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Connecting the Dots

In Focus
NAME:Antonietta Sestito
COMPANY:La Trobe Financial
POSITION:Senior Vice President and Chief People & Marketing Officer
LOCATION:Melbourne, Australia
La Trobe Financial is an alternative asset manager on the rise. To maintain this growth, Senior Vice President and Chief People & Marketing Officer Antonietta Sestito is implementing a raft of new initiatives to attract and retain the right talent.

As Steve Jobs once said: “It’s only when you look back that you connect the dots.” They’re words that certainly ring true for La Trobe Financial Senior Vice President and Chief People & Marketing Officer Antonietta Sestito.

Sestito came to the financial services firm in 2017 to take up this unique role with more than 20 years of experience across distribution, asset management, treasury, corporate and private banking working for banks such as St. George, ME Bank and Bank of Melbourne.

“My professional background has given me a clear understanding of what a role that covers both people management and marketing needed, as well as how I could add true value to it,” she tells The CEO Magazine.

“I understood the synergy between the two divisions and was excited by the prospect of really making an impact in two key divisions at once. I still am.”

“La Trobe Financial is the ultimate destination to build a career and make a difference.”

This understanding is serving her well, as La Trobe Financial evolves into the fastest-growing premier alternative asset manager in Australia. It now counts more than AU$19 billion under management and 520-plus staff.

“We’re certainly moving at a very rapid rate, and so making sure that the brand of La Trobe Financial is aligned with the evolution of the business is crucial,” Sestito says.

“This past year we’ve done a lot of work to modernize the brand and how our customers interact with it.”

Time of Change

With a deep reservoir of trust in the La Trobe Financial brand that’s been built over 70 years of continuous quality service to our customers, employees and partners, Sestito says it was paramount during the creative process to ensure that shone through.

“We had to remain recognizable to the people we serve but also that the brand represented the AU$19 billion alternative asset manager it is today.”

Rethinking the approach to the learning and development of its growing team of people is part of this, to ensure they are set up with the necessary skills to meet the needs of the future workforce, according to Sestito.

“In times of change, like the pandemic and advancement in AI, it’s important that we focus on our people and how we can help them in an uncertain and evolving world,” she says.

To determine the key areas of concern, the firm conducted its first-ever employee survey in 2022. Giving employees a platform to express their thoughts, ideas and concerns contributes to the strategy that is for and represents them.

Armed with the findings, Sestito launched a partnership with Future Women to genuinely champion gender equality in Australian workplaces through professional development, advocacy and community, as well as La Trobe Financial’s first formal employee value proposition (EVP), a comprehensive framework offering numerous benefits and growth avenues to team members.

“I wanted to ensure that our team really understood that La Trobe Financial is the ultimate destination to build a career and make a difference,” Sestito says.

“By today’s standards, it’s important to support the whole family unit, and it’s why La Trobe Financial supports both primary and secondary carers.”

In addition to this, La Trobe Financial continues to pay superannuation to women on the non-payment portion of their parental leave.

The EVP program offers a full suite of benefits for employees.

“What’s unique to La Trobe Financial is our concert series,” Sestito says. “We’ve invited Australian talent including Jimmy Barnes, Jessica Mauboy, Daryl Braithwaite and Sneaky Sound System to perform exclusively for our employees. They work hard every day to deliver exceptional service to our customers and partners. We know they take their jobs seriously but we also want them to have fun.”

After Ash Barty’s mindset coach, Ben Crowe, led a presentation via Zoom, the team’s response opened up the EVP program even further.

“In addition to the employee survey, we introduced town halls and a CEO roundtable, which gives employees the opportunity to hear directly from the CEO in a more intimate setting,” she adds. “In small groups, employees have lunch with the CEO and are welcomed to ask any questions that are on their mind.”

On the marketing front, La Trobe Financial took a similar tack, creating a webinar series for its investors.

“Equally for our customers, we think deeply about the issues facing them in a rapidly changing world,” Sestito says.

“When the pandemic arrived, we wanted to reassure our customers that we were in continual operation, as we’d been through many economic cycles in the past and we were still there to serve them.”

La Trobe Financial created a weekly webinar series to talk to customers about the economic environment and give them a platform to ask questions and stay connected.

“We still run those today,” Sestito notes.

Cultural Emphasis

Post-pandemic, the focus is on creating opportunities for organic learning and development, which was lost throughout the forced periods of working from home.

“We know that we’re better together and look for every opportunity to connect and come together as a team,” Sestito says.

The launch of its Young Professionals program aimed to tackle this, bringing together people in a safe and social environment to help them develop their networking skills and to give them an opportunity to present alongside other guest speakers.

For Sestito, it’s about making sure the company doesn’t lose sight of what’s important, which is why it adopts a disciplined approach.

“We really do adhere to the values of TEAM, which stands for trust, excellence, accountability and make a difference.”

“Our culture and our values are really important for La Trobe Financial,” she says. “We really do adhere to the values of TEAM, which stands for trust, excellence, accountability and make a difference.”

As La Trobe Financial continues its robust growth journey and navigate rapid transformation, Sestito says its people remain the driving force behind its accomplishments.

“As our CEO Chris Andrews says, it’s not about Ping-Pong tables and beanbags. It’s about establishing trust and positioning the firm as a ‘captain of industry,’” she says.

“We manage people’s money. It’s quite a serious responsibility so we make sure that we never lose sight of the important fundamentals of managing and dealing with people and their money.”

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