively pursue and create the right opportunities. Equally I also like to make sure that I regularly pause to reflect and evaluate to ensure that I am on track from both a professional and personal perspective. If something is amiss, it’s important to me to quickly identify steps to correct and ‘right the ship’ –I have learned that life is too short to not take control of your happiness, career path and job satisfaction,” she says. “I feel that following this philosophy has led to me to where I am today. I am in a role where I can genuinely say I am doing some of the most challenging and exciting work of my career to date, and working with wonderful people at a really great company.”
Blending Two Career Disciplines To Forge a Successful Path
Ford’s first foray into the world of law was as a private practice insurance litigator, acting for professionals filing claims under their professional indemnity insurance policies. While she enjoyed the work, she realized after a few years that private practice and the expected path towards partnership was not for her. She began to look into ways she could use her skills as more of a strategic business partner, which would allow her to deliver end-to-end solutions and ultimately have the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of her labor pay off.
Ford subsequently joined ANZ Bank as an in-house legal counsel in the retail banking division where after a few years she jumped at the opportunity to join the corporate ranks of ANZ’s retail business. Over the next four years, she gained experience in project management and senior product management running a business line P&L, eventually leading ANZ’s retail loyalty team.
After this stint gaining corporate experience and learning more about the challenges of operating a business, Ford was offered the chance to return to her roots as a lawyer and join WEX as Associate General Counsel for its Asia Pacific business, a generalist position that allowed her to touch all legal-related issues. She held that role for three years and now is accountable for the Asia Pacific legal team, as well as for Global Issuing, which supports WEX’s new market entry efforts and growth strategies.
The value of her two distinct career paths became clear in 2017, when she successfully led the project responsible for setting up, licensing and operationalizing WEX’s emoney Institution in the United Kingdom. The emoney Institution license enables WEX to offer credit and all its products across the 31 nations in the European Economic Area, and securing the license was part of broader efforts to both expand in Europe and enable the provision of WEX’s payment solutions in the region .
“For me, it bore out the benefits of the combination of my legal training and corporate experience and underscored the importance of having previously taken the time out of legal to gain solid experience in the corporate environment,” she says, adding that there are very few employers globally where she would have the opportunity to work on the type of projects she is currently undertaking.
Valuing the Whole Person
Ford sees sponsorship as critical to any career, but underscores that it is a two-way street: First you need to earn your sponsor’s commitment and provide your sponsor with a return on their investment, and then you need to commit to nurturing the relationship. Along the way she has been fortunate to have a number of role models, but one of the most profound experiences she has had was with a partner for whom she first worked when commencing in private practice. She took the time to teach Ford how to properly structure advice and legal arguments, while ensuring that she always kept the client’s best interest at the forefront of her thinking. “She was very firm at times, which as a junior lawyer was sometimes a little scary, but at the same time she was very nurturing as well as generous with her time and knowledge. She also taught me the importance of pragmatism,” Ford says, adding that she helped influence many of the career traits that Ford depends on today.
In addition to excellent role models, Ford believes that companies need to have policies and approaches that bring equality to the workplace, for everyone. “WEX is an incredibly family-friendly and flexible place to work, which enables me and — and consequently my family — to have a healthy balance,” she notes. “WEX encourages the delivery of results at work while at the same time ensuring that we all have the time to take care of the other important aspects of our life, such as family and health.”