Meet Christine Yates – CEO, Board member and doctorate student

Meet Christine Yates – CEO, Board member and doctorate student

We chat to the CEO Retail at Australian Unity about juggling it all, and making it in financial services

BY Business Chicks, 11 min READ

Thanks to our friends at Australian Unity, who are offering an ongoing 7% discount* (and 8.5% discount for members*) on all Australian Unity health insurance covers. Plus, optical & 2 month waiting periods on extras are waived until 30 June.**

You’re the CEO Retail at Australian Unity – what does this impressive role entail, and what’s your favourite part of it?

I’m not sure about impressive title, but I will say that I was delighted to be offered the role as CEO Retail by our Australian Unity Group Managing Director. I joined one of Australia’s oldest companies in August 2020. My functional role is to lead the Private Health Insurance (PHI) business and Australian Unity Bank. In addition, I am a member of the group executive team that leads the company across a broad suite of business, from aged care, to wealth and capital markets, PHI and banking. The complexity makes the role really interesting. After three decades working in banking it is really interesting to work for one of Australia’s oldest member owned mutuals. The company’s DNA is in service to members and the community which drives a very considered long term strategy – looking forward to where need is emerging in society and shaping the business to go there. Hence our growth in social infrastructure and toward aged care over the last number of years as we broaden the company to continue to meet the Real Wellbeing needs of members through existing products and services, like PHI and banking, but meet the needs of the future.


What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced over the course of your career and how have you overcome them?

I’ve loved my career and have managed to navigate most challenges pretty well. For me the greatest challenge was the era of having young children and working in an Investment Bank. I truly loved both roles. I managed family and career by keeping my logistics tight (I was able to live near the city). I worked for Citigroup which had Citimail (before email was a thing), and the original blue blackberries (yes, I am showing my age). In my own way I managed to work flexibly, if that includes taking calls in hidden rooms where the kids wouldn’t hear me. In those days the slogan was ‘be available 24/7 – the Citi never sleeps’. I loved the deals, I love my kids and my husband, also a professional, and I juggled our way through.


You’ve completed your Masters of Human Resource Management and are currently working through your doctoral studies. Firstly, how do you find the time, and secondly, what drives your passion in this area?

I have more time because my kids are all out of home and leading their very busy lives. I’ve always loved learning and now I have the time to do what I would love to have done 20 years ago. For me, I go back to my earlier statement, I love business and being a person who has spent her career in large corporates I am always fascinated by what it takes to get things done, and of course, its’ through people. This led to my Masters HRM. I’ve spent my life on numbers, starting at Deloitte as a Chartered Accountant after completing an Economics and Accounting undergraduate degree, so a little more on organisational psychology, diversity and inclusion, talent management and leadership has been wonderful. That also led me to learn about the important role a company has in being the steward of resources; how we take care of people, how we impact the planet, how we impact society is very real.

I commenced my doctoral studies to explore the importance of understanding stakeholders rather than the dominant focus of shareholder primacy that drives most of the decision making across corporates and contributes to Royal Commissions where society questions corporate behaviour.


You’ve been on boards at The University of Sydney Business School, JBWere, BNZ Life Insurance and Australian Unity Bank. Do you have any advice for others looking to step into a board position?

It’s most important to have a true interest in the Board that you are joining. You have to be curious, to understand the key drivers, to build relationships with your board colleagues as successful board governance comes from collective oversight and collective understanding. You can’t and won’t know everything, but you can ask and learn and contribute to an organisation in these roles.


What makes a candidate stand out to you as a must-hire?

Can do attitude. Ambition to have a successful career. Adventurous in their thinking and desire to understand what causes movement to action in a project or corporate setting.


What’s the biggest misconception about working in financial services?

That it’s all about the numbers, its not. It’s all about the people, the staff and the customers and the numbers come from creating great products and services that fulfil customer’s needs.


What advice would you give to someone keen to kick start or grow their career in the financial services industry?

There is so much more to the financial services industry than the large banks. I started my career in a small foreign bank and I learnt so much as I had to be a jack of many trades. There are advice business and fintech, venture capital firms and private equity firms, Family Offices and private banks, investment banks and consultants, and so the list goes on. And for me, there is a whole mutual sector that I have only recently discovered, that have long histories and passionate connection to the work they do every day for members and for society.

The financial services industry is enormous and has many faces. Find a company that appeals to you first (what they do, what you hear about their culture etc.) and then you are likely to find the right job within eventually.


Looking ahead, what are you excited about?

Learning even more about Australian Unity. Working hard on building relationships across the mutual sector. Watching my daughters thrive and struggle and adjust and grow as they navigate university and work-life, knowing that the old mantra of 24/7 is not the working life they will need to live is exciting. I love the power of the voice of young women speaking up about their experiences. Their courage enables the voice of others, young and old to be heard and drive cultural change that has dominated the halls of power for decades.  It’s important that we always leave the world in a better place and Covid-19 has also challenged our ways of working around the world. So, I feel optimistic about corporates building an aligned and sustainable relationship with many stakeholders, most notably employees, their customers, and members in a way that is value-adding to the community.


Our friends at Australian Unity have a cracking offer:

Business Chicks readers are eligible for an ongoing 7% discount* (and members an 8.5% discount*) on all Australian Unity health insurance covers. Plus, your optical and 2 month waiting periods are waived on extras until 30 June!**

Australian Unity truly cares about its members – with features like no-gap dental, quick-and-easy claims thanks to its mobile app, and a range of hospital and extras covers that you can mix-and-match to suit your lifestyle, it’s our go-to for trusty health insurance.

You can switch your insurance to Australian Unity online in minutes here (Business Chicks members click here) so you can spend more time looking after yourself.

*8.5% discount includes all other retail discounts and is only available when paying by direct debit. The discount is not available through brokers or comparators, and excludes Overseas Visitor Cover. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer or discounts
**All other waiting periods still apply. Offer ends 30 June. New members only, joining hospital & extras or extras only cover. T&C’s apply at australianunity.com.au/tcs

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