Back Story: Zoë Cousens

Zoë Cousens MCSI, owner of Castellet Consulting, a member of the CISI’s UAE National Advisory Board and Guernsey Finance’s Middle East representative, discusses raising awareness of gender-related issues, the value of her CISI membership and her love of working in the UAE
by Jake Matthews

Zoë Cousens MCSI was one of the first women to work at the London Stock Exchange (LSE). It was a junior role as a ‘blue button’, that required her to run between the pitches of the jobbers who decided the prices of stocks. She had to get the best deal for her broker’s clients without giving away if she was a buyer or a seller, then report back to the broker, who would speak with his client before calling her back and sending her back again to the jobber with the best price to conclude the deal with one of her senior colleagues. This process could take longer than an hour.  

“How times have changed. Today this would take a nanosecond on a dealing platform,” she jokes. It’s not just the technology that has changed. “Awareness of gender-related issues has certainly improved. However, changing attitudes is a much more complex matter and progress in this respect is slow – not only in financial services but all professions; the sporting world, for example.” 

Zoë is now based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), having moved there in 2015 to establish her own independent fiduciary investment service company, Castellet Consulting. Over 30 years on from her time at the LSE, she’s now about to launch an investment club for women. She reflects: “Since relocating to the UAE, I have been especially struck by the eagerness of the women I have met to learn more about money and to take control of their finances. By providing a series of educational presentations and workshops, I aim to give them some ideas on how to plan for the future and make their money work for them.”  

The UAE Government is particularly supportive of women in business and has made gender parity a priority in the region. In 2008, the Dubai Women Establishment was founded to support women-empowering workplace policies. Seven years later, the Gender Balance Council was set up with the intention of enhancing women’s role in the UAE’s development, and that October, the first Gulf-based UN Women Liaison Office opened in Abu Dhabi. Zoë said: "I am delighted to be working with some very impressive young women entrepreneurs."
Going it aloneZoë acknowledges that establishing one’s own company may not be for everyone. “For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, the opportunity to forge their own path and see their ideas brought to fruition is immensely rewarding. However, some people find that their personality and temperament may be better suited to the world of employment.”

She warns that “the grass isn’t always greener,” and that working for oneself can lead to periods of isolation, disappointment and frustration. “It can require a certain tenacity, which can be exhausting. The security and social contact offered by employment should not be underestimated; there are many considerations to bear in mind before going it alone.”   

Sandwiched between the LSE and the UAE was a sector-spanning spell in Guernsey, where she worked as an investment manager and was a non-executive director for a wealth management company (see table). 

Zoë Cousens’ sector-spanning roles in Guernsey


Investment manager

Baring Asset Management


Non-executive director

DeaconCapital Holding


Investment consultant

Collas Crill Trust


Non-executive director

DeaconCapital (Dubai)


Independent consultant

Guernsey Financial Services Commission

She is the first Middle East representative for Guernsey Finance, and has become a regular speaker at regional events such as STEP Arabia and CBRE Women in Business. 

Recent professional awards include the WealthBriefing GCC Region 2017 Women in Wealth Management Editor’s Prize and the CMO Asia GCC’s Women Leadership Award. 

When asked about her boardroom experience, Zoë says: “To help to ensure that I am able to make a valuable and valid contribution to the organisation, I find it useful, at first, to take time to watch, listen and learn. Every group has different dynamics and it is important to be clear about how everyone can work together towards the same objective.”  

She says living in Guernsey is partly why she entered financial services in the first place. “It offers a supportive environment for young people to join the industry and train to a high standard.” These two pillars are reflected in her future ambitions and values as a professional. 
The value of the CISI worldwideRegardless of where she is worldwide, her CISI qualifications are well respected. “They are an essential addition to the CV of anyone working in the financial services sector.” In Guernsey, the CISI’s educational conferences and networking events are of a “very high” standard. Similarly in Dubai, the regular CPD events and the promotion of CISI qualifications throughout the Middle East have achieved “enormous success” in the region. 

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Published: 29 Nov 2017
  • Features
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