BNY Mellon, London
I spent many school and university holidays working as a bank ‘gofer’ or paralegal – and I was attracted to the analytical nature and pace of the careers I observed. Law eventually trumped banking as my career of choice. It seemed more suited to my skills, though now I think I would have been equally happy in either.
My philosophy and Spanish degree equipped me to challenge everything and order my thoughts in a logical manner. Law school gave me a love of contract law. But there is nothing like learning on the job, where I learned to ask questions, assume nothing and listen before forming an opinion. I have also benefited from spending years in both litigation and finance, which has given me a breadth of experience which is valuable as an in-house lawyer.
A private practice lawyer is expected to know their client’s business intimately and provide targeted and relevant advice without having spent time working within it. I learned ways to plug this gap, from spending time on secondment to simpler tricks, like ensuring you receive clear instructions and sending advice in draft before finalising.
When I moved to the Bank of England in 2004, the challenge was to become a closer partner to the business and policy areas. It was a time when lawyers had less profile there, and the attention was focused on economic policy. The financial crisis changed everything and our small team of lawyers was catapulted into the centre of policy-making to keep the financial system afloat. I learned not only crisis management skills but also a sense of perspective.
A crucial skill required in-house is to get to the bottom of an issue fast in order to find a solution. I recently moved after 11 years at the Bank of England, where l knew who to go to and where the talent is, to a global group (BNY Mellon) with over 50,000 employees. I am three months into my new role and starting to find these people and where decisions are made.
A career highlight was seeing the effects of the Special Liquidity Scheme in practice. This was a scheme we put in place over a few days in April 2008 to allow banks and building societies to exchange the illiquid assets on their balance sheets for assets easily tradable for cash. It was well used and made all the difference to the banks.
Legal skills of challenging existing practices; analysing vast quantities of information to extract salient points; finding imaginative solutions to an impenetrable problem; and of negotiation to seek the outcomes most appropriate to all, are much-needed in any decision-making body.
My least favourite law is the Official Secrets Act. Without it I could write a good book. The main thing the profession has lost over the course of my career is lunch.