As part of PP’s Rising Star Awards, we spoke to Travers Smith partner and head of pensions sector group Daniel Gerring about the importance of recognising and developing talent in the industry
Why do you feel it is important to recognise the rising stars within the pensions industry?
Daniel Gerring: We are fortunate to have a huge amount of up-and-coming talent in our industry, but I'm fully aware that it can also be a daunting place, especially in the early stages of a pensions career. This is why it is important to celebrate the achievements of our rising stars. Their stories can motivate us all by providing new ideas and perspectives, as well as building the strong talent pipeline that our industry needs to sustain into the future.
I am especially proud to see two lawyers from the Travers Smith pensions team - Andy Lewis and Niamh Hamlyn - shortlisted for this year's Professional Pensions Rising Star Awards. Andy and Niamh are both excellent lawyers who do a superb job in working in a genuinely collaborative way with clients and other advisers, recently doing so in some of the most challenging times I have ever encountered in my own career. Andy and Niamh deserve to have their achievements recognised: they are great examples of the diverse ways of making meaningful contributions to, and building successful careers within, our industry.
How do you develop talent within your own business?
Daniel Gerring: I am a passionate advocate of the benefits of promoting a diverse and inclusive culture that lets people be themselves. Put simply, people are more likely reach their potential if they feel supported and empowered in what they do. I see this as key to developing - and retaining - the best people, and it is something I work hard on every day.
A key step is to treat people as individuals: actively listening, taking time to recognise a job well done, spotting times when more support might be needed (for whatever reason) and then being proactive and sensitive about this. I have an open door and make sure that all members of my team know that they can speak to me in confidence at any time if they need support. It is a pleasure to watch colleagues like Andy and Niamh, as their careers take off, taking on similar roles within our close-knit team.
Alongside this, I actively encourage development opportunities and new challenges for others, regularly acting as senior executive sponsor. I have established and chaired a variety of initiatives within pensions, elsewhere in the business and beyond, including numerous LGBTQ+ projects and acting as our firm's first CSR partner. These are invaluable in engaging people with our business, its wider activities and commitments, and their own potential.
What initiatives have you developed to support the development of talent within your business over the past 18 months?
Daniel Gerring: Mentoring is very close to my heart and features heavily in many of the initiatives with which I am personally involved. My own experience is that a successful mentoring partnership can be a game-changer by helping to our lawyers to embrace the challenges they might face in their careers, and, ultimately, to excel.
As a firm, we are in the process of developing a structured mentoring programme for our lawyers and have also run a series of internal "role model" events designed to help illuminate career paths for those working within our firm (not just our lawyers) and provide support as they developing their own networks.
To complement our mentoring work, I have also developed wider support systems for colleagues developing their business development activities, for example sponsoring their involvement in industry initiatives and events. Together with our thought leadership initiatives, embedding these responsibilities encourages a powerful sense of collective ownership and investment in where we are going as a team.
What is your company's key message to those individuals looking to progress or start a career in the pensions industry?
Daniel Gerring: Have confidence in your own abilities - and don't be put off by pensions jargon, of which we can probably all agree there is too much. Do not be intimidated by others - instead, learn from them. Our industry is one that is constantly evolving so keep an open mind about what you want from your career and be alive to new opportunities. Remember that there is no "one size fits all" mould for success; there are lots of different ways to be successful. Above all, ask questions and be yourself.