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Katharine Watson

Smith Soc Featured Member

Questions and Answers with Adam Smith Society Members. 

Katharine Watson | UVA Darden Chapter

WatsonKatharine Watson is a first-year student at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and was a memberof the Darden team at the 2019 Case Competition. At Darden, Katharine plays prominent roles in the Adam Smith Society and in the Finance Club. She is an active member of the Outdoors Club and Darden Christian Fellowship. Katharine transitioned to Darden after an impactful career as a process improvement consultant with EY, where she led teams to advise investment banks and asset managers on operating models, cost optimization, and governance initiatives. By producing high-quality work, she earned a reputation as trusted advisor to her clients. Through these strong client relationships, Katharine generated over $5 million in fees for EY over her three-year tenure with the firm. Prior to joining EY, she worked for Barclays as an analyst in the Graduate Rotation Program. At Barclays, she served first as a change manager on the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Derivatives Change Team, where she spearheaded OTC derivatives projects to enhance the firm’s cleared product offering for clients and improve efficiency and controls; she also served as an equity exotics trading assistant, a role in which she facilitated trade processing and led cross-divisional process improvement projects to automate procedures. Katharine earned BAs in economics and Spanish from Bucknell University, where she was a member of the Division I Varsity Women’s Rowing team and the Chi Omega Sorority.

A theme of your recent professional experience has been streamlining processes: making things work better—in some cases, dramatically better. What has been the most rewarding example of that?

During my consulting career at EY, I had the opportunity to create and implement a firmwide collateral management policy and governance structure to help one of our clients, a leading U.S. bank, meet a regulatory requirement. To successfully deliver this project for the client, I had to understand 50 products across several business lines. Being able to learn so much so quickly and being held accountable to articulate this new knowledge to help transform my client’s business was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had. Upon completing the project, I had a much stronger understanding of how banks operate, how they benefit from scale, and some challenges resulting from size.

After implementation, my client asked me to continue working with the bank to build on the strategy we had created by communicating how the firm could manage assets more efficiently and collaboratively. The work we performed together resulted in over $100 million of operational and financial savings. Seeing a vision I had helped create from scratch come to life and generate such positive change was a very rewarding experience.

Most rewarding, though, were the relationships I developed with my client. Our partnership was so close that we operated as a team working toward a common goal. A couple of years later, I still keep in touch with a number of the people I worked with on this project, and I consider several to be key mentors. While I helped shape their company, these mentors continue to help me develop my career even as I’ve been progressing through Darden’s MBA program.

Where do you envision yourself post-graduation (in terms of industry, region, or both)?

I am passionate about finance and envision myself continuing to work in the financial-services industry postgraduation. I get excited about the value proposition of various financial-services providers and their products—loans, derivatives, repos, you name it, it’s super-interesting! I enjoyed improving banks and asset managers operationally prior to joining Darden, and I look forward to contributing my skills to financial institutions during my investment-banking MBA internship this summer. Long-term, my intent is to evolve into a role that leverages my diverse set of skills and financial knowledge.

As an active member of Darden's Outdoors Club, what's your favorite outdoor activity?

My favorite outdoor activity is skiing. This past December, 120 Darden students celebrated the end of exams by traveling to Park City, Utah. It was great to get outdoors and ski that terrain. More important, it was exciting to broaden and deepen friendships on and off the slopes. The ski trip provided a fantastic opportunity to expand my network of Darden friends.

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