Charlene Kennedy is a native of Donegal, in her own words she is a ‘home bird’, but always questioned if she could advance her career and live in Donegal.
At 18 she left the county to pursue a career in Law at NUI Galway. After several career moves and locations from Dublin to the UK, she took a ‘leap of faith’ and returned to Donegal in 2015. This proved to be a well-placed jump and the CEO of PGIM (Prudential Group Invest Management) Private Capital Ireland tells us more about her job, the eventful last 12 months and why the future is so bright for investment in Donegal.
“A lot of change has happened in the last 12 months,” explains Charlene, which is something anyone familiar with the business scene in Donegal would attest to. “A lot of people would be familiar with the Pramerica brand in Donegal and how it was the tech and business centre that supported it’s US parent, Prudential Financial Inc. In the last year Pramerica has evolved into a more dedicated financial services entity providing a range of services including asset management, actuarial and treasury to Prudential.”
During this time, a substantial takeover occurred where a majority stake of the previous Pramerica business in Donegal was acquired by Tata Consultancy Services. The two businesses now operate independently within the expanding and increasing internationalised Letterkenny tech sector.
Charlene herself with a background in law, finance and banking is somewhat representative of the growth and development which has taken place within the FinTech sector in Donegal over the past 10 years. Initially managing a legal and compliance team, her dynamism, nature and ambition helped her to become the CEO of the PGIM Private Capital Ireland, with responsibility for overseeing the private debt investment business of PGIM in Europe.
“We have branch offices in Paris, Frankfurt, Milan and Madrid and a head office in Chicago,” she said.
“I find myself very fortunate to travel to these destinations on a regular basis (pre-Covid), whilst living at home in beautiful Donegal. I feel very lucky to have such an amazing career and get to live in Donegal.”
So what is the key success factor for PGIM in Donegal? She says: “Our employees are our greatest asset and we work hard to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment. The people are personally and professionally invested in the success of the county and the businesses that exist here. We don’t just have a ‘job’ and we give 110% to everything we do. We also believe that we can offer our workforce a unique lifestyle, situated in scenic Donegal, the ‘coolest’ place on the planet, our workforce benefits from vibrant culture both in and out of the office.”
The pandemic has also shown Charlene that organisations need to be more agile in their approach to work. “In terms of the operational set up, we have been able to work remotely, which is great for the staff. We have not travelled that much but continue to hire new staff, training them virtually. The restrictions however haven’t changed our future outlook and we look forward to the day when we can meet our colleagues face to face, but until then, we will make do with virtual coffee catch ups,” she said.
“For anyone considering relocation or investment in Donegal, my advice is to do it. To all those Donegal people that are working in other parts of the country and world, we want you home. We want your knowledge and experience and we want you to help us to continue to build Donegal as a great place to invest, live, work and play.”