Nataša Williams is a partner at LGT Vestra and she heads up the private office. She spent nine years as a client adviser both at UBS and later at Deutsche Bank, where she ran one of the ultra-high-net-worth teams in London. Before wealth management, Nataša worked as a mergers and acquisitions banker focusing on financial institutions. She holds an MA from Cambridge University and is an associate chartered accountant (ICAEW).
Here, talking to the BDLN, she explains why enthusiasm and creativity are forces for good.
Find a creative outlet
There’s a lot that I love about my job. And, in a career spanning over 20 years, this is one of the few jobs I can say that about. This job is different. It allows me to be creative and everyone connected with the firm encourages me to bring my ideas to the table.
We are always looking for new and better ways of doing things: better ways of servicing clients, better ideas for clients, better ways of building the business. Most importantly, we don’t take a ‘copy and paste’ approach. There’s no traditional large-firm dogma, so we don’t say: “We’ve been here for a 100 years and this is how we do things.”
When we formalised the private office, we were able to design the full proposition from scratch. It’s so powerful and exciting when you can use your entrepreneurial flair to create and promote something new. You should never be told that you don’t fit ‘into the box’ because your ideas aren’t aligned to the firm’s methods. You should be able to redraw the box.
This means being “you”
There are always some limits. This is the nature of the industry we work in – and you need some healthy limits. But the most important thing about the creative process is that you need to be you. Some of your crazy ideas will be accepted; others will be discarded; the vital thing is that your ideas are heard, considered and appreciated.
This is rare in financial services. So it’s important that you continue to be original in the special way that you look after your clients-rather than just focusing on growing the business.
Embrace your availability
I’m only unavailable for about six days a year and I never put my ‘out of office’ on. My office is me. I am my office.
Since formalising the private office in 2013, we’ve now created a well-oiled and efficient machine. We’re organised in such a way that we can support each other. It doesn’t matter if I’m with a client at the races, at one office or another, or even on a set of skis. We believe that every private office client belongs to the entire private office team. We embrace our collective availability and we get things done.
Whistle while you work
There is no substitute for hard work, but having fun and laughing along the way eases the burden. I love intelligent people and our clients are some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. And I like that – it’s fascinating to listen to their success stories and their wisdom. To meet the expectation of our high flying clients, we’ve created a unique team from diverse backgrounds with rich personalities and wide ranging experience.
We have phenomenal leadership. This has enabled us to build a strong culture. The individuals in our team blend together well and we are justifiably proud of the fact that we have a higher ratio of female partners (30%) than our competitors.
This dynamic culture, this variety and this openness to new ideas and ways of working contribute to an atmosphere which is fun to work in.
Let this passion guide everything you do
Passion is the key to top class client service. Our wealth management clients have unique demands and unique expectations. There is no one process or one set of rules, as what is important to one client may be unimportant to another.
So – exceptional service is about listening to clients, understanding their challenges and how they want to operate, and then helping them to simplify their life by suggesting solutions that are relevant to them.
But know your place
Let’s take someone in the ultra-high-net-worth bracket. They’re reasonably well-known. They have money, power and influence. They attract the largest ‘hang-around’ entourage you could ever imagine. For me, what distinguishes that entourage from an adviser, is that an adviser is there to help. They come, they listen and they solve the problem. They then remove themselves when the job is done.
Take the most challenging element of your role and face it head on
When I first started to manage people, I assumed it would be a breeze. I had falsely assumed that they would all say that I was a fabulous boss. But it didn’t quite work out that way! So I enlisted a coach who developed my leadership skills. Her counsel was simple, yet emphatic. She taught me to treat every member of my team as if they were a highly valued client. I was initially skeptical, but once I put her advice into practice, it really resonated with me.
So that’s what I do now. We’ve also put together a mentoring programme at the private office, which includes senior partners, so that everybody has someone within the firm with whom they can have airtime. This means that even with a large team, people can access mentors without creating artificial hierarchies. This is particularly important in the mobile office environment. If we expect people to be ultra-available then, to some extent, we need to be aware of what is going on in their lives. It’s also very important for me to understand the innate ability and motivation of my team. It is a real challenge to know how to stimulate them to maximize their potential, but when you get it right it is the most rewarding part of the job.
I think that this unique approach is entirely down to David Scott [the founder]. He initially set the tone, and he continually models it. He always says to me: ‘The manager does the thing right, and the leader does the right thing.’ He is, of course, completely right.
To sum up
Find a role that energises and excites you and that allows you to be yourself. Take this energy and apply it to every interaction you have. Use it as the battering ram to deliver world-class service and to confront the parts of your role that challenge you the most.