Diversity and inclusion are essential for today’s modern business as the variety of people from different backgrounds, specialisms, cultures and experiences ensure a balance of outlooks and voices that can help shape an organisation’s culture and support its recruitment and retention programme.
From increasing creativity and innovation to creating happier employees and boosting productivity, the importance of a clear and proactive diversity and inclusion strategy is fundamental. Recently Executive Director Lee Sweeney caught up with Lucia Villamor, Partner – Investor Relations at Endless, who he placed, to discuss how the private equity investor’s approach has had a positive impact on her career to date.
Lee Sweeney (LS): Firstly, congratulations on your well-deserved promotion. What does your new role involve and how has your career developed?
Lucia Villamor (LV): Thanks Lee. My role at Endless mainly consists of managing relationships and communications with existing and potential investors in our Funds and project manage our fundraising processes. I studied Law at University in Spain but I did not fancy a legal career so ended up moving to the UK and doing a post graduate degree in Business Administration at the University of Leeds. I joined Deloitte straight from university where I spent three years in the Audit team and qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Following this, I joined the Commercial Due Diligence team – I was there for another year before moving to Endless in 2008. Initially, I worked within the Investment team where I had both portfolio and transaction responsibilities, before moving across to Investor Relations in 2015.
LS: Having gained experience in a number of different areas, what made you choose this particular career path?
LV: The variety of work in Private Equity was a real draw for me; we get to see a range of different types of companies in what are often very diverse industries and work with management teams that embrace different leadership styles, ambitions, challenges to help transform businesses. Since moving into Investor Relations, I thrive on meeting investors from across the world, understanding their aims and their organisations and helping to generate real value for them.
LS: When you look back to the time when you joined Endless, can you remember what it was that attracted you to this particular role and organisation?
LV: Yes, whilst working at Deloitte, I enjoyed getting under the skin of different businesses and industries during Commercial Due Diligence assignments. We worked mainly for Private Equity businesses advising them on potential targets or helping them prepare existing investments for sale. However, I wanted to see what happened on the other side after the transaction had taken place and the new owner set off to deliver their value creation plan. I had a strong interest in being on the other side of the table and wanted to experience what it would be like to see and work with a business that was being transformed. Endless had a great reputation in the market as an experienced, responsible investor and I liked their ethos of “making businesses better for everybody”.
LS: One thing that has always come across when I’ve worked with Endless, or talk to others in the industry about them, is they have a real and genuine focus upon supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Is this something that you have seen during your time with the organisation.
LV: Absolutely. We have a Diversity & Inclusion team which in the past two years has done fantastic work to bring D&I to the forefront of our agenda. We have worked very hard at reviewing our recruitment practices, we have reviewed our parental leave policies and we have supported a number of industry initiatives such as Level 20 and the 100 Black Interns Program. We also try to promote flexible working and emphasise to the team that we care about results and not hours spent in the office – that really helps people who, for example, may have family commitments, like myself.
LS: How did this approach help you in your career development?
LV: It has made a huge difference; by having a very progressive flexible working policy and a culture where you can have open, honest discussions about your career, I’ve never felt that I’ve had to make the same career versus family compromises that I’ve seen others have to make. When you look at the team page on our website, it is very clear to see the importance the company places on diversity and inclusion and how this is reflected in our people – this in turn encourages others to want to join and be part of a business with a progressive outlook.
LS: What do you think employers need to have in place to support their employees achieve their career goals?
LV: Without a doubt, there should be more emphasis placed upon mentoring and sponsoring to support employees – and this doesn’t necessarily have to be from an individual’s line manager or boss. Often the best mentor/mentoree relationships are developed by those who may not necessarily work closely together on a day-to-day basis but they have skills, experience or an outlook which the other can benefit from. There also has to be an openness around communication – from both sides - particularly when it comes to discussions about career ambitions as well as honest feedback on development areas. Difficult conversations are never the most comfortable for either party involved, however by approaching them honestly and constructively, far more will be achieved in the long run.
LS: Would you say there has been somebody who has supported you as a mentor and how do you feel they influenced you?
LV: I think the value of mentoring is something which should never be under-estimated and is something which, when approached correctly, will have real benefits for both the mentor and the mentoree. I have learnt a lot from our Managing Partner on how he communicates to investors and other stakeholders. We have our own “in-house style” - I think our investors appreciate and respond well to it and he has played a key role shaping this up over the years.
LS: What would you say has been a particular challenge that you have had to overcome and how did the guidance or support that was put in place help?
LV: The move from the Investment team to Investor Relations was a big one and I felt a bit out of my comfort zone at the start. I did a lot of listening and observing and had a lot of support from our two founding Partners whom I learnt a lot from. It made me realise that is good to push yourself into unfamiliar areas sometimes – it’s one of the best ways to learn!
LS: There’s also a real focus upon ‘celebrating success’; is there an achievement that you are particularly proud of?
LV: I agree and it’s so important to celebrate success whether that is something achieved as an individual or as part of a team. It’s also important to support and celebrate the achievements of others. I was very proud of the Endless V fundraise back in November 2020. We hit our fundraising target in 12 weeks in the middle of a global pandemic. We were so pleased with the support from existing and new investors. And from a personal perspective, I was also very proud to be promoted to Partner earlier this year.
LS: If you could offer one piece of advice to someone – regardless of whether they were at the beginning of their career or about to make a move into a senior role – what would it be?
LV: I think whatever stage you are at in your career, this same piece of advice rings true - work as hard as you can and be brave!
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