October 8, 2008

Unaverage Soccer Mom

Karen Higgins-Carter ’92 is chief information officer at GE Asset Management

By Dan Edelen

“I’m just your average, suburban, minivan-driving, soccer mom,” says Karen Higgins-Carter ’92, senior vice president and chief information officer of GE Asset Management.

Maybe not average. Higgins-Carter is saluted in Wall Street & Technology magazine’s Gold Book for 2008, which singles out 15 of “the most innovative and successful technology executives in the industry.” She oversees the information resources that support her firm’s management of assets totaling $156 billion.

“My role is as a business leader with a specialty in technology, and our business is all about data,” she says. “The asset-management industry is research, portfolio analytics, trading, risk management, and investment strategies. Our product is money and returns, and information technology plays a very big role in enabling those returns. We have about three times the data of the Library of Congress.”

Higgins-Carter manages a team of more than 240 people working to ensure that the firm’s data drive client success and stay out of the hands of the wrong people. “I can’t be caught behind” in the never-ending battle to secure and maintain the integrity of corporate information and to keep abreast of tech trends both harmful and helpful, she says. “I try to spend the majority of my time ascertaining the business technology needs three to five years from now.”

But, since technology can’t stop an executive from choosing “password” for a password or leaving a notebook computer stuffed with data in an airport restroom, Higgins-Carter also spends time teaching others how to keep critical information secure today. “We can’t prevent smart people from doing stupid things if they aren’t aware of the basic principles of how to protect information.”

As an educator, engineer, prognosticator, and cop at GE Asset Management, she demonstrates the versatility she showed as an undergraduate who earned degrees in both mechanical engineering and economics and business. “Pursuing a liberal arts degree was a huge advantage in developing different ways of thinking,” says Higgins-Carter, who comes from a family of engineers, including her father, sister Amy Higgins Steenbock ’96, an uncle, and several cousins.

After Lafayette, she joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), then transitioned to GE’s consumer finance and capital services units. Last November, she was named to her current position. This summer, Wall Street & Technology asked her, What’s the next big thing?

“It will be really interesting to see how the demographics of the workplace change over the next couple of years,” she replied, “particularly as members of Generation Y come into the workforce, because they’re really the first generation that’s grown up with the current technology. I’m looking forward to seeing how their consumer experiences change their expectations of technology, both as employees and as customers.”

Meanwhile, two members of an even younger generation – Higgins-Carter’s son, Henry, 8, and daughter, Charlotte, 4 – are growing up in a household where the parents watch the big football game from opposite sides of the field. Her husband, Ron, also an engineer, is a Lehigh grad.

The kids’ allegiances in the rivalry? She’s mum.

Some information is best kept secret.

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