She had over 20 years’ experience in the banking sector locally before joining Mercia in 2018. She is now at the heart of the investment and advisory network and also spends a large portion of her time talking to the leaders of some of the most exciting and fast growth potential businesses in Yorkshire.
We have really enjoyed working more closely with Mercia over the last two years and all of that started with our engagement with Sarah. We had high expectations for this interview and they were all surpassed!
Mercia has been so busy and successful over the past year – tell me your views on why this has been the case.
We were in the fortunate position of having plenty of capital to invest and a team who quickly reacted to the pandemic by reaching out to our portfolio of clients to see how and where we could support them, and not just via the Future Fund and CBILs COVID support packages, but by an extra helping hand to experts and relevant information, via webinars and updates from the experts.
We also got to accelerate our own digital plans, not just for the adaption of us all working from home and communications, support to our portfolio of clients but our digital outreach, which is the bit that gets me most excited!!!
As well as survival for many businesses we have been able to invest in some fantastic new opportunities, with great growth from their reaction to the pandemic or from a ‘bright idea’ while management teams have reflected.
Asking a Business Developer to stop meeting businesses and contacts could have proved a real challenge, but the move to operating digitally has been the biggest and most exciting change for me, whether it’s been forming new strategic partnerships, use of the amazing business support collateral we have created or just having a chat on zoom, it’s made my working day more efficient and effective, even with a son to home-school.
It’s also made me take time to reflect on the future of our BD outreach here at Mercia and my own role, which I don’t think we get chance to do often.
I feel we have the chance to test our own resilience levels and it’s given me a great base for the future to push further, knowing what I am capable of coping with.
What are the major changes you anticipate in the “new normal” of working?
I think the historic and extremely traditional 9-5 hours of working have also been tested and like many, the thought of sitting in traffic at 7am on the M62 to Manchester, after a fraught morning getting my son out the door, does not excite me and is not the best use of me – so effectiveness v’s efficiency will be a major change I will retain.
I think previously the working from home perception was that you were not as efficient or visible. I think over this last year many industries have had the chance to test this and see how we can be equally, if not more efficient. That said I am loving being back with people in the office, but I think a mix can really work.
Onto you and your career – you made a change to come out of a career in the large banks to Mercia 20 years into your career. What drove that decision and what challenges did you face?
My main driver for moving to Mercia was to work in a good company, a smaller company, one who genuinely looks after its people with a friendly culture. But this also helped me to be able to use my own voice on a topic I feel passionate about – supporting growth businesses and no two businesses are the same, so no two businesses need the same thing or will come to Mercia for the same reason. I constantly get to work on finding reasons businesses will want to talk to us. Albeit with the switch came a challenge with a lack of knowledge of the investment world and I just keep learning!
Shaking off the corporate world and working with people who don’t wear suits and ties everyday was another adaption, but an easier one to make!
I get to talk to great people every day about their business, passion and profession.
A ‘new normal’ week is to head into one of our offices for 3 days and mix it with 2 days working from home, on average I have 3 meetings a day with entrepreneurs, advisors, industry specialists and partners, talking strategy and Mercia to see how we can work together. As I work across all our debt, venture and equity funds, I get to speak to many of my colleagues and join their team meetings too, which helps creativity and knowledge building.
I run most days, which helps my head plan and gain space and I also started a new lockdown habit of making calls ’walking and talking’ especially with colleagues and contacts, which I like – I like air!
All that ended by good wine and food, with lots of golf and football with my kids.
Great question, all diversity is so important and gender is something I feel most passionate on because I have experienced my own prejudice in previous roles.
I don’t think anyone within the advisor community or boardroom isn’t aware gender diversity is important and as the statistics show diversity on a board or within a team can create abetter culture and ultimately more profitable business. Unfortunately, I think the problem lies within the unseen, which is within unconscious bias which effects everything we see and do and have been taught from being very young. I have listened to numerous podcasts on this recently and think everyone should go through training on the subject, even the youngest brains have built bias from the influencers around them. It effects every decision we make including, appointing board members, recruitment or managing people. We instantly make decisions on people and I think we need to all take a moment to challenge ourselves on how open our own minds are. It’s definitely helped me change my own perceptions and challenge myself.
In our third and final article, Paul Davies provides advice to any business considering a public listing in 2022
Sarah is one of our region’s leading female CFOs. She is passionate about what she does and is an exceptional finance professional. We were delighted when she agreed to share her journey to such a successful career.
Gareth Hague has led two listings over the past four years. Today, he shares with you his informed views on IPOs from a CFO’s perspective in Yorkshire.
London Main Market and AIM listings rose significantly in 2021 across the UK. Yorkshire was a strong part of this trend and we continue to speak to SMEs who are considering or actively planning for IPOs as their preferred exit route.
The landscape, experiences from those involved and some expert advice and considerations