CMO Chats with Karen Hopkins, Global CMO of EY

Ortus Chats


Global CMO | EY

Karen Hopkins, EY‘s Global CMO, talks to The Ortus Club’s Hannah Hodkinson about importance of diversity in experience as well the need to take ownership of one’s career path.

To watch Karen’s interview, you can subscribe to our Ortus Chats interview series on YouTube. You can also listen to the interview on Spotify, or pour yourself a cup of coffee and read the full interview below.

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How did you end up becoming Global CMO?

I’ve been with EY now for around 25 years. I’m currently the Global Chief Marketing Officer. My title is the EY Brand, Marketing, Communications Leader within the firm, and I’ve had a great career. I started back in 1991 in the Perth office in Western Australia as a marketing coordinator. Through an amazing range of opportunities, I’ve had a chance to work in Perth, Sydney, and Hong Kong, and this is my second stint in London.

I’ve really enjoyed working in Marketing, but I’ve also worked in Operations roles. At one point, I was the Chief of Staff for the CEO of the Oceania business. I worked in our transactions business, which has led to a wide range of experience. Particularly, it was important to have experience in Asia-Pacific, working in Hong Kong, a fast-growing region, considering both the culture and the opportunities. That was also a very important factor in my being appointed to my current role.

One of the key things is just being open to taking new opportunities. Certainly, having some mobility means that you really expand your networks, relationships, understanding of different cultures, particularly as we’re a professional services organisation at EY, and knowledge about clients in the marketplace.

Tell us a bit more about EY and what you actually do.

EY is a global professional services organisation. Across 150 countries, we have around 300,000 people, and we help organisations assure, grow, operate, and transform their businesses and organisations.

What’s one piece of career advice you’ve received as a marketing leader that’s been particularly valuable to you?

This is probably the most important thing that someone’s said to me. ‘Be the CEO of your own career.’ What they meant by that was that no one is going to map your career out for you. You need to create your own opportunities. When you’re doing your goal-setting or having a performance review discussion with your leader or the people that you’re working with, be very open about the things that you’d like to do in the future.

I do come across a lot of people in my team that don’t share that they’d like to move to another country or that they’d like to have a chance to work on a certain project or with a certain person. If you’re open about that, then those opportunities can come forward. Looking at the learning and growing opportunities that you need and making contacts and connections help you get to where you want to go a lot more quickly.

“‘Be the CEO of your own career.’ What they meant by that was that no one is going to map your career out for you. You need to create your own opportunities.”

2020 was a tough year for anything event-related. As a result, do you feel you had fewer opportunities to market your product?

I think that it’s not fewer. It’s been different opportunities. Certainly, people, business, and a lot of the marketing that we do is event-related and is bringing people together to build relationships and share information. That has completely flipped to being virtual.

On the challenging side, we’re relying on new technologies, and we’re having to think about how our content is created and formatted and what that end experience is. That’s been a lot more work and is very time-consuming. I think most marketers would say it’s quite risky. We’re using new platforms, and there are outages. There have been lots of examples of people having had amazing meetings that haven’t started for 15 to 20 minutes because the tech’s gone down.

On the positive side, we’ve had the chance to do some new things and innovate, which is always fantastic in marketing. One example of the change that’s been a great opportunity is our World Entrepreneur of The Year Program. We’d normally have a reasonably intimate meeting, bringing people together. This time, we’ve worked together with a media partner, CNBC Catalyst, and broadcasted that event, which means we’ve had much greater reach and connection. We’ve also had great content that we’ve been able to use following that virtual meeting. There are many other things that are coming out, which are the upside of the changes that are happening.

What does the future events landscape look like? Are virtual events here to stay?

Virtual events are definitely here to stay. We will definitely move back to having some physical event component and a combination, as well—the digi-physical event, where you’re bringing those two things together into one format for a very engaging experience. I can’t see physical events disappearing. People do have a natural need to connect, and building relationships with new contacts is always a lot easier when you’ve met someone in person as opposed to virtually.

If you could describe 2020 in one word, what would it be?


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