My brilliant career – Susan Ferrier

by 07 Aug 2007

What is your current role?

Director of people and performance for Allens Arthur Robinson, a leading international law firm with 14 offices across Australia and the pan-Asian region. Allens employs nearly 2,000 people.

What qualifications do you hold?

Law degree from SydneyUniversity and an MBA from NijenrodeBusinessSchool, Holland.

Why did you get into HR?

People are at the heart of any successful business. Working within the HR function allows me to spend all my time making sure that people are contributing effectively to that business. And if everyone is happy and working in an environment where they want to come to work and excel, then that’s brilliant!

How did you get into HR?

I started my career as a lawyer and than after receiving my MBA I worked as a consultant to Barclays Bank in the UK on their people strategy. They then offered me a job.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Still leading my amazing HR team at Allens of course. It’s such a great place to be. Seeing the implementation of a five-year people strategy for Allens which then delivers to and supports the overall strategy of the firm would be a superb result.

What has been your biggest career high so far?

While at Deutsche Bank in London, I built up a HR team of over 20 people, answering to over 5,000 senior financial executives.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Ability to get on with your work colleagues and clients is very important. Communication, enthusiasm and delivery of results are necessary. An understanding of the HR function within the context of the business and the challenges that the business faces within its own markets also helps enormously.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

Sometimes it’s difficult trying to keep all senior executives happy at all times, and it is no different in a legal practice.

It’s important to be able to prioritise what may seem like different and conflicting issues, stay independent and give the best possible advice. Clearly gaining the respect of your ‘clients’ with a well-developed vision and plan which works in practice is a winning formula.

Who is your biggest professional inspiration?

My original boss at Barclays gave me lots of hand-on guidance and advice. She also demonstrated the power of building up a team of talented people who support and challenge each other, able to deliver results in complex and difficult environments.

What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?

It’s a great career, you are at the centre of any business. You have to realise that your clients are the senior management and all employees of the organisation. To succeed requires passion, sound judgement, commitment and the ability to deliver.

Describe yourself in three words

Committed, passionate, delivers.

Susan Ferrier career history

Oct 2006 to current: Allens Arthur Robinson, Sydney - director, people and performance

Oct 2004 to Sept 2006: HSBC Bank, London - global head, HR, GIB, research, private equity and global relationship management

Sept 2001 to Oct 2004: Deutsche Bank, London - director, head, HR, GCF Europe

Mar 2000 to Mar 2001: Ltd, London - business owner

Mar 1998 to Mar 2000: NG Barings, London - MD, global head, HR, corporate and institutional finance

Nov 1996 to Mar 1998: NatWest Markets, London - global head, HR, global financial markets

Feb 1995 to Nov 1996: Barclays de Zoete Wedd (BZW), London - HR director, markets division

Mar 1994 to Jan 1995: BZW, London - associate director, resource development, markets division

1991 to 1992: Bruce Lane & Co Solicitors, Sydney - solicitor

1989 to 1991: Michael Mobbs Solicitors, Sydney - solicitor

1987 to 1989: Legal Aid Commission, Sydney– solicitor