As part of an Impact Interview series, the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development sat down with Aisling Quirke, Partnerships Lead, Financial Services and Tech at The Global Fund, to discuss her key career learnings from the MBA, her views on the role of business as a force for good, and the role of the Wheeler Institute in informing students and the broader community about the potential of business in developing economies.
Navigating uncertainty with confidence is crucial for any career; particularly one in emerging markets
Aisling lists two reasons the LBS MBA experience was particularly pivotal for her career: first, was gaining the skills necessary to navigate uncertainty with confidence; second, the platform the School offered to connect with alumni and students. Beyond the hard skills learned in the classroom, Aisling states that learning to deviate from the well-trodden or expected path is a crucial skillset in both our professional and personal lives. Careers are rarely linear, and despite set goals and paths to achieve them, life gets in the way and we need to be able to forge new paths to reach our goals – what she terms navigating through uncertainty. Often, these new or unplanned paths can be more rewarding. Aisling spoke of her summer internship in Private Equity at Dr Mo Ibrahim’s Satya Capital as one such example: ending up in PE following unsuccessful investment banking interviews led her to work with the management team that established Celtel in Africa. This experience gave Aisling insight into the immense impact that a business can have for both customers – providing mobile connectivity to ~24M people on the Continent – and how value creation can be unlocked by taking an opportunity where others see only risk. Learning to continue despite adversity is imperative in social impact careers too – and Aisling opines that we need the impact mind-set embedded in all business practices. She used the example of the growth in ESG investing and its principles – stating that ESG transforms how capital is allocated, how businesses are run, how we assess businesses and how analysts review businesses – and all of this translates into increasing need for all stakeholders in the value chain to think about impact. Asking how we use these principles not just to mitigate risk, but rather to develop or implement sustainable growth strategies, is beneficial for business as a whole.
Business is inextricably linked to our experience as people – not just as consumers and employees
The role of business in society is increasingly multi-faceted and the extent to which a business can play – or chooses to play – a role – in society is ultimately linked to their ambition to pursue short-term gain or long term sustainability. In emerging markets, the role that businesses can play is a function of how they see unmet social needs – do they see these as constraints on or opportunities for business growth? Aisling believes that how businesses go about addressing this and building up their organisations can generate strong financial performance, whilst also having a direct impact on people’s lives. In her current role at the Global Fund, the world’s largest grant funder to health, Aisling develops strategic partnerships with the corporate sector to harness their sector expertise, technology and networks to support the Global Fund’s mission of ending TB, Aids and Malaria by 2030, as well as to strengthen health systems to manage these and newer pandemics, including COVID-19. In this role, she has witnessed first-hand how businesses are evolving their value proposition to recognise the wider role they can and need to play in the societies in which they operate, citing the example of MasterCard. . Fundamentally a technology company, MasterCard understands that long term, sustainable growth needs to be inclusive, and will be directly linked to its ability to develop digital platforms and solutions that provide underserved communities with access to essential services, thereby opening up pathways toward prosperity.. Aisling reminds us that developing markets are growth markets – their infrastructure is evolving, as are their consumer needs and aspirations – which makes them exciting and attractive destinations for new businesses and capital. As such, these markets present untapped potential – there are so many unmet social and economic needs that ultimately can translate into commercial opportunity. To unlock these, Aisling states that businesses need to forge a real relationship with the end consumer, comments that she sees branding and brand loyalty as being more important in developing markets than in developed economies. Lasting brand equity can only be built by forging an emotional connection with customers, and the best way to do this is to demonstrate that, as a brand, you are truly impacting customers’ lives. Celtell, now Bharti Airtel, is one such example.
The Wheeler Institute has put impact, and the potential role of business for good, at the heart of London Business School
The Wheeler Institute plays a critical role in leadership development today – we have seen the world demand an impact mind-set in everything, and Aisling opines that the Institute plays a role in embedding that mind-set into MBAs and other Executive Education programs. This supports the notion that social impact imperatives are not standalone, and that instead, these principles cross-cut traditional sectors like Finance, Strategy and Operations Management. The Institute also showcases what a career in social impact can look like, sharing examples of business that create and drive impact in numerous emerging markets. They also play an essential role as a convener, bringing together the brightest minds from academia, business and the corporate sector to solve unmet needs today. Aisling shared one example of her work with Wheeler in which they play a convening role between academia and private sector: in health, Global Fund is aiming to a) improve private sector funding, b) elevate the role of the private sector in health financing, and c) tap into ESG investment flows to create market based instruments which can raise funding for global health as a priority area – all of which require public and private cooperation.
Aisling Quirke (MBA 2008) is Partnerships Lead, Financial Services and Tech at The Global Fund. Aisling is an Intrapreneur with 20 years experience across Financial Services, FinTech, and Healthcare in business development, investment and public policy roles. She enjoys building partnerships, businesses, and teams, and is passionate about Customers, Patients, Leadership and driving Innovation to make a difference. She has a special interest in Africa and leveraging global networks and capital markets to align frontier investment, ESG and business development with the Continent’s opportunities around access to finance and health, and bridging the chasm between finance and health to build healthy societies for healthy economies.
The interview with Aisling Quirke is part of a series of interviews organised by the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development in collaboration with the Recruitment & Admissions Team at London Business School, highlighting the stories of some of our distinguished Alums that pursuit careers driven by impact and purpose. To see more interviews please follow the links below.
Victoria Henderson (MBA 2021) has three years’ experience in management consulting at Bain & Company, and a background in Law and Politics. She is an intern for the Wheeler Institute, contributing to the creation of content that amplifies the role of business in improving lives.