International Women in Wealth five minute interview: Charlotte Denton, Head of Wealth Management, Northern Trust, London

Date: 05 Dec 2011


What signature taxation, laws, trusts or investments do you think really work for UHNW clients and why?

In a market of ongoing turbulence, we have seen an increasing emphasis on risk management and transparency. The segregation of duties between the investment of wealth and administration of wealth has evolved as the preferred model for institutions. We recommend it to families of significant wealth to adopt as well. By unbundling the administration and performance measurement from the investment managers, family offices can gain greater transparency and control over the assets and direct access to an institutional-quality operation.

Are there any private clients in the world you would really like to work with?

It’s been very exciting working with families who have assets spread across a variety of banking relationships and platforms. Northern Trust has been able to streamline the operations for these families onto one platform.

Are women really going to take over the world, if so how?

At Northern Trust, we have many women in leadership roles, including Jana Schreuder, who heads our Personal Financial Services business globally. Our new Chief Investment Officer for Personal Financial Services, Katie Nixon, is the first woman in the role and oversees 400 investment professionals and has oversight of $163 billion in assets under management. More than a quarter of our management group is comprised of women and we have two women on our board of directors.
In our business of working with ‘successful families’, women have always been half of our client base. That wealth comes from two principal sources: some earn it while others inherit it.

What size of client do you generally work with and how many do you have or what AUM do you manage?

Northern Trust Wealth Management EMEA focuses exclusively on exceptionally wealthy families, their family offices and foundations with investable assets of US$200 million and above.

What is the most interesting or unusual private client deal you have ever been involved with?

We assisted a client in setting up a unitised fund through which the family office manage the cash holdings. The family office is responsible for the investment of the assets with the individual trusts and family members accounts effectively adding up to 30-40 clients. Each account held its own pool of cash which was difficult to manage as the family office did not have discretionary management of every account.

To remedy this situation, NT worked with the family office on a number of options. The family office settled on forming a cash fund, which pooled all the cash into one vehicle in exchange for units held by each of the trusts and accounts.

What lessons have you learned that you could share with women starting out in the finance industry?

If you don’t love what you do you are not likely to be brilliant at it – even if you are, you might not be happy. Make sure that you are passionate about your chosen career.

What initiatives do you have or do you think there should be for women?

Northern Trust has various support groups and networking opportunities available for our Northern Trust partners.
Northern Trust has excellent resources for women employees to potentially rise through the ranks to become managers and leaders. We have a group called the Women in Leadership Business Resource Council that focuses on career development, networking and mentoring as well recruiting and retaining women candidates. Clare Flanagan and I are both members. Separately, I co-lead a group of women through a professional development programme that seeks to form a global network of women to provide each other with ongoing support.

Do you think the British government should legislate to bring women on boards as they did in Norway?

I don’t have a specific view on legislation, but certainly support female representation on boards as a good business practice.

If you had to win a wealthy new client where would you take them to impress them?

We have a saying that when you’ve worked with one family [or family office], you have worked with one family [or family office]. This emphasizes that each client we deal with is unique in its composition and service requirements. It goes without saying that what might impress one prospective client might not be the same for the next. Having said that, we’ve found it invaluable to take our prospective clients on the Northern Trust Wealth Management Operations Tour, hosted at our offices. We take an in-depth look at the inner workings of the global custodian by showcasing a step by step process.

What are your three USP’s for working with uhnw clients?

We have an unmatched combination of factors that resonate with our clients. Focus on the UHNW sector – Northern Trust serves 20% of the Forbes 400 clients. Financial security – safety and stability of our well-capitalised balance sheet. Client service experience – Northern Trust is an institutional strength industry leader with one operating platform and state of the art reporting technology.

What is the best thing that has ever been said about you or you have done or won?

As a manager that I enable others to realise their potential.

What is your individual focus in terms of countries and uhnw clients?

Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Families, Single Family Offices and Foundations and Endowments with US $200 million or more in investable assets.

How much do you travel on business and where do you tend to go?

Monaco and Geneva for Client related business. New York and Chicago for internal business.

What is the next big thing in private wealth management?

The segregation of duties between the investment and administration of wealth.

Will you still be successful as a woman if you don’t dress the part?

Both men and women need to dress well if they want to succeed in this industry. How you dress reflects directly on you and your aspirations. We’ve heard it said that you should dress for the role you want, not the one you currently hold.

What would you tell a divorcing woman in the UK?

Hire a strong support network of advisers and lawyers.

Is the glass ceiling still with us?

Seek out the support of senior women and men in your organization to help you “break through”. Look for a sponsor, not just a mentor, who has the authority to help you achieve your ambitions. Be willing to work harder than the competition, no matter your gender.

What charities do you admire and why?

As a company, Northern Trust focuses on helping in the areas of education, the arts and social welfare. Last year we gave cash contributions of more than $14 million dollars to charities and civic organizations. Northern Trust encourages employees to volunteer, and they donated 180,000 hours of their time last year. Some of our favorite charities include: Africa Foundation. Northern Trust recently sponsored the second Art for Africa‚Ñ¢ auction showcasing leading American, Africa-American and African contemporary artists at Sotheby’s New York. Funds raised will support the work of Africa Foundation, whose mission is to better the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children in South and Eastern Africa. In 2009, Northern Trust sponsored a similar Art for Africa auction in London. The Kids Company. This is an organisation Northern Trust supports and they work therapeutically with vulnerable children and young people.

What is the dummies guide to making it to the top in finance or pwm?

Have your clients’ best interests at the heart of everything you do. Be an excellent listener, both to clients and colleagues. At Northern Trust, our “principles that endure” are service, expertise and integrity. These are foundational to who we are, even as our products, services and technology continue to evolve.

back to news