Back to News
3
Share this Article

Career wisdom from industry leaders

  • Publish Date: Posted 4 months ago
  • Author:by MERJE

​Our MERJE Meets series has been running for a number of years now. In it, we delve into the lives of senior professionals across a variety of the industries we work in, such as banking, insurance, utilities, debt management and more.

The CEOs, COOs, CROs, CCOs and other senior leaders that we speak to have decades of experience behind them, so we often ask them to share a snippet of their wisdom and advice. In this article we’ve gathered that wisdom, so read on to find out how to become a great Chief Compliance Officer, a good leader, how to succeed in financial services and much more.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

"Accountability. Accepting responsibility when things go wrong and giving credit for success where it’s due. Honestly, it’s as simple as that."

Charlie Michael, Chief People & Sustainability Officer, DF Capital

"Being a good listener and listening with the intent to understand, rather than to respond. Strong communications skills, sharing information in an open and honest way and being authentic are also needed, plus the ability to build trust and confidence.

"We believe in the strategy of recruiting people better than yourself, creating the right environment for them to work and then getting out of their way!

"We often say “every day is a school day” and it’s important for the whole team to understand that we are all learning, irrespective of our roles or how many years we have worked. That thirst for continuous learning and personal development benefits everyone in the team and the firm as a whole."

Karen Bexley & Anna Beaumont, Co-Founders, Bexley Beaumont

"For the sake of brevity, I would highlight 3 attributes. Firstly, surround yourself with the smartest people you can find and then listen, listen and listen some more. Second, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. Lastly and most importantly, be yourself and stay humble."

Nick Cherry, COO, Phillips & Cohen Associates Ltd

Has there been a certain moment or piece of advice that has led you to where you are today?

"Don’t be afraid to speak up. In any scenario you find yourself in. Whether it’s an idea, a reflection, a question, or a concern – just say it out loud. And in the event, if those around you stop listening, recognise that it might be time to move on."

Charlie Michael, Chief People & Sustainability Officer, DF Capital

"I vividly remember a team meeting with my very first manager at The Associates in 1996. I was 21, fresh from a year working in the US after graduating from university. My manager gave our team a talk about ‘forming habits’ and the necessity of deciding which behaviours you wanted to form into habits, then repeating them often enough to achieve that goal.

"Of course, I have made mistakes along the way, but I made a conscious decision that day to form and maintain positive habits and those behaviours have stood me in good stead throughout my career."

Nick Cherry, COO, Phillips & Cohen Associates Ltd

"It really was doing the MBA which prompted me to think a little deeper and step back and make some life and career choices."

Brendan Welsh, Interim CFO, Ainscough

"That would have to be the transition from OFT to FCA regulation for the credit reference agency I worked for. Without that development, I would likely have remained in the Legal team rather than branching off into the wonderful varied world of Risk and Risk Management."

Tom Sleight, CRO, Link Scheme Ltd

"It would have to be moving into risk and compliance during a time where there was a lot of change in the insurance broking industry. I really loved working in insurance but hadn’t found the right “fit” from a career perspective. At that time, I didn’t even fully appreciate that this career path would be achievable for myself, not having a legal or actuarial background. I was potentially going to go into underwriting, but the unknown entity that is risk and compliance was too much of a draw and here I am still!"

Briony Hovarth, CRO, The AA

What advice would you give to rising talent in your industry?

Risk Management, Insurance

"Take every opportunity you can to learn skills outside of risk and compliance, especially around business and strategy. To be effective in your role you really need to fully understand a business from a practical rather than theoretical level. Learn how to code, take courses in business strategy and broaden your skill-set outside of the risk and compliance box."

Briony Hovarth, CRO, The AA

Legal

"Stay on your own path. There is no right or wrong way for your career to develop. You may decide to go in-house, move to a different sector entirely using your transferable skills, join a city firm, join a high street firm, work on interim roles or even join a fee-share/consultancy model!

"These days, there are many options available to lawyers at all stages of their career and it’s important to explore them, know your options and, most importantly, to enjoy your journey. Karen and I took two different paths to get to where we are today."

Karen Bexley & Anna Beaumont, Co-Founders, Bexley Beaumont

Risk Management, Banking

"I’d encourage them to move around, either within an organisation or between different companies. Before I worked in banking, I spent seven years in consulting across utilities, transport, telcos and pharmaceuticals. I think a lot of the best ideas come about by taking something that works well in one sector and applying it to another."

Chris Blampey, Head of Risk Strategy, Chetwood Financial

Legal, Compliance & Risk Management, Financial Services

"Technical skills are really important but can only get you so far if you want to progress. You will need a good network and be required to find mentors who can give you some guidance. It’s the soft skills which will help you get to where you want to be so work on your communication, emotional intelligence and collaboration.

"I have worked for top-tier financial institutions, start-ups, broker dealers and now a private equity business and I’m still learning my craft, so embrace challenges and new things and always look to learn and improve. Relationships are very important and have served me well so be nice and stay humble. Keep it real essentially! Also focus on what you enjoy doing, chances are you will be happier doing it!"

Ehsan Haque, Global Head of Legal & Compliance, Hamilton Capital

Underwriting

"It’s a great industry to be part of. You get a bit of everything: economics, finance, law, IT etc. all in one. Have integrity, work hard and you will do well."

Clive Nathan, Chief Executive – Underwriting, Global Risk Partners

Risk Management, Payment Solutions

"Try to speak to people in a language they understand. In other words, avoid jargon. To many people, Risk is either seen as an impenetrable dark art or as a means of preventing a business doing what it wants to do. In my experience, people are generally surprised that Risk can be an enabler. Few senior Risk people I have met started out their careers with aspirations of becoming a professional in this arena. Many of them started in the business and progressed through a number of different roles.

"More recently, I see rising talent taking courses in Risk Management and therefore arriving steeped in theoretical expertise but with less hands-on experience of how businesses operate in practice. I would therefore encourage anyone starting their career to get as close to the first line as they can, while maintaining their independence. In my experience, the better you understand the day-to-day pressures in the first line, the more chance you have of providing appropriate and useful solutions."

Tom Sleight, CRO, Link Scheme Ltd

Financial Services

"Work hard, volunteer for everything and take a long-term view."

Ben Blackett-Ord, CEO & Founder, Bovill

Governance, Payment Solutions

"Be intentional in what you want from your career. Acknowledge that it might take some time but always react well to change. It’s the only thing that is certain."

Louise Johnston, CCO & MLRO, American Express

What wisdom would you share with someone whose long-term career goal is to be a…?

CEO

"I’d ask why. If it’s just to be a CEO, it’s a lot of responsibility just to hold the reins. The best CEOs arrive with a forward-thinking agenda and purpose and know how to work with others to fine tune and then deliver it. If that’s the aim, then great. So I’d just say: why do you want to hold the tiller? To lead well, you need to provide a direction you believe in, and you need to be able to take people with you. Otherwise it’s your ego that needs it and that doesn’t make for a good leader."

Laura Chappell, CEO, Brunel Pension Partnership

"Don’t stay in one role for too long. As CEO you need to be able to bring a broad range of previous experience in different environments to the position. Most colleagues you will be leading will be looking at short term internal issues. Your value will be the ability to look externally at what others have done in similar situations and strategically fit those findings to your current challenges. The more personal experience you have of different industries, cultures, countries and team styles, the more you can bring to the role."

Phil Andrew, CEO, StepChange Debt Charity

COO

"My advice to any aspiring leader would be, 'If you work hard enough, anything is possible'. I think this is true both personally and professionally, but you have to be prepared to work for what you want, and be ready to overcome setbacks when they happen."

Nick Cherry, COO, Phillips & Cohen Associates Ltd

Interim Professional

"Gain as much experience across as many sectors and companies as possible and work on building lasting relationships in your professional network. Take the time to seek advice from others who have already navigated this pathway."

Brendan Welsh, Interim CFO, Ainscough

If you could go back in time, what guidance would you give to your former self?

"Be more brave, take more risks, things usually turn out ok if you are resilient."

Laura Chappell, CEO, Brunel Pension Partnership

"Pick your industry carefully in your early career. I spent 7 years in the tobacco industry. This was an extraordinary time, working in one of the best run companies I have ever experienced. I lived in Asia and Russia during this time and learned so much. However, transferring across to the charity sector was much harder with this on my CV and I still have to ‘explain myself’ on a regular basis."

Phil Andrew, CEO, StepChange Debt Charity

"Focus on the things you can influence and make the most of every opportunity."

Chris Blampey, Head of Risk Strategy, Chetwood Financial

"Get an accounting qualification early on."

Clive Nathan, Chief Executive – Underwriting, Global Risk Partners

"Keep notes of all the good ideas and templates you have seen or created. You never know when they will come in handy again."

Brendan Welsh, Interim CFO, Ainscough

"Never put off delivering bad news or starting an unpleasant or difficult task."

Tom Sleight, CRO, Link Scheme Ltd

"Stay the course, trust your instincts, trust the MI, hire the best people you can afford and pay them well."

Ben Blackett-Ord, CEO & Founder, Bovill

"Don’t equate the success of others with you being a failure. Everyone has their own journey to go on. Just keep your eye on what you want to achieve and work towards your own goal."

Briony Hovarth, CRO, The AA

A big thank you again to everyone who has been involved in our MERJE Meets series so far.

If you’re a c-suite / executive level leader in your industry and you’d like to collaborate with us, get in touch with our marketing team: marketing@merje.com

If you would like to read the full Q&A articles with each of these individuals, check out the links below.

Charlie Michael, Chief People & Sustainability Officer, DF Capital

Karen Bexley & Anna Beaumont, Co-Founders, Bexley Beaumont

Laura Chappell, CEO, Brunel Pension Partnership

Nick Cherry, COO, Phillips & Cohen Associates Ltd

Phil Andrew, CEO, StepChange Debt Charity

Chris Blampey, Head of Risk Strategy, Chetwood Financial

Ehsan Haque, Global Head of Legal & Compliance, Hamilton Capital

Clive Nathan, Chief Executive – Underwriting, Global Risk Partners

Brendan Welsh, Interim CFO, Ainscough

Tom Sleight, CRO, Link Scheme Ltd

Ben Blackett-Ord, CEO & Founder, Bovill

Louise Johnston, CCO & MLRO, American Express

Briony Hovarth, CRO, The AA

Career details correct at time of MERJE Meets first publish date.