The career journey of Emma Cullen, Chief Operating Officer
Perhaps a little surprising given her current broad commercial role, Emma embarked upon her legal career in the real estate team at Frere Cholmeley before moving to a niche real estate firm, Forsters. She was then approached by a contact to join Liberty Media as General Counsel where she broadened her skills to become a more general corporate/commercial lawyer. Next she was attracted, once again by a contact, into the world of financial services initially as General Counsel Designate. After nine years she was appointed to the Board of Directors as Chief Operating Officer and took a stake in the business.
Emma is quick to point out that the GC role provides an holistic view of any business enabling a curious GC to gain commercial knowledge and develop business judgement. As COO she is effectively responsible for the smooth running of the operation and is complementary to her CEO who has the strategic vision and deep investment expertise. Emma is the implementer – currently delivering a major digitisation project looking at AI and data analytics. Her portfolio is wide including Operations, HR, Legal, Risk, Governance, IT and Data.
She considers herself well suited to the position which has been achieved through her willingness to assume risks and move into areas where she had little training or experience plus an element of good timing, having the right networks and ensuring the correct scale of business to suit her skills. Her direct reports include Director of Innovation and Company Secretaryand an operations team of four people.
Emma also sits on the corporate governance committee of The Association of Real Estate Funds.
Advice: Having started out as a specialist, Emma recommends that any specialism is abandoned early in a career in order to move into general management. A pre-requisite is broad sector knowledge which can be gained by sitting on industry bodies as well as visibility and exposure within the business. A flexible approach is key as well as the courage to assume responsibility and to move into unfamiliar areas.
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