Women in Business: Fiona Pool, MD, Hunton

Fiona Pool's primary career was in finance having worked on the Credit Trading desk at Credit Suisse as one of three traders on a multi-currency global trading book, using financial derivatives to repackage securities. She then moved to Goldman Sachs as an Executive Director, where she established the Credit Trading book. Three years later, she left to follow her true love of design, co-founding with Scott Henshall, a successful fashion design business, winning the first Vidal Sassoon Young Designer of the Year award and being a fixture on the London Fashion Week schedule as well as showing in Paris and Milan. Having secured 40 stockists worldwide, she secured significant investment into the business from a Singaporean family and sold out her stake in 2001. She then returned to the financial world, joining Bank of America in London as a distressed debt trader and shortly thereafter was appointed Head of European High Yield Sales, Trading and Research. She left in 2006 to become a partner in a specialist structured finance consulting firm, but was approached in early 2008 to establish and run a small, luxury fashion label, which she grew to 18 stockists and £500,000 turnover before leaving in May 2010. She joined Hunton in September 2010.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
12 years running a trading desk nurtured my ability to make decisions, take calculated risks but also to be constantly evaluating the situation and not afraid to change course if need be. It also teaches you analytical skills and how to work in a high pressured, fast paced environment with many different personalities. I think a good leader is one who inspires others and gives direction, but also allows them to express their views. It's also important to be able to see who adapts naturally to which role and not pigeon hole.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Hunton?
Trading distressed debt at an investment bank gave me the skills to assess balance sheets, cash flow forecasts and how to optimize resources to generate revenue growth. It also taught me about managing a small team and getting the best out of people. After banking I co-founded a fashion label, which involved defining the corporate strategy, capital raising, developing & growing a brand, marketing and understanding your customer. This has all been incredibly important in the restructuring of Hunton and setting the foundations for growth.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Hunton?
The biggest challenge has been juggling the different roles I have had to assume, from the corporate restructuring, laying the foundations on which to grow the business, bringing in new investment, implementing new production processes at the shipyard and devising a completely new brand strategy which has included an updated image for the company, new promotional material, re-designing the website, whilst driving the marketing and sales effort. These challenges however, have created the highlights. It has been incredibly rewarding having others, from journalists, dealers, investors and clients see & appreciate my vision for the brand and the huge potential to make Hunton a global success story. My passion and tenacious belief in the business has been the driving force behind my strength and motivation to overcome the challenges. Now we are launching into new markets and are currently establishing Hunton America, our first overseas office, a great achievement for the company and what I think will be a milestone in its growth.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in your industry?
There are multiple roles in this business that women can tap into, based on their expectations, ambition and skill set. The marine industry covers many aspects from, amongst others, manufacturing, design, sales, engineering and naval architecture. It's important to follow your passion, work hard and have a determination to succeed no matter which industry you are in.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
With difficulty given I travel constantly, but I am lucky that I manage to incorporate seeing friends in different cities while I am away. I also love what I do so I don't view it as work.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think that if a woman is driven, motivated and good at what she does, she will get noticed and rewarded for her talent. I think there is a greater recognition today of the benefits a woman can bring to a business. She may have to do more & achieve more than her male equivalent to get noticed but if she does, the exposure will be far greater, so what may look like an obstacle to begin with can end up being an advantage.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been lucky to work with some incredibly talented and smart people in my career, from whom I learnt a huge amount. I have not had mentorships as such. My father was a big influence in me following my dreams and not being afraid of failure.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Angela Ahrendts. She led Burberry through a period of outstanding global growth and was part of the vision to make Burberry the first fashion house to stream live catwalk shows, bringing together the online community with the physical world of retail. Apple recognized this making her the first woman on Apple's executive team and the first person to be responsible for both their online and retail stores. Being the highest paid executive at Apple in her first year shows that women can achieve anything in the workplace if they are driven, determined and hard working.
What do you want Hunton to accomplish in the next year?
Success in the US market.

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