We caught up with MBA alumna Toni Thorne and asked her about the triple jump, her year in finance at JP Morgan and where her MBA Star Award has taken her this past year.
From Barbados, one of the best and brightest MBA stars
Two days into her new job as Vice President – UK Funds Marketing at J P Morgan Chase & Co, Toni Thorne (MBA 2020) learnt that she was joint winner of the MBA Star Award for Women of the Future. But then she was never likely to slip into her new job unnoticed. Poets and Quants had already picked the Chevening and Cambridge Trust Scholar out as amongst the ‘100 best and Brightest MBAs’ of the 2020/21 MBA cohort.
Toni was intent on a pivot of career when she came to study at the Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS). Already a media star back in her home country of Barbados, where for eleven years she also ran her own consulting business, Toni knew the only master’s degree she was interested in was an MBA, “I believe it is very important at the outset to know why you are doing an MBA. You may not know what you are going to do afterwards, but you should know why you are there.”
Describing herself as a ‘bona fide island girl’, she was aware that her background was not typical amongst students, and challenges lay ahead, “I remember a guest lecturer saying only a certain per centage of students make the triple jump – a change of location, career sector and role. It must be my Caribbean spirit, but I immediately thought well buddy, I am not going to be in that other per cent.”
Toni’s grandmother and her stepmother (who went on to become the youngest judge in Barbados) both benefitted from Commonwealth Scholarships, one to study at Nottingham University and the latter at Trinity Hall Cambridge.
“Barbados is my heart, but I wanted an international experience. My mother and grandmother are both Barbadian educators and they were among the many women in my life who encouraged me to come to the UK to study. My stepmother championed Cambridge and these scholarships made it possible.
“From the outset I was determined to bring my very best, my fullest and most excellent self, to the MBA experience. My mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother – they all told me to always dress properly and treat everybody equally (and well) because you never know what is going to happen or who you are going to meet. So that’s always been my approach.”
Pivoting into global finance from a UK home
It is one that has stood her well. Fast forward to midway through her Cambridge MBA and Toni was filming a finance lecture on her phone. The talk was given by an alumnus Anthony Catachanas, who recalled his life story in finance and private equity. The speaker noticed Toni’s interest, they got talking and subsequently he introduced Toni to a contact at JP Morgan Chase & Co. Where, after the interview rounds, she was offered a job.
JP Morgan Chase & Co aims to be the most diverse financial institution in the world and Toni sits on the leadership committees for both the firm’s Black Organisation for Leadership Development and Women on The Move EMEA, “There is a huge range of ethnic and diversity initiatives underway here. I am very passionate about business and wanting to make the world a better place at the same time. This is what I did in Barbados when I juggled entrepreneurship and community development. I have found that if you work very hard, with good intentions, you can connect and find that there are very few doors that you can’t open, in time.”
Supporting diversity and empowering women
During her Cambridge MBA year, Toni especially appreciated the access she gained through the Cambridge Judge ecosystem, as well as that of the wider University, to inspiring individuals, “So many venture capitalists and private equity specialists came to talk to us at Cambridge Judge, and as well as the technical knowledge they passed on, there was a demystification of the whole process. These were people I could talk to. To achieve more diversity in business, more black women need to feel confident that they can manage their enterprises or work in the global financial community.”
A year into her new career in finance, Toni is now pursuing her Investment Management Certificate, loving living in the UK – based in London and relishing building new networks, “Through the Women of the Future Award in particular, a platform offered through her MBA year at Cambridge, I have been introduced to some amazing women. And I have found that just by being myself – and delivering – my name gets called up. But I continue to follow my rule of ‘be your best self to everyone you meet’.
Quite recently, she became one of the newest Board Directors of the Premier League Charitable Trust. No doubt, her MBA skills will be engaged in this role.
The judges of the MBA Star Women of the Future Awards noted that Toni demonstrated “charisma abounding, mind-blowing achievements and a passion for giving back” to her community as a catalyst for change. As a VP at JP Morgan Chase & Co following her MBA year, Toni’s approach remains the same.
“I had a magical time at Cambridge and achieved my aim of pivoting. I am now part of a world-class organisation which uses financial tools to empower millions. I work in finance, and I want to change people’s lives for the better.”