Arc Pensions Law partner Anna Copestake scooped the Pensions Lawyer of the Year award at PP’s Women in Pensions Awards. She talks to Holly Roach about her successes to date.
What does winning this award mean to you?
I was very flattered and proud. I looked at all the successful and talented women that were nominated and felt privileged just to be in their company.
What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?
Don't be afraid to say yes to opportunities. I think a lot of women still suffer from imposter syndrome and we have to drown out that voice in our heads. I certainly have to do that. However I've learned most when I initially felt out of my comfort zone; whether that was chairing industry panels, presenting thought-leadership ideas or tackling challenging new legal issues for clients.
I'm lucky that I've got a great support network at work and am encouraged to try new things and new roles, but ultimately it has been about just doing it. I've really benefitted from everything I've learned by "getting out there" and, in fact, so have my clients. Considering new proposed legislation or regulatory approaches, or trying to think of a solution to a current pensions challenge, in a room full of people who have their own ideas about solutions, has been so valuable. I have learned many skills from all of those other people and continue to do so - I should probably thank all of them!
What has been your greatest achievement, or one that you are most proud of?
Being a partner at Arc Pensions Law is definitely up there, as is helping some clients through some difficult circumstances. However if I have to choose one achievement, I'd have to say co-founding NextGen. It is a hugely exciting initiative that aims to encourage cognitive diversity on all types of decision making boards and ensure we get to hear a broader mix of voices and ideas. At the moment it focuses on supporting those looking to take a step up in the industry or starting to build their own networks and skill-sets for the future.
As an industry we need to think about succession planning and having the right pool of people to lead us through the challenges to come. It's not about stepping over people to get to the top but supporting and nurturing new talent on the way up - whether that is organising speaking opportunities, mentoring them or giving them roles on sub-committees to build experience before they sit on full boards. NextGen aims to do this.
What has been your experience working as a woman in the pensions industry?
That there are lots of really supportive women, and supporters of women, in our industry. There can still be unconscious bias when it comes to women in the industry, and in particular younger women, but there have been huge strides. I now don't mind if I'm assumed to be the minute taker at the outset, as it is all the more rewarding when I provide pivotal advice. It's thankfully becoming a thing of the past that people are routinely underestimated due to age or gender or other irrelevant factors. That said, as an industry I think we still have some way to go before we can say we have properly tackled issues of diversity.
What is your top tip for women looking to progress or start a career in the pensions industry?
Talk to and get to know as many people as possible. You will learn something from most of them, and you never know when you might meet them again. Make the most of the fact that we are a small and friendly industry. I would also say, don't surround yourself only with people who do the same thing as you. And, of course, join and support NextGen!
CV: Anna Copestake
Position Anna Copestake joined ARC Pensions Law in August 2016 and was promoted to partner in November 2017.
Previously Copestake trained at international law firm Jones Day, qualifying into its pensions department in 2008. In 2011 she moved to Sackers before joining ARC Pensions Law in August 2016. She has spent time on secondment at both The Pensions Regulator and the Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) and has sat on a number of industry working groups.
She is chairwoman of the PLSA's Legal Advisory Group; sits on the investment committee of the Association of Pension Lawyers; is a member of the DC Security of Assets Working Group and is a co-founder and vice-chair of NextGen.
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