Octo: Member Spotlight Interview with Helen Clark
Reproduced by kind permission of Octo Members, a Financial Services networking organisation for UK financial services professionals:
Octo – Member Spotlight: Helen Clark
Our interview series with Octo Members looks at their careers and ideas.
A short read.
How would you sum up your role, and what for you is the biggest source of job satisfaction?
As a project manager and consultant I help businesses deliver key operational change so they can streamline and grow.
Many businesses don’t have the luxury of an in-house project manager so my business, Mint Blue Consulting, helps fills the gap when needed.
Projects are tailored to client requirements, from consultancy reviews to managing operational/change projects 1-3 days per week, so it’s very varied and interesting.
I’m also an Associate of Model Office providing project management services to support the business.
I love working with different teams of people, facilitating and co-ordinating a wide range of operational and change projects.
For me, it’s that moment when people realise that the project is providing them with a clear path to deliver their end goal and also seeing all the prep work come to fruition.
Outside the current crisis, what are the biggest challenges currently impacting your job?
Fortunately I’ve been used to a mix of office and home working for some years so the transition to working completely online has been pretty much seamless thanks to video calls and interactive project tools. Ten years ago this would have been a very different experience as the systems I’m using today did not exist then.
Working from home is fine to a point, but I’m looking forward to face-to-face sessions again, hopefully later this year, as virtual whiteboard sessions are just not really the same.
What are your key priorities for the year ahead?
This year’s priority is to continue to evolve my business further to support the industry.
Project management is a great way to manage change and encouraging people to consider this even at its simplest form encourages enhanced outcomes.
Life is continuing at a pace this year so tracking the direction of travel and building on the experiences of the last 12 months is the key.
What’s your take on the current regulatory landscape?
Legislation has compounded over the years and is now a significant overhead for all regulated businesses.
In addition, mis-selling has become a sub-industry and the penalties affect everyone, not just those involved. SM&CR has also moved potential liabilities from company level to key individuals which is impacting many firms.
Regulation and training are important and needed, but there’s a danger the increased requirements are not making the industry attractive particularly to the younger generation at a time when more advisers are needed.
It will be interesting to see the impact of the recent operational changes at the FCA and also Brexit over the next couple of years.
Who would you credit as having the biggest influence on your career so far?
I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great people over the years and learn from so many so it’s hard to narrow down.
Operational project management wasn’t really a recognised career when I started out in financial services. Initially I worked as an office manager and adviser and honed my project management skills mostly outside of work. In 2000, Charles Levett-Scrivener created a project manager role for me following my involvement on a major project.
Charles gave me a completely free rein to work on a wide range of operational projects and also industry initiatives, such as online bonds submission and contract enquiry messaging. It was an unusual route in an IFA firm at the time and enabled me to carve out a new career utilising my adviser and operational experience, for which I’m very grateful.
Family and friends have also long inspired me to set up my own business which has been running over three years now and they are always there as a sounding board.
Of the people you currently spend time with (personally and/or professionally), who brings out your best qualities? And what are those qualities?
Professionally, it’s the project teams I manage as it’s a two-way street and always something to learn working with so many different people.
Personally, I’m very fortunate to have close family and friends, many of whom are, or have been, in the industry, who are really supportive.
From those who know me well, I’m considered to be highly organised, a natural facilitator and networker, very supportive, pragmatic and an optimist with a creative streak.
What would be the single biggest piece of advice you would give to young people wanting to work in financial services?
Speak to people in the industry to help identify what could suit you best and also consider placements during your education, particularly if you’re considering being an adviser.
Having worked with placement students in the past, understanding the basic roles, training and qualifications needed early on is a great advantage to accelerating careers.
The industry has so many different roles to offer and also so many opportunities to move and change during your career.
What’s the one topic you think the financial services community should be discussing more?
We’re all so busy on a day-to-day basis it’s easy to keep treading the same path and continually add more layers to what is already there.
Taking the time to look at how we can collaboratively work together across the industry to do things differently in the future and encourage innovation is important and Octo Members is playing a useful role helping this debate.
The past year has accelerated topics that have been on the table for years, such as digital signatures and now is the time to build on that momentum.
Helen Clark is Director at Mint Blue Consulting
Interview by Sam Shaw (Financial Services Journalist) April 2021