Those who know Jennifer Leslie describe her as extremely professional, ethical and financially literate. She is also a highly recognised leader in a male dominated profession.
Jennifer has more than 30 years experience in business finance, investment, superannuation and governance that has shaped the leader she is today. Jennifer is not only leading the Wealth Management Division at Pitcher Partners, she is a leader in other businesses and community groups as a board member.
Prior to joining Pitcher in 2005, she worked for PKF Lawlers and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Her current directorships include non-executive roles on the boards of Newcastle Permanent Building Society, Newcastle Friendly Society Limited, Hunter disability services provider Mai Wel Limited and the Catholic Development Fund Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.
- What makes a good leader?
Leaders have such a diverse range of skills and styles that it is quite hard to define what makes a good leader. So I’ll leave it to one of the world’s great leaders, Mahatma Gandhi who said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. I understand this as meaning that great leadership starts with self awareness and a sense of incredible opportunity.
- Is it important for business leaders to also be leaders in the community?
I have always believed that those of us who are privileged to be leaders in our business community have an obligation to give back to our community. I see many businesspeople in the Hunter giving back to our community as directors on not-for-profit boards, supporting and sponsoring local charities, sporting teams and cultural enterprises or mentoring up and coming leaders.
We may not yet be providing the level of philanthropy that is so embedded in US business culture but I know a lot of local business leaders quietly and unobtrusively give significant amounts of time and money to those who need it in the Hunter. I do think we can do more though.
- What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Adapting to change has always been a challenge for leaders but the pace of change today is one of the biggest challenges we face. In thinking of the disruption caused by Amazon, the world’s first online shopping business or new age businesses such as Uber, it is clear that clinging to old thinking and hoping these new ways of doing things will go away is a recipe for failure. In business, leaders don’t have the luxury of sitting back and taking their time to make change because change will happen regardless. Successful businesses will be those who embrace new thinking early.
The big challenge in embracing new thinking is having sufficient diversity in leadership teams. This is not just a gender diversity issue, although that is very important. Diversity in gender, cultural background and age are all important in providing great, forward thinking leadership.
- Why should leaders be interested in financial planning and wealth management?
This is a great question because I’ve seen very successful and well-paid business owners and executives desperately play catch up as they near their desired retirement age. They have realised that they won’t be able to have the lifestyle they are accustomed to because they failed to have a personal or family wealth plan. I find this frustrating because there is really no excuse not to be enjoying a great standard of living once you have finished your business or executive career.
I have five tips for an effective wealth management plan for business leaders.
- Get started and don’t leave it to chance (this is the most important one of all)
- Learn and implement the concept of paying yourself first
- Cover your risks
- Diversify, diversify, diversify
- Use the superannuation system to the max!
- What local businessperson do you find inspiring?
There are so many inspiring local business leaders it is really hard to name just one. I am inspired by the work of Alex Abrams and Alison Hughes in building Pacific Smiles Dental, a local business with its head office in Maitland that is now a national provider of dental services and an ASX listed company.
I am also inspired by Kirsten Molloy, CEO of Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator. Kirsten is a dynamic leader in one of the key industries of the Hunter. She is also a passionate advocate for young aspiring leaders and had established the Verity Mentoring Program for young women who have leadership aspirations. A great example of a business leader giving back to the community.
Pitcher Partners is a national association of accounting, audit and advisory firms.
The Hunter firm (formerly Farrow Wyatt) has offices in Newcastle, Maitland and Singleton. It has been serving Hunter clients for more than 40 years. Its six partners and 50 staff have strong local knowledge, experience and expertise across a range of industries.
Pitcher Partners is also a member of Baker Tilly International, giving clients access to resources internationally.