Global Finance Director, Christie's
Today we meet Lynne Turner who is Global Finance Director at auction house Christie’s. Lynne tells us about her career, how she has combined that with family life and her charity work.
BoardroomMum Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself and your career to this point?
I studied Business Administration and French at Loughborough University. After graduation I joined accountancy firm KPMG and became a chartered accountant.
As soon as I qualified I joined Alliance & Leicester and stayed with them for fourteen years and worked in a variety of finance and customer facing roles. I was then headhunted to join Goldfish Bank (the joint venture between Lloyds Bank and Centrica) in 2002. That was eventually sold to Lloyds. I stayed on with Centrica and became Finance Director of British Gas and then the Group Financial Controller. In 2010 I decided to take a sabbatical, a gap year. I had worked non-stop for 26 years. One son was taking his GCSEs, the other had just completed his A Levels and I wanted some time off to tick items off my bucket list!
After a wonderful year, I was re-energised and ready for a new career challenge. I emailed a recruiter who came back to me within 24 hours and suggested this Finance Director role at Christie’s. I got on well with my boss and came to see an auction. I really love the theatre of an auction and I was also invited to attend the Elizabeth Taylor auction in New York. I have now been at Christie’s for three years.
BoardroomMum Were you clear on what you wanted to do as a career?
Not really. I grew up on Anglesey in North Wales and there were not really a lot of women working in business there at the time. My father was an engineer and was very supportive of his three daughters fulfilling their potential.
When I was a teenager I considered being an air-hostess as my ambitions were to travel, use my languages and live a glamorous life.
I was very interested in going into business and I knew that I would like to have a family one day so I chose the finance option. I realised that if I had a professional qualification then it would give me a degree of flexibility when I needed it and it would also be very interesting to work with many different companies.
BoardroomMum Are you a mum? If so how many children do you have?
Lynne Turner Yes. I have 2 sons. Matt is 22 and Owen is 19.
BoardroomMum How do you combine career with family life?
When I was at Alliance & Leicester I had some maternity leave but I decided that I wanted to carry on working. I was in a managerial position at work but was wondering how I could get this to work. I negotiated with my boss to work 3 days a week and presented a solution to him. He agreed to give this arrangement a go as this had not been done before. Perhaps it was easier as I did not have a path to follow. I was involved with some strategic projects and then became Finance Director of a small lending business that Alliance & Leicester had set up. I worked 4 days a week but was available if needed on my day off. This gave me some flexibility and also time to spend with my son and other mums.
Three years later, while I was on maternity leave for the second time, I was invited to apply for a promotion to a Director of Strategy role. It was a slightly surreal experience breast feeding my baby and then putting a suit on to go for a job interview. I didn’t get that particular job but about a year later I was offered a promotion to Director of Financial Planning & Control and worked full-time.
I was given some really useful advice around childcare. Not to think too far ahead and just solve the problem you have at the moment.
I had a variety of childcare arrangements but the most successful was when the boys were 7 and 10 we employed a live-in au-pair. We hired a young man from Hungary called Feri, who stayed with us for about 4 years. He really became part of the family and would also come on holiday with us.
BoardroomMum You have set up Wild Woman Challenges – can you tell us more?
I had participated in a charity trek in Namibia for the Princes Trust with a group of 32 women and was inspired by the experience and how it highlighted the fact that we as women are much stronger than we think and our natural inclination to collaborate.
My friend Fiona and I were reflecting on the experience and I suggested an idea that had been bubbling to organise our own trek for a microcredit charity. As soon as she said “I’ll help you” the idea became a reality. We organised our own Namibia Desert Challenge for 21 women and that was followed by a trek in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco for 40 women.
During my sabbatical I wanted to organise further treks for an African microcredit charity and was introduced to Peter Ryan the founder of the MicroLoan Foundation. I went to Malawi to see their work and also as a “recce” to discover where we might do a trek. The Malawi Challenge involved trekking in mount Mulanje for 4 days followed by a day visiting the rural villages and meeting the inspiring and enterprising clients of the MicroLoan Foundation. I organised three Malawi Challenges and two Snowdonia Wild Woman Challenges with my sisters. I think about 150 women in total have attended the treks and we’ve collectively raised over £200,000.
Investing in women makes a huge difference. I know as a working mother I’ve had challenges but I can’t conceive of being ultra poor and unable to feed, clothe or educate my children. It’s so inspiring to hear the stories of these courageous, resourceful women who, with a loan of as little as £40, have set up a small business and now they are improving their lives and those of their families through their own enterprise.
BoardroomMum What can we do for more women to reach these levels/fulfil their potential?
My advice to women is to be ambitious but to define what success means personally to you. You might see success differently at different times of your life. For me a career is fulfilling and interesting but it doesn’t fully define who I am.
BoardroomMum Do you believe quotas are a positive development?
Lynne Turner I felt that when I was at Centrica the problem was not really at board level. We had three women board members and had won an award for diversity yet at the senior management level we were very much in the minority. The danger of quotas is that we just pay lip service to the numbers. However by actively recruiting women to boards we are at least talking about diversity and it seems the business case for it is now accepted wisdom. Ultimately diverse management teams make better decisions and everyone should be judged on their merits and the skills they bring.
BoardroomMum Would you have done anything differently?
Lynne Turner Not really, I have no regrets. I have had crossroads in my life and chose what seemed like the right path at the time. Of course I have made mistakes but the important thing is you learn from them. I also believe that age should not be a barrier. I’m very inspired by friends who are embarking on new adventures in their late 50s and 60s - like my friend who is going to teach Business Studies in an African school now that her children have left home. I love those stories.
BoardroomMum Has Christie’s won any awards?
I’m very proud that my Finance team won the Business Finance Blue Chip Team of the Year. As a company we do not put ourselves forward for many awards. However I am sure we would win one for diversity as we are a very diverse and global business and have many women working at all levels including important senior specialists and commercial roles.
BoardroomMum What are your plans personally and professionally?
I would like to stay working at Christie’s. I love the culture and have achieved my ambition of working in a glamorous business, the art world! I would also like to continue to support the MicroLoan Foundation.
BoardroomMum Thank you Lynne for your time and insights. We at www.boardroommum.com wish you every continued success.