Why Natalie Wright, Leeds office managing partner at Mazars, is passionate about social mobility
Natalie Wright, the new head of the Leeds office at Mazars, the international audit, tax and advisory firm, helps family firms leap over hurdles thrown in their way by forces beyond their control.
Ms Wright, who is also the firm’s UK head of family business, navigates owner-managers through the personal finance maze to ensure their business will be fighting fit when the time finally comes to pass it on to the next generation.
She’s also determined to ensure the financial services workforce reflects the diversity of modern Britain.
Having started her career as a school leaver, she supports a number of mentoring programmes aimed at women within the financial services industry and beyond.
"I’m passionate about social mobility,’’ she said. “I was from a family that had free school meals and secured a place at Wakefield Girls High School, a private school, through the assisted places scheme, which enabled pupils from a wide variety of backgrounds to gain a place at a private school.
"Education really changed the course of my life,’’ she said. “After taking my A levels, I took a gap year and decided to enter financial services through a route which would now be considered the equivalent of an apprenticeship. I liked economic theory but I really enjoyed the people element of the job.”
Her appointment follows a period of rapid growth for Mazar’s Leeds base, which has become the firm’s largest office outside London.
Since moving to its city centre office five years ago, the number of partners based in Leeds has more than doubled to 19, including four who were appointed in September. Ms Wright wants this growth to continue, while ensuring the workforce is diverse and inclusive.
She works closely with Mazar’s audit, accounting and tax teams to ensure individuals can align their personal and business success. No two family businesses are the same.
"Everybody has a different story,’’ she said. “My interests and core strengths relate to the relationships side of the job. Family business is so personal; it's often all about the name above the door and reputational credibility.”
Ms Wright is keen to spread the word about the need for sound financial planning
She said: "I also became a financial blogger for an online magazine and community for working mothers based in Yorkshire.
"A lot of my articles were about ways in which women can manage their career strategically and I also do a podcast for Mazars which explores the inner workings of family businesses.”
She aims to ensure her clients have more time to focus on growing their business, secure in the knowledge that they are financially secure.
By having a public platform, she hopes to bring change to a sector which has traditionally been male-dominated.
"It helps me talk about what we do. It's all about breaking down barriers and challenging norms in the financial services sector.
"Around 55 per cent of our graduate intake is female, but the key problem is the drop off in this rate of female participation from senior manager level upwards,’’ she said.
"I feel I've got a duty to talk about my career journey to encourage others.
"I took on my role as head of family business around the pandemic, which was a challenging time, but we aimed to provide reassurance.”
She has a simple message which will resonate with all business owners.
"It's important to look after the business but also vital to look after the family,’’ she said.
"We achieved 100 per cent retention of clients during the pandemic when times were not at all easy,’’ she added.
"A lot of the family businesses we work with are manufacturers and worked throughout the pandemic.
"Every business was different in terms of needing to find a way to make things work for them. Family businesses really invest in their staff and see them as an extension of their family.”
She is keen to retain this family spirit in her own team.
"I love the Mazars office in Leeds and I am passionate about developing it,’’ she said. “It's an exciting time to be at Mazars because we are moving forward in leaps and bounds.
"I want to keep investing in our team and this is more than simply increasing headcount.
"I want to constantly upskill the team. When we moved into offices in the centre of Leeds in 2018 we had about 140 staff, today we have 321."
"The business world is moving so quickly today and we need to make sure we have the skills to adapt. We recently won an award to honour the work we have done to promote inclusion and diversity.
"We know that promoting an inclusive culture here is good for us and good for the client. Our clients are also becoming more inclusive and diverse and we need to reflect that. My educational background means I am very passionate about opening the door for others.”
She believe hiring school leavers can embed soft skills, which are so important when dealing with family businesses, from an early age.
"We've taken on 36 trainees, including six school leavers. I want Mazars to become number one in the privately owned business market.
“Our slogan, which feeds through to how we nurture and manage our client relationship,s is ‘Business, It’s Personal’. I want to raise the profile of Mazars and invest in the next generation. I want to break down the barriers of the status quo and free our minds so we can re-imagine what a career in professional services might be like.”