For Lindy Hunt, empowering the new generation of female lawyers is crucial in a profession that continues to be male dominant.
The financial services specialist is passionate about mentoring and believes that it is a process that benefits not just the mentees, but the mentors as well. And in the age of remote work, social connections have become increasingly important especially when it comes to developing young legal talent.
In this interview, Hunt talks her recent appointment as the new head of legal, risk and compliance at investment consultancy firm JANA, the soft skills she appreciates the most, and the importance of a good governance framework.
What made you choose a career in law, and what’s your favourite part of the job?
I was drawn to law from a young age – I came from a legal background where both my father and grandfather were lawyers. I had good grades and wanted to join a well-respected profession, so law was an obvious choice and one I’ve never looked back on.
I wouldn’t have necessarily recognised this when I first started out but, in hindsight, pursuing a career in law made a lot of sense on a personal level as I’ve always been a keen problem solver. I feel very fortunate to work in a field that tests and challenges me every day. Even this far into my career, it still gives me a great sense of satisfaction to ‘crack the puzzle’, as it were, and apply law to provide business solutions.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work across many types of law throughout my career. I began working in insurance and superannuation, before moving to the regulator side, which was a whole new experience in itself.
My final pivot was into financial services post-APRA, which is the space I’ve worked in ever since. It’s hugely exciting to have joined the JANA team and to be leading on legal risk and compliance for Australia’s largest investment consultancy.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
JANA’s core business is asset consulting. They have been delivering quality advice and research to their clients for over 30 years. Currently in Australia, there are many new opportunities to build on our services to clients and improve the lives of millions through superior investment outcomes. This includes identifying opportunities to help our clients stay ahead of the changing regulatory landscape and driving positive change through sustainably focused investments.
I am also responsible for JANA’s risk and compliance, ensuring that a strong risk culture remains a material risk for the business. In my experience, organisations with the most effective risk culture are those where compliance is everyone’s responsibility, and not just that of the legal and compliance team.
Achieving this is not easy and has to be driven from the top downwards. JANA’s investment philosophy is underpinned by the fundamental belief that it’s possible to reduce risk and outperform over the long term. This was one of the biggest drawcards to me when joining JANA – when risk management is considered a central component to meeting a business’ core objectives, and not as an afterthought or add on, then you know from the outset that you’re in safe hands.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? Or what’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?
I have just joined JANA, having come from an industry superannuation fund that merged with another fund. It was a challenging year working on the merger, but it taught me how important it is to have the right governance framework in place. The governance framework meant decision-making flowed smoothly as the various decision makers had the right information at the right time, and the fund transfer was able to be completed within a very tight timeframe. My other key takeaway from the successful merger was how important it is to work alongside service providers that understand your business and the regulatory environment in which you operate.
On a personal level, I mentor young professionals through various networks which I find hugely rewarding. It’s not just those being mentored who benefit from these experiences, but also the mentor themselves. I’ve learnt so much from the wonderful individuals I mentor. They remind me to put myself in someone else’s shoes and approach things with a new or different perspective. This flexibility in thinking is an important skill which I continue to hone.
I currently mentor through the Law Society, Lucy Mentoring Program at Sydney University and Rare Birds, who exist to create, support and promote diverse and inclusive workplaces. Law is still a male-dominated field despite progress over recent years and it’s extremely important to me to empower the upcoming generation of women in my field, many of whom are exceptional. It is my biggest recommendation to anyone working in law, whether you have a year or decade of experience, to seek out a good mentor. A problem shared is a problem halved and there is so much to learn from the experience of others.
Especially working from home, social connections are more important than ever. It’s easy to become isolated or feel as if you are working alone in a bubble, so dedicating time to mentoring others helps me stay connected to my community.
I was also very proud to be a finalist for the Corporate Counsel of the Year at the Women’s Lawyer Achievement Awards a few years ago.
What should the profession and law firms/organisations focus more on?
People always need to be front and centre of any firm or any business. Without good people you can trust, and the right culture, a business does not have the foundation to grow, let alone thrive.
The soft skills or qualities in people that I am most drawn to are those who are willing to grow, embrace being flexible and adaptive, and who aren’t afraid to put their hands up when they make mistakes. No one is perfect, but we can all learn from our failures or mistakes and introduce new processes and systems for next time. This is why having an open, honest and transparent culture is essential.
What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?
Working during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s expectations about how they work. It is important that we continue to support each other through this constantly changing environment. Key to this is understanding that flexibility for each person is different.
COVID-19 forced new ways of running age-old systems and processes and showed us new ways of getting the job done. However, embracing technology to maintain a human touch remains a real challenge for our profession.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
I’ve only just joined the JANA team, so my immediate priority is getting fully immersed into the business. In doing so, I look forward to supporting the team in their mission to make a real, impactful difference to the lives of millions of people.