We are pleased to announce that Paula Steele’s “In the Spotlight” feature for The Month, Private Client Global Elite’s exclusive magazine, has now been published.
In the piece, Paula shares:
• The most useful leadership lesson she has learnt
• Advice for women in the industry balancing their work with home life
• Her experience as a female entrepreneur in the private client industry
• Challenges she has faced during her career and how she overcame them.
PCGE: Tell us a little about yourself?
Paula: I’m a single mother with 3, now very grown up children and 4 grandchildren and have been running a financial services business, in its various guises since 1984 when a colleague and I did a management buyout of a business owned by John Lamb, hence its name. We sold 25% of the business to a Lloyds broker in 1987 and I bought them back out in 1990. The business started as an independent financial advice firm, very focused on tax planning. It became a wealth manager, we then sold the wealth management business and today are a specialist protection brokerage. Along the way we have had successes and failures : we set up a completely separate investment management business, now called Collidr which has grown into a much larger business than anything we could have imagined, looking after more than £4bn of assets for other wealth managers, I remain a non-executive director of that business . We set up a general insurance brokerage and considered ourselves very fortunate to have exited for the money we had invested, and we had a tax structuring business which was subject to a management buy out by its staff and eventually left the John Lamb family. So I have had a very wide range of business experiences
PCGE: Tell us about your current role as a Director of John Lamb Hill Odlridge, a specialist protection brokerage?
Paula: When we sold the wealth management business in 2019 we retained the specialist protection business and subsequently bought the Hill Oldridge business, following the death of its Principal, in 2020, creating John Lamb Hill Oldridge (JLHO). I look after the Estates desk within the business which looks after the protection policies to provide cash flow to pay IHT for some 170 estates. I am also responsible for the technical expertise with in the business and I am very involved in developing the next generation of advisers who are the future of the business.
PCGE: Describe any challenges you have faced in your career as a business owner in the financial services sector and how you have overcome them?
Paula: The biggest challenge has always been how to balance my life for myself, for the children and for the business –I have always visualised my life as being balanced on a fulcrum the point of which is myself and if that hasn’t been functioning then the whole collapses. I think this is a real challenge for any business owner, and particularly for single parents, however much support one has and I have always been very lucky to have had incredibly supportive parents and when the children were smaller nannies, and a committed ex-husband who did look after the children a lot in the holidays. However it’s still a very difficult balancing act and one is always trying to manage too much to do and not enough time to do it. I was the parent who was clear with the schools in saying that I was a non participating parent, and could do nothing to support unless my children were actively involved – I wasn’t the parent turning up to stand on the touch line. I think the biggest challenge is saying NO and prioritising what is possible over what one would like to achieve
I have always worked in small businesses, as we have grown new business areas we have taken them out into separate businesses so that the people running those businesses have their own sense of ownership – and so that those businesses can develop their own personalities – some have stayed with us ,others have moved on – I find the small business environment much more fun than large corporates
PCGE: What achievement are you most proud of?
Paula: Survival – the last 40 years have been a period of enormous change, from the way that offices operate (I learnt to type on a manual typewriter), to the whole approach to how businesses run, and the approach to advice in the private client arena – it is the ability to change and adapt that has ensured survival
PCGE: You are also responsible for the development of young at John Lamb Hill Oldridge, a role that you particularly enjoy. Are there any insights you can share about how you balance your firm with making sure you are supportive to juniors?
Paula: The young advisers are the future of the firm and the whole advice industry – it’s very important to try to give them a rounded experience, their professional exams are very important and we do encourage them to undertake the STEP qualification once they have completed their Diploma in Regulated Advice from the Chartered Insurance Institute. But advice is about more than technical expertise and we tr to give the young advisers as much client exposure as we can, and we really encourage them to build their own professional networks, and help them to do this.
PCGE: What is it like to be a female entrepreneur in the private client industry?
Paula: There aren’t a lot of female entrepreneurs – let alone in this sector – I think being an entrepreneur is about taking risk and women tend to be less happy doing this . I know and have advised many entrepreneurs and I’d say most of them would accept that they didn’t really understand the risks they were taking as they set off. I think the barriers are often due to the risks – if you have children, a house to support, then you may not want the responsibility
I personally have never found the female point defining in the entrepreneur space –
PCGE: You have 3 children. Do you have any advice for women in the industry attempting to balance their work with their personal life?
Paula: Accept that the balance doesn’t really exist and try not to feel guilty about it and pay for as much help as you can afford, both for yourself, for the children and in the working environment so that you can focus on the things that are important – I pay a personal trainer to come to me 3 mornings a week, I pay someone to clean my house, I pay someone to sort out my personal admin – and I run a rigid diary system – with only one diary that encompasses all my lives. I also run a work/life balance that suits me – not other people’s perspective of what that work/life balance should look like, I often work very long hours but equally will take time out to do things with the children or for myself
PCGE: What is the most useful leadership lesson you have learnt?
Paula: You are entitled to your point of view, but so are other people – listening to other people and their points of view, which can be difficult to ascertain if you are the boss, can give you insights and perhaps prevent going down the wrong route
A wise accountant, who was assisting us when we were having to shut a business down, and were paying out the investors what they had invested but without profit, said: “You are being very fair, don’t think you will get a word of thanks or appreciation” and I didn’t – leadership doesn’t involve people giving you thanks or appreciation and it’s a lonely road, if you want to lead then it helps to appreciate this
Paula Steele, Director at John Lamb Hill Oldridge
Article published The Month Magazine in March 2023.