Portrait of Caroline Boateng

From an economics degree to leading strategy and sustainability

12 July 2022
How does an economics degree fit in a bank? In more ways that you think.
Caroline Boateng is a Commonwealth Bank senior strategy manager and economics grad making customer-centred design come first.

For many, the idea of an economics grad powering a banking extraordinaire is easy to imagine. For Caroline Boateng, there are a few combinations that make more sense.

“Economics is a social science that’s all about people, their behaviour and the outcomes that ensue,” she explains. “Some people may see it as theoretical and impractical, but its concepts are fundamental to the world as we know it.”

Initially hailing from Ghana, Caroline migrated to Australia with her family as a toddler, and it was here that she honed a love of the subject matter.

“Economics was by far my favourite subject in high school. It helped me understand the real world around me and it genuinely sparked my interest,” she says.

I’ve always seen the University of Sydney as the ultimate place to study, and so my degree was a dream come true.

Bridging economics and sustainability

Working at a bank might not have been the most straightforward career path for Caroline, but it was an easy choice when the opportunity came along.

“I had reconnected with an old friend from uni who was working at CommBank and loved it! He piqued my interest in the organisation and motivated me to apply,” she remembers. “My process included an interview about my experience, a consulting-style case study, and a final interview with a senior leader. It’s been five years and I haven’t looked back!”

“I work with senior leaders to define and deliver the strategic roadmap for my division at CommBank,” she says. “My current role is focused on Technology Transformation, looking into ways we can leverage best-in-class technology to uplift customer experience, employee experience, and reduce risk in the business.”

Driven by a philosophy of continuous improvement – that is, doing current things better – Caroline revels in rethinking how things are done.

“My current role in strategy and transformation is all about challenging the status quo and delivering change that improves outcomes for our customers and people,” she says.

Each day I see how my strategies and projects change outcomes and experiences for real people, and I absolutely love it!

Leading a social enterprise for good

The bright and talented economics grad also manages a start-up, Created by Culture, founded on the concept of sustainable jewellery.

Collaborating with her family in Ghana, the entrepreneur produced a unique and sustainable way to tackle waste disposal in West Africa – recycling glass waste to create jewellery using traditional Ghanian techniques.

“Some of the concepts I learned at university were the driving force behind my business,” she explains.

In economics, we learnt about the power of fair, ethical employment as a long-term solution to economic empowerment and combatting poverty, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Hands holding a pair of earings

An economics degree from the school of life

When it comes to balancing her life as a strategy manager and social entrepreneur, Caroline often draws on her learnings from her time at the university.

“In economics, making one choice often means losing another, and this is particularly pertinent when defining corporate strategy,” she says. “Organisations have limited funds, time, and people, and so the best strategies need to consider all the options available and present what is optimal."

My Economics degree has been helpful in many traditional ways, but one unexpected way is how it has helped me understand tradeoffs.

As a multi-faceted grad, Caroline is keen on encouraging those thinking about exploring economics and how to meld these ideas into their careers.

“You might not understand new concepts at first, but you are not alone and you will persevere,” she shares. “Seek support from others, create a plan, invest the time, and you will eventually succeed.”

Don’t give up! Persistence pays off and challenges can be overcome.

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