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Eden Lawrence | Associate, QIC

 

 

1. Can you tell us a bit about your journey into the private capital industry?

I first started at QIC as a paralegal in the legal team. It was then after a year that I had the opportunity to move to the Global Private Equity team to run the Queensland Business Development Fund (BDF) which had just been announced by the Queensland Government. I always believed that to be ambitious, driven and ultimately successful I had to have goals and a clear career path in order to achieve my long-term ideals. My goal was to be a corporate M&A transaction lawyer, live and work offshore, and one day make it to partner in a major firm.

When I look back now I wonder why I had such a set mindset – Did I know my strengths? My core values? My objectives? The answer was that I probably hadn’t thought through those questions in enough detail. And when I joined the Private Equity team at QIC, I went into the role constantly reminding myself to look at every opportunity and decision with a growth mindset. When I did that, everything changed.

2. What do you enjoy most about working in private capital?

Working in the private capital industry has made me realise my values, skills and energy drivers – which for me, essentially comes down to ensuring that I make an impact in what I do.

"The private capital investment profession is a place where you can really make a genuine and enduring impact for the betterment of the community in the long-term."

Today, perhaps more so than the past, people spend a significant part of their life either at work, or engaged in work. And for many, their careers make up a big part of who they are and ultimately how they live their life both professionally and personally. Private capital investment positively impacts how companies grow, and ultimately it impacts on the individual lives of hundreds of thousands of people (and their families) who make up these companies. That’s a big part of what I enjoy about being a part of this profession.

3. What are your career highlights to date?

The journey of growing from a paralegal to a junior analyst, and then analyst to associate, has been the most rewarding four years of my professional life. And to think this is just the beginning of my career in private capital excites me beyond words. Over the last three years, the BDF has grown from a $40m fund to an $80m fund, and now comprises 42 portfolio companies. In the relatively short space of time since inception the fund has made seven follow-on investments, three successful exits, relocated three companies to Queensland, created over 400 FTE jobs in Queensland, and brought over 60 first-time new investors to Queensland. We have a lot to celebrate, and I’m certain that this is just the beginning.

"A particular career highlight was when a BDF portfolio founder, Wayne Gerard invited me to be on his board of RedEye as an observer and then that followed with a sponsorship to do the Australian Company Directors course which was such a great opportunity for me to continue to develop my professional skills and expertise."

I have been fortunate to be surrounded by exceptionally genuine and incredible mentors and leaders from the industry who have believed in and empowered me. They saw potential in me from day one, as a junior paralegal and student, to run and grow the $40m Queensland Business Development Fund to the $80m fund it is today. These people I refer to as my own personal and professional “seed investors”.

4. What advice would you offer a woman starting in the industry now?

First thing I would say is that the industry needs you! Private capital investment is driven ultimately by people, and that means there is a huge human and personal interface involved in what we do, which is sometimes not spoken about.

Through my role in the industry, I have sometimes witnessed female founders struggle without the support of their investors – it’s an essential ingredient in achieving success for many entrepreneurs. The challenge is that most of the investors are male, and we must do better at instilling greater gender balance in the range of investors across our market. We need more female investment professionals in our industry who can help make a real impact on how we support female entrepreneurs, and in doing so, help them foster greater diversity within the management teams of the businesses they build.

"Businesses need to be nurtured as well as the people within those companies and that’s something that comes naturally to women."

The differences between female and male leadership styles don’t come down to one being preferred over the other – the point is you need a combination of styles so that decision-making processes benefit from a diversity of views, experiences and thoughts. Investors are in a position of influence in most areas of the businesses’ strategy and approach. Investors can therefore have a significant bearing on things like diversity and inclusion policies, paternity policies, or being an advocate for founders and CEOs to take paternity leave, or to manage succession plans. I really do believe that part of our role is to encourage and support business leaders to ensure they maintain a strong passion around their business, but also to prioritise time with their families outside of the daily grind.

My advice to any female starting out in private capital: don’t ever feel like you need to be like everyone else to grow in this industry. Be authentic, true to yourself and most importantly stay humble.

"It was my very first seed believer, boss and mentor Nick Guest who gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received in my career so far – just be a good person. No matter where you end up, or how far you grow, always be good a person. Everyone wants to be around and help good people."