Ad Centrum Latin: to the centre

The COO centre of debate, learning and promotion for diversity, equity and inclusion for the International COO Community (iCOOC)

Ad Centrum: Armstrong Wolfe’s worldwide COO DE&I initiative

The foundations for Ad Centrum were laid in 2016 when Women in the COO Community (WCOOC) was established.

Building on WCOOC’s success and impact, Ad Centrum will extend the reach and influence of the International COO Community (iCOOC) to give worldwide support and thought leadership within DE&I, complementing established programmes already working to address embedded inequalities.

The Ad Centrum Chair and Vice Chair will be engaged, challenged and supported by a council of eighteen buy and sell side global COOs, WCOOC’s Chair and Vice Chair will similarly be supported by a dedicated steering group for North America, Europe and APAC, each hosting six regional COOs.

Ad Centrum and WCOOC


Ad Centrum (Latin: to the centre) is the COO centre of debate, learning and promotion for diversity, equity, and inclusion for the International COO Community (iCOOC) run by Armstrong Wolfe.

  • Whilst the law is often in place to protect, Ad Centrum exists to promote and to encourage action.
  • We support equality of opportunity and representation and diversity of thought, regardless of age, gender, gender reassignment, disability, race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, socio-economic background, religion, or belief.
  • In countries where the law does not protect against all forms of discrimination, we promote the equitable treatment of everyone and believe in change through enlightenment.

The COO and DE&I

Ad Centrum’s perspectives and challenge will be provided by the COO, mandated to execute corporate strategy, positioned at the centre of the business and collectively at the heart of the industry.

From this privileged position the COO community can draw on their experiences to demonstrate varied perspectives that helps generate better ideas and outcomes to meet and solve the challenges of a changing and increasingly complex world.

COOs can demonstrate how diversity and inclusion have a positive impact on business, innovation, its products, and services, helping better serve clients, employees, and the worldwide economic community.

They grasp the business case for DE&I but also understand it is not yet empirically proven, although it continues to strengthen. What they understand is more compelling is the moral and ethical case for DE&I.


DE&I are central to Armstrong Wolfe’s mission:

To be the world’s COO centre for debate, information exchange, development of solutions, education, and learning to help address market wide, non-proprietary challenges.

Ad Centrum unites the COO community’s energy, passion, and knowledge within DE&I. It brings this sphere of influence onto a centralised platform with a common purpose, committed to making a sustainable impact on the financial services industry.

Through this participation Ad Centrum will be a driver of change. Its content will support and challenge the emerging and established narratives on the benefits of DE&I and determine the best way forward to realise equality of opportunity and representation for all.

Ad Centrum works with iCOOC membership, alliance partners, industry bodies and the regulators in pursuit to make financial services the career destination of equal opportunity for all. It will furthermore inspire tomorrow’s leadership into pursuing a career within business management, thus ensuring the COO community will continue to be a driving force in the quest of equality and excellence.

The People Matrix

In 2024 Ad Centrum will investigate the inter-connectivity of people related challenges to DE&I

• Is the matrix a non-related group of people related challenges?

• How can you connect different parts of the matrix to solve the whole?

Thought Leadership

  • The knowledge and expertise of Ad Centrum council members is critical:
  • Acting as a qualified and reliable source of DE&I insight and information.
  • Using the visibility of the COO position across the industry to promote DE&I debate.
  • Establishing credibility and a COO voice with a shared DE&I purpose.
  • Encouraging COOs to seek out DE&I developmental opportunities.
  • Encouraging innovative thinking to challenge the norm.
  • Ad Centrum will invite iCOOC members to debate, to participate in working group discussions, be interviewed and complete surveys to harness opinion and data which will be used to shape and provide content.

The outcome of this enterprise is to generate and disseminate the COO community’s views and expertise in DE&I as a specified field and topic, to provide thought leadership. 

Organisational Structure and Governance

Ad Centrum’s Chair is Laura Ahto (former EMEA & APAC CEO, BNY Mellon), supported by Vice Chair Georgina Philippou (former FCA COO), working with a member council of global COOs, honorary members and alliance partners providing industry expertise and insights.

Women in the COO Community’s (WCOOC) Chair is Emma Prophet (Group Head of Operations at TP ICAP. The Secretariat is provided by Maurice Evlyn-Bufton (CEO, Armstrong Wolfe). Laura is US based, whilst Georgina, Emma and Maurice are in the UK.

Honorary members are industry professionals that have been long term advocates and supporters of Armstrong Wolfe, with alliance partners invited to provide sector knowledge.

Through virtual and face to face forums, symposiums and surveys, Ad Centrum engages and speaks to a worldwide audience of thousands. Its annual programme is provided exclusively to the membership of iCOOC, from entry level to CEO.

Appointments are annual, invited from iCOOC’s global membership, representing Financial Markets, Banking and Asset Management.


Laura Ahto

Former CEO EMEA/APAC and Global COO Asset Servicing, BNY Mellon, NYC


Laura Ahto is the Global Chief Operating Officer for BNY Mellon’s Asset Servicing Business. Prior to being named to this position in January 2018, she served as President and Chief Executive Officer of BNY Mellon’s European Bank, The Bank of New York Mellon SA/NV, and as Chief Operating Officer of Investment Services, German Speaking and CEE Region, at BNY Mellon in Frankfurt, Germany.

Laura is a member of the Asset Servicing Executive Team, and the Asset Servicing Leadership Team.

Laura has held various Executive Leadership positions in Operations, Technology, Change Management and Provider Management in the Investment Services (including global custody, global fund services, offshore fund administration, performance analytics) and Asset Management (including trading, operations, funds and compliance) business segments.

Prior to joining BNY Mellon in 2012, Laura was Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Head of Operations and Technology at Baring Asset Management in London. She joined Barings following seven years with PIMCO Europe in London, where she was Senior Vice President, Head of Operations and Administration and European Funds. Prior to joining PIMCO, Laura was a Managing Director at Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust Company and responsible for various Operations and Client functions in New York, Asia, Australia, the UK and Europe.

Laura holds a BA in Economics from Ursinus College and an MBA from Cornell University.

“I am thrilled to once again be involved in Armstrong Wolfe’s initiatives aimed at improving business and industry engagement in DE&I. Ad Centrum is an exciting, natural evolution from Women in the COO Community and its very successful focus on advancing gender diversity in Financial Services. Ad Centrum’s focus on a broader DE&I agenda will support inclusiveness of talent of all backgrounds and abilities through engagement of the very strong, diverse and engaged Armstrong Wolfe COO community.”

Vice Chair

Georgina Philippou

Former FCA COO and FCA Senior Adviser Equality


Georgina started her working life as a researcher in a major accountancy firm before moving on to become an investment analyst for an institutional client stock broker and then a major investment bank.

Georgina’s career in financial services regulation began in 1992 when she joined the Securities and Investments Board (one of the FCA’s predecessor organisations) specialising in investigations, particularly of unauthorised business. She rose to FCA Acting Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight in 2014 and she has extensive enforcement experience across all areas of financial services, including dispute resolution through settlement and mediation, involving a range of financial services firms.

Georgina chaired the International Organisation of Securities Commissions’ (IOSCO) Committee on Enforcement and the Exchange of Information and its Screening Group, which assesses applications to sign the Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MMoU) between 2008 and 2016. Her committees delivered IOSCO’s Credible Deterrence report and the new Enhanced MMoU.

Georgina became the FCA’s Chief Operating Officer in November 2015 and held the position for about five years. As COO Georgina chaired the FCA’s Executive Diversity Committee, its Executive Operations Committee and the Public Sector Equality Duty working group. She led the organisation’s move to cloud based technology and the operational response to the covid pandemic.

Georgina became the FCA’s Senior Adviser on the Public Sector Equality Duty in January 2021 and helped drive the FCA’s proposals for greater DEI across the financial services industry. During this time, she was a member of the City of London Social Mobility Task Force and helped with the creation of Progress Together, the new financial services social mobility membership body.

Georgina retired from regulation in 2022, after almost exactly thirty years. Georgina became a member of the Financial Reporting Council’s independent Tribunal in January 2023 and is now building a portfolio career.

Georgina is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment. Georgina is passionate about the arts and she chaired the Stratford Arts Trust, which delivered an inclusive and accessible arts programme to East London and beyond, between 2019 and 2021.

“I am delighted to be working with the AW team, and to be able to harness the power of the AW membership, to launch this important and exciting new initiative. Having started my career in stockbroking in the 80’s, and risen to COO and then Senior Adviser for Equality, I am familiar with the joys and challenges of building diverse and inclusive work forces, and the benefits that can bring in terms of productivity and engagement. On top of that, I come from an immigrant working class background, so I am able to bring my personal lived experience into the mix. I firmly believe that COOs, being at the centre of their organisations, are in a unique position to bring about a step change in diversity in their firms and, working collectively, their sectors.”

Global Chair

Emma Prophet

Group Head of Operations TP ICAP


Emma Prophet is Group Head of Operations at TP ICAP and their EMEA Business Sponsor for Diversity and Inclusion Network groups.  Emma joined TP ICAP following 15 years at Morgan Stanley, where she was a Managing Director and held various leadership roles across Clearing, Data and Securities Operations based in London, Glasgow, Singapore and New York.

 Prior to her time at Morgan Stanley, Emma started as a consultant working with various Financial Services firms and then spent 5 years as Project Manager delivering cross-functional change at Barclays Capital.

“WCOOC is in a unique position in the market. We have access to very senior experts, who are keen to give back to the community and can help us all to continue to develop our skills.”


Maurice Evlyn-Bufton

CEO, Armstrong Wolfe


Maurice has over 25 years’ experience in financial services within advisory, executive search and as an industry speaker. He is CEO and owner-manager of Armstrong Wolfe, established in 2012 to support the Chief Operating Officer and business management communities.

In response to the COVID19 pandemic, in 2020 he established the International COO Community (iCOOC), and in 2021 it provided over 150 on-line forums to support the COOs of Markets, Banking and Asset Management as they sought to navigate their businesses through the pandemic. This confirmed Armstrong Wolfe as the focal point for the worldwide COO community.

Maurice is passionate about supporting the underrepresented and under-privileged, with his company supporting the global effort to address inequalities and racial injustice through Ad Centrum (Latin, to the centre) and Women in the COO Community (WCOOC).

An avid writer, he is the principal contributor to the quarterly COO Magazine and has published 2 books about the COO: in 2017, No Place to Hide The role of the banking COO in the new regular era and in 2021, To Catch a Thief The evolution of the Chief Control Officer.

Maurice is further committed to his charitable foundation ( and in 2018, sponsored by the global COO community, published his 3rd book, Donkey Mail and Bully Beef (The art of survival). This book captures the memories of the soldiers and fellow officers he served with on UN service with the British Army as a Captain in the former Yugoslavia in 1994 – 1995. All proceeds from Maurice’s books are donated to his charity, funds going to the rebuilding of the primary school in the town of Gorazde in memory of 4 comrades lost from his battalion on their operational tour to central Bosnia. In 2023 the charitable funds raised from the COO community to support his charity had exceeded GBP£100,000.

He is married to Joanna, with 4 boys, living in a homestead full of animals in Gloucestershire, England, U.K.

“We are privileged and delighted to have Laura, Georgina and Emma chairing and leading Armstrong Wolfe’s commitment to fostering debate, innovation, thought and a call to action in this most important area of responsibility for Chief Operating Officers.”

Armstrong Wolfe Forums & Events 2024

In 2024 we will provide over 100 events for our membership.

These events will be on-line symposiums, forums, and cluster calls, with over 60% of our activities in-person.

We strongly believe that whilst the opportunity to meet on-line is now a very important part of any business activity and has enabled us to bring our worldwide community together in real-time for meaningful debate, that in-person events are the bedrock of our community’s ability to truly engage.

Email us direct or get in touch using our Contact Form for further information.

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