Jewellery Girls Q&A: Victoria McKay

V Holts

On plans make the Bourse more efficient, suited to today’s industry.

As part of our Jewellery Girls Rule issue for July, Professional Jeweller heard from 21 females leading their sector of the UK jewellery industry about the challenges of today’s business, making their mark and their inspirations. The London Diamond Bourse operations manager Victoria McKay discusses working in a male-dominated industry and reveals some of her plans to bring the Bourse up to date.

Professional Jeweller: Tell us about your experience of taking over a role in a largely male dominated sector of the jewellery industry…
Victoria McKay: I’ve never been conscious of being a woman in my career, I have been lucky enough to never have that obstacle put in my way. I’m pretty focused on where I want to be and if I did sense that not being a male was an issue, I’d likely work double as hard to prove my worth. It is correct to say that the London Diamond Bourse is male dominated however there are extremely successful women within the Bourse membership. It’s all about who has the required goods at the time they are needed. Commercial sense comes into effect first and foremost here. I have been exceptionally lucky that I have had the support of our Council of Management who between them have more than 400 years of diamond experience – some are from third and fourth generation diamond families. Our council is made up of nine males and one female so I acknowledge that it might seem male dominated but our lady member of the committee is herself a fourth generation diamond professional with expertise passed on over 250 years so when we thrash out issues at board level, I feel I’m in good company.

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PJ: Have you faced any challenges settling in to your role?
VM: My predecessor was in my role for more than 32 years and stepping into her shoes was fairly daunting at first. She was exceptionally well known in Hatton Garden and was well respected and thought of [in the industry]. I was nervous that our members wouldn’t take to a new person but I was wrong. I feel very accepted and comfortable here. It took me time to understand the needs of our members; we have a diverse membership and coupled with the fact that our Bourse is an exclusive institution, whose history, traditions and facilities make it unique in the UK I had a lot to learn. I come from a very revenue-driven industry and was lucky enough to have previously worked for a founding director and financial director, who trained me very well in all aspects of operational management so I have lots of ideas and processes to implement that I hope will make the Bourse run more efficiently. I think the biggest challenge to date has been understanding that all our members have different needs and learning how myself and my staff can best utilise our experience to help our members on a day to day basis. My job is made easier by the fact that our members subscribe to – and are bound by – a strict code of ethics and best business practice so I always have a bench mark to work from.

PJ: What are your plans for the London Diamond Bourse?
VM: I have always aspired to be in a niche role and have the opportunity to make a difference – every so often I stop myself to remember that I feel exceptionally privileged to be part of this industry and work in such a prestigious organisation. I genuinely feel that now is the time in my own career to put my stamp on something. There are so many plans in progress to add to the benefits of being a Bourse member but obviously I don’t want to announce our operational plan just yet. Initially, I concentrated on normal everyday issues; I’ve reorganised our accounts system to make our customers and suppliers experience more seamless, I’ve gone about reorganising our communications so that we are providing an up-to-date service. This has gone a long way to making us one of one of most cost-effective solution for industry professionals looking for more than just a serviced office.

The LDB is now actively networking to increase our industry presence and I am working very hard to make meaningful relationships with other industry organisations. Our president Harry Levy is well respected and under his leadership, we are going through a period of change – some changes are essential and some were needed to bring us up to date with our counterparts. All of this has been gearing up to the major task of marketing the Bourse on a larger scale. We are the industry’s secret – everyone knows we are here and it is considered very prestigious to be amongst our members.

In an unprecedented move I have been given permission to talk to the trade press and specifically Professional Jeweller which should go some way to proving that we are changing to adapt to modern times. The biggest challenge and goal is to increase membership without diluting the quality of our members and without changing what works for the LDB; it is a place where competitors are friends and they trade together respecting old traditions. Still the trading floor is a place where integrity and ethics are valued. It’s a really beautiful concept that works in our business.

PJ: Where do you see the diamond industry going in the next few years?
VM: Tradition dictates that diamond rings will always be a requirement and I think that this will remain strong. Manufacturing in the UK is no longer strong as jewellery is being manufactured elsewhere with the exception of bespoke jewellery, which I hope will be our niche. I hope the independent brands will take a strong foothold as I have seen some stunning non-generic pieces and I am aware of some up-and-coming designers that have superb designs. I think that the UK will always be a home for emerging talent and I hope that the LDB will be well placed to furnish designers of bespoke and fine, unusual jewellery with the key ingredients they need to enhance their collections.

PJ: Who do you consider inspiring female figures in the UK jewellery or luxury goods industries?
VM: Toni Lyn Judd who started the Women’s Jewellery Organisation in the USA is a huge inspiration to me because I would like to be part of emulating that success. WJO started as a humble organisation and have gone from strength to strength something I hope that the LDB will do during my tenure here. In the UK, Bec Astley Clarke must have a business plan I would envy; the way her company has connected with customers is very admirable and I suspect her following will be very loyal. I am in awe of how Hannah Martin is marketed and absolutely amazed by the drive of Tresor Paris’ Lillian Louski.

To read the Jewellery Girls Rule issue in full online, click here

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