I am a Senior Lawyer at Aviva Investors, the asset management arm of Aviva Plc. I joined Aviva Investors from Aviva Plc in 2008 and until recently was the only corporate and commercial lawyer in the asset management legal team, which has meant a varied and challenging workload requiring innovation in approaching issues.
With a global remit, my primary goal is to provide first class legal advice to our Board, executive management team and business on all legal issues relating to a global asset management business, in a commercially focused way. An important part of my role is managing legal risk appropriately to mitigate and protect the company from legal and reputational risks.
A day in the life of my role is really varied with a number of competing priorities to manage and juggle as business plans change! On a daily basis I advise the business on a broad range of topics including M&A, corporate, strategic re-organisations and restructures, IT, operations, outsourcing/off-shoring, fund issues, employment and regulatory. With a raft of new legislation on the horizon in the asset management space, it is a very busy time within the legal function.
More recently given Aviva Investors re-focused strategy, I have played a central role in advising our executive team on Aviva Investors divestment programme which has included leading the negotiations on the sale of six of our Sustainable Future funds and our UK Ethical Fund to Alliance Trust, leading tri-party negotiations on the sale of Aviva Investors’ 49% stake in a prospective fund management joint venture with a Chinese investment firm and the sale of our Australian equities business with A$5.5bn AUM to National Bank of Australia.
What is one of the biggest challenges in your role?
Being part of a Plc, it’s vital that we’re seen to be obtaining value for money in the provision of our legal services and working within the legal budgets we have. As the only corporate and commercial lawyer until recently has been very challenging for my area in terms of balancing my capacity and the need to seek external legal resource. Despite that, I have managed to retain a substantial amount of work in-house by taking a fairly pragmatic and innovative approach, whilst also providing some revenue back into the legal function.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
It would have to be the quality of work I have the opportunity to get involved in and the close working relationship with our senior executives. The majority of the work I do has a significant impact, either on the strategy of the business or its operations and I am able to assist in shaping the business and help steer the business in a certain direction. Through the strong working relationships I have built during my time at Aviva Investors, I see myself more as a “trusted advisor” than just a lawyer. Over the years, I have seen a marked shift in the nature of queries my business colleagues call on me for, now being more commercial judgement calls than just legal, which from my perspective shows real partnering.
For me, that is a sign that I am doing my job well, as I don’t want to be seen as “just the lawyer”!
Given my global remit I have also had the opportunity to work on some really interesting transactions in jurisdictions where the cultural and regulatory regimes have been vastly different, which has been far more challenging from a business and intellectual perspective, but all the more rewarding.
What’s been your greatest achievement personally?
When I joined Aviva Investors five years ago, I had little experience of the asset management world so it was a steep learning curve but one that I have really enjoyed. It has shown my agility and adaptability and it is a real testament to have won the Financial News In-House Lawyer of the Year – Asset Management 2013 and being awarded as one of their 40 under 40 Rising & Influential Legal Stars.
This is a fantastic achievement given the stiff competition and a marked recognition from our industry.
To date I have taken opportunities as they have arisen which has fortuitously worked out very well and I have been able to broaden my experience and show my agility and versatility in different industries. I do think going forward will require a slightly more structured approach as I am working towards the next step in my career which would be a General Counsel role.
If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?
I love to travel and experience different cultures, fresh perspectives and scenery, so I would love to a professional travel writer, travelling (and eating) my way around the world, one country at a time.
Next on the list would be deep sea diving, as I have a real love for sea life.
Last but by no means least, spend much more time working with children’s charities, I am a volunteer for Kids Company which is a fantastic charity doing some remarkable work in supporting children and their families.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I would have to say my mother. My parents were untrained migrants and my mother was just 13 when she arrived in the UK, but the whole philosophy for migrant communities was, how do you better yourself? My mother realised that education was the key to better oneself. She wanted me to have all the opportunities she didn’t have and pushed me to exploit all those opportunities.
She is the most remarkable women I know with such strength, tenacity, and poise, she also has a fantastic ability to put things in perspective for me!