Workplace Leaders
Oliver Wyman
Partner & Head of UK & Ireland

Lisa Quest

Great leadership requires several qualities that make teams feel empowered, valued and included. Listening to your team is one of the most important things you can do, as well as having open conversations and being a good role model.

Lisa Quest, Partner & Head of UK & Ireland at Oliver Wyman, sat down with Luke James, Co-host of The Interview, to speak about her career path and the initiatives she has been most proud of so far.

Lisa's Journey

Luke: Can we begin with an introduction to your current role and institution?

Starting with Oliver Wyman, we are a global strategic advisory firm. We are a multi-specialist firm, so we are often at the top within our industries, but we don't operate in all sectors. My market is the UK and Ireland, and we operate in, among others, financial services, climate and sustainability, aviation, the public sector and healthcare.

I began my career in New York, moved to the UK in 2013, and have been at Oliver Wyman since then. In addition to the work I do in the UK and Ireland, I also co-lead our public sector practice. I am also a visiting academic fellow for the London School of Economics in their Centre for Risk and Regulation on regulation and the digital economy.

Luke: How did you come to your current role? How has it been going so far?

It's very exciting. My journey has not been a straight line, I started here in our Capital Markets and Private Capital Business on the advisory side and did a lot of work with banks and private equity houses. I then left Oliver Wyman and worked with a private capital fund. That was really interesting, but it made me want to work more with the government on things like regulation. So taking my private sector side, I moved into the regulatory side, expanding our public sector practice. That led me to the head of our UK and Ireland market, which is back into more private sector work.

Luke: What kind of initiatives have you been involved in within your career regarding people and culture?

We’ve always had a strong cultural identity here with strong employee groups. We don't see those as separate things or build culture on the side, but we really bring it into the business. We’ve been working recently on building neurodiverse teams, looking at profiles of the individuals and not just their visible diversity characteristics

We also have different approaches to work-life balance and using different flexibility programmes such as working eleven months of the year instead of twelve, and that gives people the chance to really reset. We have a lot of programmes like that; none are mandatory, but we have so many that people can choose what works best for them. That does a lot for retention and promoting great opportunities too.

Luke: How do you engage staff on important topics like Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)?

We have a dedicated global Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging (IDB) function Belonging & EDI team that is global, and we have a UK and Ireland team, too, because inclusion is different in every market. We do this formally through Career Development Advisor programmes (CDA). I am a senior supporter of WOW (Women of Oliver Wyman), and I am part of our global racial and cultural equity council. I have a shadow advisor and act as a role model for many of the working women.

Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are also an important part of the journey as they help to build communities for historically under-represented groups, as well as collaborate to support people with intersectional identities. Last but not least, we support mental health and wellbeing through our Thrive Advocates, measuring organisational success using a ‘Thrive at Oliver Wyman’ Index

Luke: How do you get all staff engaged in topics around inclusion and belonging when they have such busy work schedules?

We do this in a number of ways. Our bi-annual inclusion survey allows us to check in with colleagues about their sentiments on IDB, and to hear firsthand about how they are experiencing the culture of the firm, regardless of the region or the office that they are in.

In addition, we ensure that IDB messages are embedded in leadership messages and at all of our events and development sessions.  IDB isn’t just an add on, it’s a fundamental and core part of all that we do.

IDB isn’t just an add on, it’s a fundamental and core part of all that we do.

Through our ERGs, we lift up employee voices enabling them to help shape the agenda. One of our programmes is Men for Change, because we felt we weren’t actively engaging the dominant male model in the firm. The group has enabled colleagues to get involved in IDB topics and engage in an authentic way. It has acted as a real catalyst for wider engagement.

We also have a champion program that allows people who are more interested in IDB to go through a process of additional and voluntary education to become certified as an IDB champion.  

Luke: How do you link the people-focused work with the firm’s larger commercial goals?

For me, there is a direct link between the satisfaction and diversity of the team and the financial success of the company. I don't try to quantify it artificially. Still, we look at satisfaction and diversity metrics, and those metrics aren’t about giving us a solid answer on teams growing because they are diverse. They’re about telling us which conversations we need to be facilitating. 

For example, the consultant side of our public sector team is 50/50 male and female — the only team in the firm. So I will know to go and talk to some of the teams that don't have that level of diversity to give the women in those practices a visible role model — our private capital team, for example; I have experience there, and I want to show them that they can succeed to the same level.

Luke: You are now leading on the UK and Ireland — what qualities do you think great leaders need to have to run a high-performing organisation?

I think it’s about being an effective listener because you can't be an effective leader on your own. When you listen, you can build a team around you that augment the strengths that you don’t have and build a team that is appropriate, visible, and supportive of the entire business. It’s also about being really self-reflective as a leader and knowing where your strengths lie before giving responsibility appropriately.

Luke: What is your top advice for anyone going into a role like yours?

Develop effective sponsorship relationships and realise that those relationships go two ways. The advice I got early on was to pick the people, not the content, so I chose to go into Capital Markets because I liked the people there. Those are the people that have held me up over the years, and I think that’s a great piece of advice.

Luke: How can you best distil a culture of learning and growth?

Be open to failure and be open to people trying. If you aren't willing to try and fail, then you aren’t going to learn and grow.

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Luke James
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