Justine Zwerling: entrepreneurial superwoman

Justine Zwerling empowers companies, women – and the State of Israel.

Justine Zwerling on the day of her interview with The Jerusalem Report in Jerusalem’s German Colony  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Justine Zwerling on the day of her interview with The Jerusalem Report in Jerusalem’s German Colony
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
There’s a saying that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. Justine Zwerling embodies that busy person who, in addition to a high-profile finance job, mentors other women and volunteers, and is devoted to her children.
Even her personal email signature shows her different roles: It says first “Proud Mum” and then “Future Women Role Model Yahoo Finance 2019.” This means she is included in “50 inspirational women... who are making a significant contribution to gender diversity at work,” according to Yahoo’s Top 50 Future Women Heroes.
After her personal details is a quotation from Winston Churchill, “You create your own universe as you go along.”
Zwerling is the head of primary markets for the London Stock Exchange and the founder of the Jewish Women’s Business Network. In her job for the stock exchange, she supports Israeli companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Italian Stock Exchange. She also hosts the Israeli Sovereign Bonds in London.
“Hundreds of Israeli companies have realized that England is a great place to do business,” Zwerling says in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Report. “We now have good food and no jet lag, she smiles. “As the most international exchange in the world, London offers companies broad visibility and unrivalled access to global investors. Our unique offering, including our renowned Main Market and growth market AIM, means that companies of all sizes and sectors can raise funds and continue to scale in London, as well as to complement their capital raising in Tel Aviv with the dual listing route. Lower cost for listing and lower litigation risk.”
Zwerling grew up in North London, and attended the University of Bath. During a summer break, she came to Israel to volunteer on Kibbutz Kfar Horesh near Nazareth for four months. She had hoped to work in the orchards picking fruit, but that was not to be.
“They took one look at my see-through appearance and said I would be burned to pieces so they sent me to the kitchen,” she says.
There, she says, the kitchen manager “berated” her for her supposedly wealthy background with insults like,”Your father is a professor. You probably never wore the same socks twice.”
In fact, she says, she is from a solidly middle-class background. Her father was a professor of economics and statistics, and her mother began as a secretary in a company that sold microscopes.
As an aside, she describes her mother. “My mother is my angel, she is the most incredible woman,” she says. “She started as a secretary and pivoted herself and eventually became the CO-CEO of the company.”
Her mother’s success later became a model for her on what women can achieve, and how the goal is to help other women.
But back to the kibbutz. She first worked in the kitchen cutting vegetables, peeling eggs and loading the dishwasher.
“Then I was upgraded to work in the laundry and I learned to iron,” she says. “Since then I don’t iron at all,” she adds with a laugh.
She finished her degree and came to Israel to study Middle Eastern history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but during her studies her brother died in a tragic car accident in France, and she returned to England for a year and a half.
“One of my brothers was killed 24 years ago, and I miss him very much,” she says. “He gives me a lot of strength in what I do.”
While a student, she worked as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant, Amigos, in downtown Jerusalem. She befriended another young waiter, and his family became her adopted Israeli family. She is still in close touch with them daily.
“I am very blessed,” she says. “I have an Israeli brother, two sisters and an Israeli Mom as well as my magnificent family.”
She says that even as a young child, she knew that she wanted to live in Israel.
“This will sound like Jerusalem Syndrome, but I knew from the age of nine that I needed to be here,” she says.
Once she came back to Israel, she started working in a public relations firm. While in England, she worked for the BBC. She then got a job working for the Joint Distribution Committee helping Jews from Russia and the Ukraine.
She then began working for a company called Amin, which aimed to get unemployed Israelis upskilled and back to work. She says in a five-year-period the company found jobs for 7,000 Israelis, many of them over 50. She says she learned that “emotional intelligence” is more important than a degree.
About eight years ago, she began working for the British government on supporting  trade and investment between the UK and Israel, and encouraging Israelis to set up operations in the UK. For the past four years, she has been the representative in Israel for both the London Stock Exchange and the Italian stock exchange.
Zwerling is married to an American who works in security and they have two daughters. “They are gorgeous, fluffy, smiley girls,” she says, scrolling through her phone to find photos. “Jessica is 11, and Gabriella is nine going on 16.”
Zwerling also lights up when she talks about one of her volunteer projects called WIN, the Women’s Inspired Network. It was founded in 2015 by Diane Côté, who is the Chief Risk Officer of the London Stock Exchange Group, and was named by the Financial News in London as one of the 100 most influential women in finance in 2019.
“Our Women’s Network supports us to be creative and to be catalysts for others globally who need career support and networks,” Zwerling says. “We share ideas, create communities, launch new projects and promote each other, with a vision to stimulate and inspire the next generation of women in senior roles and promote further diversity.”
Zwerling has only praise for Côté, the founder of WIN.
“Diane is such an important role model for me,” she says. “She is the epitome of grace and determination with a wonderful smile.”
There are chapters of WIN all over the world including Sri Lanka, Israel, Italy, the UK and the US. Under the same framework is the Jewish Women’s Business Network, which has hundreds of members in the UK, South Africa, Gibraltar, the US and Israel.
The group started in Zwerling’s garden with about 25 women who work in business, tech, finance, PR and non-profits. Today there are 350 women from around the globe.
Last year, they organized an event in London at which they opened the London Stock Exchange and shared panels and insights. One of the members, Keren Katz, works at Microsoft in NY in advertising technology.
“She is a female professional who encompasses all of life,” Katz says about Zwerling. “For example, she’s told me all about her kids. I think it’s a positive trait of women in the work force that they can bring their whole self to work as they are juggling different lives. Women like her are paving the way.”
She also says that there is a stereotype that women can be protective of their own positions, and afraid to help other women achieve more. Zwerling is the opposite of this, she says, encouraging other women to achieve their goals and applauding their success.
For International Women’s Day, Zwerling helped organize an event at the London Stock Exchange on Impostor Syndrome. One of the partners Joy Burnford is an advocate for gender equality in the workplace and the founder of My Confidence Matters, an organization that provides coaching and leadership programs for women.
“Justine has a warm heart and an enviable network of international connections that she constantly and generously nurtures,” Burnford says. “She is always there at the end of a WhatsApp message when I’m personally lacking in confidence and she reminds me that ‘I can do it.’”
She also volunteers with Vibe Israel, an organization that aims to rebrand the country by focusing on the good life in Israel. A few years ago Vibe Israel arranged a visit to Israel by five famous dogs (and their owners), including one who models for Fendi. Last year, the founder Joanna Landau launched a “country branding” campaign for Israel, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
“Your work at Vibe Israel, alongside other governmental and nongovernmental organizations, showcases the beautiful aspects of Israel’s contributions, its diverse society and rich history,” President Reuven Rivlin said at the launch on February 20, 2019.
“The secret of Israel’s charm is not just in it being a Start-Up Nation, but first and foremost in it being a People’s Nation, a fascinating human mosaic that connects between innovation and traditions, East and West. Thank you for all you are doing to represent us and help make the Israeli experience accessible to people around the world. Continue your blessed work!”
Zwerling sees her future in helping many more companies – and many more women – achieve their goals. She describes one woman from her network who was unemployed and getting depressed.
“I encouraged her to volunteer. Giving back both empowered and energized her. She quickly found a job,” she says. “I wish to shine a light on all of the good things in Israel.”