Commercial Finance Specialist, Philippa Eddie: Career after partnership

I am excited to share the next interview in my series, talking about partnership in professional services. In this instance I had the pleasure of spending some time with Philippa Eddie, who was a partner at EY for over 6 years. In her life after partnership, she is a Commercial Finance Specialist in the Cabinet Office, working on the delivery of large infrastructure projects.

Can you describe your career trajectory?

After studying engineering and economics at university, I started my career in the early 1990s working for a US investment bank. I then spent 11 years at Morgan Grenfell/Deutsche Bank.

After banking, I moved to EY (or Ernst & Young as it was then) in 2004 having been approached by a senior partner to set up a private sector advisory business for private finance initiative (PFI) projects. I joined EY as a director, with a view to being admitted to the partnership quickly; I became a partner in July 2006. 

I was at EY until 2013 and joined government directly from there. I had been working in the field of infrastructure until then, mostly working with the private sector, and always for a private sector firm. I felt that it would be a great opportunity to be at the heart of government using my infrastructure financing skills – it would enable me to see projects from a different perspective. In this role, I’ve been able to work on a broad range of exciting projects. It has enabled me to use the skills built up in the private sector and develop them further while helping the public sector deliver large infrastructure projects, including the recent £400m Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund for electric vehicle chargepoints.

What served you well as you approached partnership at EY?

One of the things I found really valuable was to understand in advance what life as a partner at EY would be like. I reached out to partners in various parts of the business including some I didn’t know. I talked to partners who were new into the partnership, and to some who had been around for a lot longer. I found this invaluable, and they were all more than happy to spend time with me. 

What have been the unexpected challenges or opportunities as you went through your career?

The unexpected opportunity came when I was approached at Deutsche Bank by the EY partner I mentioned earlier to set up a PFI private sector advisory business at EY. It came at the right time – I had been at Morgan Grenfell/Deutsche Bank for 11 years and had made it to director level and was ready for a move. I should mention that I was pregnant with my second child and I remember being upfront with the EY partner about this – he said that he would be happy for me to join EY after my maternity leave. This made me feel very positively towards EY, and felt that this willingness to wait was a sign of a flexible employer. 

As far as the challenges are concerned, work-life balance is very important for me. My second job was less manic than it had been at the US investment bank and I really felt that with better planning, people could usually go home at a reasonable time. This principle has stayed with me throughout my career, namely the importance of thinking about your team. So, challenges in the early part of my career led me to consider the kind of leader I wanted to be.

Do you see yourself as a leader?

I see myself as one of the leaders in our field in government since it requires a lot of expertise to deliver infrastructure projects well. I am no longer a leader in the context of having a team of people in the way I was at EY. There are different models and ways of looking at leadership and I think it is important for people to understand this in their own leadership journey.

What do you think is important for you as a leader?

Honesty and respect are major themes. I feel strongly about only claiming credit where it is due, giving credit to the team, doing the things you say you are going to do, and being clear if this is not possible. Also, don’t be afraid to challenge people, including clients, where requests (for example around timescales) are unnecessarily demanding. I also recognise that what goes around comes around, and as a result, I believe in treating people as you want to be treated yourself.

Who are the people who have been influential in your career?

Two individuals, in particular, have been particularly influential in my career: one who hired me into Morgan Grenfell in the early 1990s; the other who brought me into EY. Each time, I was recruited by someone who became a sponsor for me, and made me aware early on of the importance of having someone in that role. 

There have been many others who have impacted my career whether from my own organisation or as clients or as friends – these are too numerous to name. I have clients who have become friends and in some cases, client or colleague relationships have developed into something that looks like peer-to-peer mentoring.

I have been part of various women’s networks over the years. I joined them because I found them useful and enjoyable, allowing me to network and chat with women in what is a male-dominated industry. As I have become more senior, I have become increasingly involved in mentoring and coaching women (and men) coming up through the ranks. I am now a mentor and coach both within and outside of the civil service – I feel passionately about mentoring, coaching and sponsorship which is the reason why I am studying for my Level 7 Diploma in Executive Coaching and Mentoring with the Institute of Leadership and Management. I believe that I have benefited significantly from being a part of networks for over 20 years, and from conversations with more experienced women. I therefore want to support others as they come through.

Do you have any top tips for aspiring leaders?

I have quite a few actually. Seize opportunities when they present themselves. And if it feels like a stretch, think about it. And if it sounds scary, still think about it. Be proactive about opportunities. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, but do it nicely. Most people are happy to be asked for help. What goes around comes around, so treat people well. Don’t gossip, and keep confidences so that people trust you. Think carefully about how you manage your team, and be respectful of people’s work-life balance.