There is nothing worse in an office environment, says Laura Perkins, than feeling bored, disenfranchised or disincentivised. Fortunately, though, those are not feelings which the director of Stonehage Fleming has experienced during a career which has taken her from Scotland to Jersey via the Caribbean.

They are also, she says, not feelings which any of the 90-strong team in the company’s Jersey headquarters are likely to come across during their working day. “One of the great things about Stonehage Fleming is the way in which everyone is treated as an individual,” she said. “There is a tremendous emphasis on identifying with each employee, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and where they see their career going, so that a tailored development approach can be taken.”

So strong is this emphasis, added Laura, that it became apparent to her long before her first day in the office. “Even during the interview process, I could see that the leadership team was really interested in me and my career aspirations,” she said. “And that discussion has continued throughout my first 18 months in the role. Conversations revolve around whether I am getting enough satisfaction from my day-to-day job, whether I need any additional mentorship, training or development and where my skillset and strengths might be best deployed.

“For me, that is exactly the right approach to leadership. By taking this approach and providing the necessary support to enable staff to develop and progress, people derive tremendous satisfaction from their role. This, in turn, fosters a culture that is both supportive and productive – and one where people want to stay.

“Indeed, one of the key factors which attracted me to the business was the longevity of its staff. From administrators to directors and partners, so many team members have been here for a significant number of years, and you only get that commitment if you are doing something right.”

For Laura, who joined Stonehage Fleming shortly after giving birth to her second child, the culture – which has Family as one of its core values – was particularly important for both personal and professional reasons. “Taking maternity leave and spending time with my children was really important to me, but I found it difficult to return to the workplace afterwards,” she acknowledged. “I had feelings of imposter syndrome and wondered how I had done the job before going on leave. It definitely takes time to readjust and get yourself back into a working mindset, particularly when you are struggling with sleepless nights and the additional challenges having children entails.”

Here, again, the Stonehage Fleming culture played a part in helping Laura to reintegrate into the workplace. “The company recognises that a lot of women have young children, and a partner who also works full-time, and it understands the challenges that can create,” she said. “While I think it’s hard for any business to determine how much flexibility can be built into a working day without having a negative effect on culture and client service, Stonehage Fleming does offer flexible working and doesn’t stick to a rigid 9 to 5 working day. They acknowledge that parents may need to take children to school and pick them up again.

“And those concessions do not just apply to working mums. An understanding that many men are now taking on more home and childcare responsibilities is critical both to fostering an inclusive culture and to supporting family life. At Stonehage Fleming, both male and female staff members are encouraged to be visible parents. You see just as many dads as mums heading off to their child’s sports day, play or taking time off to look after a poorly child.”
Having trained initially as a solicitor in Edinburgh, Laura’s path to Jersey followed a slightly circuitous route.

“When I was growing up in Scotland, the career options highlighted at school were somewhat limited,” she recalled. “I remember that doctor, vet, lawyer and accountant were the only real suggestions. While I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, I knew that a degree in Law would stand me in good stead for a range of options, so I decided to follow that route.”

Luckily for Laura, she also discovered a love of the subject, particularly when she had the opportunity to work in private client law. “I loved the personal side of the discipline,” she said. “You are helping real people with real-life scenarios and I got a tremendous amount of enjoyment from finding solutions for them. I also really enjoyed the trust administration side of being a private client lawyer, something which I missed when I moved offshore and the administration of assets and businesses was handled by trust company businesses rather than law firms.”

That first offshore move was to the British Virgin Islands. “I had a chance to work for Harneys, a large off-shore law firm with its head office in Tortola,” Laura explained. “I was in my mid-30s at the time and, while I knew there was an element of risk, these opportunities for adventure don’t arise very often, so I felt that I needed to take the plunge. I knew that I could always return to Scotland if things didn’t work out in the Caribbean.”

But, as the move “changed her life in more ways than one”, a return to the country of her birth did not prove necessary. “The job was great, and I also met my now-husband while I was there,” she said. And it was a combination of family considerations and natural events which eventually brought the couple to Jersey. “We were in the BVI when the devastating hurricane of 2017 hit, forcing us to evacuate,” Laura explained. “We moved to Cayman but, after a year there, we knew that we wanted to move closer to our families in the UK.”

Attracted by the high-quality professional opportunities it offered – as well as a beautiful, safe environment to raise a family– the couple moved to Jersey in 2019, where Laura joined Collas Crill, initially as counsel before becoming a partner in the international private client division. “I loved the job but, after my second daughter was born, I had a natural opportunity to consider what I wanted to do, and Stonehage Fleming gave me the opportunity to go ‘back to my roots’ working directly with families managing the family wealth for current and future generations while also joining a business whose people, ethos and values I really liked,” she explained.

“The business model is very strong and the role and structure of the organisation offered clear and varied opportunities, which I was excited to take up. While my role focuses predominantly providing trustee and directorship to trusts and companies within those structures, Stonehage Fleming is a multi-family office, offering, among other services, investment management, financial planning and private asset advisory services to global families from 19 offices in 14 different jurisdictions.”

This broad network, Laura explains, enables the company to provide a bespoke service to meet the needs of each client. “It also means that every day is different, something else which attracted me to the role,” she said. And it is not just client work which makes every day different. “I was amazed when I started how much support and advice I received from many colleagues within the business, particularly other senior female colleagues,” Laura reflected. “There’s a wonderful culture here of team members supporting one another and providing that all-important encouragement and understanding. I think it’s right that I share that approach and where I can mentor other people within the business. and I love spending that time with people, providing the advice and support which I am so grateful to have received throughout my career.

“There are many positives to being in Jersey I have a fabulously supportive network of colleagues and friends and I believe achieving the often elusive harmony between work and family life is much more achievable here than elsewhere.”