“I get inspiration from my peers in the sector”
Joyce Church is a Partner at Bridges Fund Management – where she’s currently on the search for businesses to invest in that do good for people and/or the planet as well as generating attractive returns. A quiet powerhouse professionally and a loving mum of two, she believes ‘diversity’ should also include personality.
You have a degree in manufacturing engineering from Cambridge University. How did you go from that to a career in Private Equity?
I studied general engineering to start off with, and it was pretty technical. I realised after a couple of years I probably wasn’t going to be a particularly good engineer. So I studied manufacturing engineering – which is about the skills you’d need to run a manufacturing plant: economics, organisational and people management, accounting, and so on. And actually, quite a lot of people from that course ended up either working in the finance sector or consulting. Merrill Lynch gave me an internship, then a full-time job offer. But, after exposure to our PE clients, I realised that was where I wanted to be.
What are some of the highlights of working in your industry?
I think we’re very lucky. As an industry, we get to work with very intelligent, experienced, driven people – whether it’s within our advisory communities, our colleagues or our investee companies and the management teams there. I’ve enjoyed building good relationships. And if, in the meantime, we also do good work in growing businesses and making returns for investors as well – then it’s a win-win.
And what’s the atmosphere like in your team?
I really like the Bridges culture, because we do strive for returns for investors, but also for people and the planet. So I think we attract a certain type of person who genuinely cares about their colleagues, and how our work impacts a broad range of stakeholders. Above all, it’s about doing the right thing. And I think as a result, we have a pretty collegiate atmosphere, and people are understanding of everyone’s differing demands.
Have you had any role models along the way?
Instead of specific individuals as such, I built a network of other female friends in the sector. We meet up quite a lot and share our experiences. I get inspiration from my peers in this sector; we all share common experiences. In this way, we can exchange ideas on how we tackle certain issues together or deal with any obstacles.
On that note, what are the obstacles you’ve encountered in your career?
I’m more of a team player, and I like working collaboratively with other people. In Private Equity you’re expected to have quite high self-conviction – like being strong in investment committees. That’s just not really my style. I can see why oozing confidence in deal-making is considered important. But it would be great if the industry was a little bit more open minded around different personality types, because I think we all have different traits and skills we can bring to the table. A greater diversity of personality types would be refreshing.
What candid advice would you pass on to women starting out in Private Equity?
I’d say grab the opportunity with both hands, as it’s super interesting and super rewarding. I didn’t have a mentor early on, and I’d consider having a ‘coach’ to support you at the beginning of your PE career. Someone who’s completely independent to give you some tools on how to survive – and thrive – and the comfort of camaraderie. Also, training and development is hugely important; again, I didn’t get this – perhaps because I never asked for it. So, ask!
Have you ever had a Level 20 mentor?
Yes. She’s been absolutely amazing; an independent, honest voice and someone who has my back. We talked through our backgrounds and our stories, and there were some similarities. She’s gone on to do lots of great things. That’s really given me inspiration to think a little bit outside the box, build a bit more confidence and consider how I want my career to progress. And a lot of women I’ve spoken to have benefitted from the Level 20 mentorship scheme like I have.
Do you ever feel pulled in lots of directions?
It was easier when I was in my twenties and I didn’t have a family. I’ve now got two kids under 10 and balance is hard to come by. I love what I do. I want to do it really well and stretch myself. At the same time, I want to be a good mum; I want to be present. There are just so many more demands on my time, plus finding moments for myself, seeing friends and keeping fit. Then I say to myself: everyone’s fine and healthy. My work is going well. Sometimes we need to remember to give ourselves a pat on the back. It’s a juggling act, but I enjoy the rollercoaster ride…most of the time!