True job satisfaction at board level
Lisa Chan is a seasoned financial expert and a specialist in risk management. Using skills gained from an international career in corporate and investment banking, Lisa is now helping to accelerate kidney research – a cause close to her heart.
Lisa became a trustee for Kidney Research UK in 2020, after being alerted to the voluntary role by the international corporate network Women on Boards. Already a supporter of the charity, due to her late mother’s chronic kidney disease, Lisa jumped at the opportunity to do more.
I was really excited when I heard about the role,” says Lisa, who is now retired and lives in London with her husband and daughter.
“When I was working, I was only really able to contribute money to the charity but now I can give my time and get much more involved. It’s really satisfying because, as a trustee, you can support, advise and interact and become a part of what’s going on.”
Lisa shares the charity’s determination to accelerate research and is especially interested in projects that strive to improve quality of life for patients and those that seek to tackle health inequalities.
“I don’t think people realise the true impact of kidney disease. There is no cure and patients may have to endure decades of treatment which can stop you living a normal life,” says Lisa.
“Mum was a kidney patient for 30 years of her life and she went through the full range of treatments for her kidney failure. She started off on peritoneal dialysis then went onto haemodialysis and then she had a kidney transplant. But her new kidney only lasted around eight years and then she had to go back onto haemodialysis.
“My high school and university years involved taking Mum to hospital three times a week and, as a family, we would take turns to be with her for the first and last hours of each session. The day after each session she was always very weak. Her diet and fluid intake were restricted and her dependence on dialysis also made it very tricky to travel. It curtailed her freedom and changed her whole life.”
Motivation to support
Lisa’s mum sadly died of kidney failure in 2007. Her resilience throughout the many challenges of her illness motivated Lisa to support Kidney Research UK.
“Mum endured so much throughout her illness so I wanted to do something to help change things for other kidney patients – to help find ways to prevent or slow down their disease progression and to rapidly improve their quality of life,” says Lisa.
“I wish Mum were still alive today because I am really excited by the progress being made in our understanding of kidney disease. Had we known these things 30 years ago her quality of life would have been so much better.
“I think the charity is making great efforts to increase awareness of the disease and bring together more stakeholders to persuade others that kidney disease needs more attention.
“If you consider the health economics of kidney disease, it makes financial sense to spend money on disease prevention and research rather than relying on costly dialysis that may be required for decades. I read in one research paper that the amount of money the NHS spends on dialysis is far more than what it spent on cancer, diabetes and heart treatments combined. So what we’re trying to do is to raise awareness, not just amongst people who want to fund research but also with bodies like the NHS and the Government too.”
Volunteering as a trustee
Lisa spends around 30 days a year volunteering as a trustee. Her main activities include chairing the Finance and Risk and the Renumeration sub committees, attending full board meetings, reading approved grant submissions, assessing new projects for potential risks and recommending legal protections where appropriate.
With an extensive career in risk management, which included senior posts at MUFG Bank, Morgan Stanley and the Swire Group, Lisa is delighted to be able to use her financial knowledge and expertise to support the charity.
“It’s a very natural progression from the work I was doing before, I have simply flipped from the one that is ‘doing’ the work to the one that is ‘reviewing’ the work and offering advice. It’s really interesting to see both sides,” says Lisa.
Lisa warns that external factors, such as rising inflation, recession and international instability, will undoubtedly pose a threat to Kidney Research UK’s increased ambitions, but she believes that the charity has a means to succeed.
“At a time when we want to grow and accelerate research, we are facing macro-economic and geopolitical conditions that could hamper our ambition of we don’t manage it well. So we will have to steer very carefully.
“But I believe the charity has a key advantage – its people. All have a very common goal and they all work together to achieve that goal and that is very precious. That really is the secret ingredient and I believe that we will succeed because of that.
“It is an honour to be a trustee and it is very rewarding to be able to offer ideas, advice and support that can make an impact. It’s different from working for a company where your main goal is usually just to make more money. What we are trying to do is to make people’s lives better – and you can’t put a dollar sign next to that.”