News and Views

Judith Maguire Interview in Professional Pensions

by Neil McPherson, Managing Director

Following her success at the Women In Pensions awards, Judith was interviewed by Professional Pensions. The interview is reproduced below and can also be found on the Professional Pensions website

What does winning this award mean to you?

During my time with Capital Cranfield it has grown to be one of the leading independent trustee firms and is now the largest such firm in the UK. It is a privilege to have been recognised as part of a team that is and has been at the forefront of bringing best practice and setting governance standards for our industry.

I have to admit that I was a little dubious at the whole concept of awards directed solely at women. However, everyone coming into the pensions industry needs mentors and role models. If by promoting the significant role women can and do play in our industry, the aspiration and morale for more junior female colleagues is boosted, then the impact can only be positive and I am very pleased to play my part in this.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?

In a complex negotiation both sides often perceive the other as difficult. I have worked with many successful business leaders and have learnt they have a tendency to be aggressive and bombastic during funding negotiations. To handle this, I have learnt not to take it personally but instead to focus on the trustees’ desired outcomes.

Everyone has behavioral weaknesses, but successful people are rarely forced to confront theirs. Trustees rarely hold the balance of power and so we need to focus more on closing our skills gaps.

I am watching with interest how the behavioral skills of professional trustees will be assessed as part of the proposed accreditation process. I fear that a tick box assessment of pensions knowledge will outweigh the essential ‘soft’ skills required to be an effective trustee.

What has been your greatest achievement, or one that you are most proud of?

I have enjoyed being at the forefront of the development of the independent professional trustee market and in particular driving the growth of Capital Cranfield, where we have fostered an environment and culture where women contribute to all aspects of our success. I have had to adjust my skill set to meet the challenges of running a business as the organisation has grown and had to adjust its strategy as circumstances within and around it have changed.

In my trustee role I found transitioning from adviser to trustee and decision maker a particular challenge. I also had to sharpen my negotiating skills and learn to guide trustee boards through their deliberations by setting a pace that all can follow, rather than charging ahead.

What has been your experience working as a woman in the pensions industry?

My career as a woman in pensions has embraced a number of firsts. Including first female consultant on the Noble Lowndes sales team, first female professional trustee at Capital Cranfield, first female on the Capital Cranfield board and on many, many occasions, the first female chair of a pension scheme.

I currently operate in a discipline – professional trusteeship – that has been, and continues to be, dominated by men of a certain demographic. The delegate list at any trustee conference attests to this fact. Despite this, one of the most satisfying aspects of my long pensions career has been to witness the rising prominence of women in roles throughout the industry. Time was when I was the only woman in the room, this is a very rare occurrence these days.

What is your top tip for women looking to progress or start a career in the pensions industry?

Multitasking, attention to detail and empathy skills are attributes which women tend to have. Your colleagues and clients need to know you are not there to threaten them but will take a balanced view by understanding their position and demonstrating how you can bring focus and solutions to their deliberations and dilemmas. This is not just a top tip for women, but it is one in which women have the potential to excel.

While trusteeship has its peaks and troughs, particularly around meeting “seasons”, it is a profession that lends itself to women doing what they do best without the constraints of large corporate bureaucracy, politics and metrics.

My key message to women is exactly the same as it is to men: “Don’t let yourself be defined by anything other than your talent and drive – if you’re good enough you will succeed in this industry.”