Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with another woman who has used a financial career to leverage her into something even bigger. Nicole Bremner of East-Eight and London Central Developments explains…
Nicole, please tell us about what you do now…and your financial background previously…
I’m the co-founder of a boutique, London based property development company London Central Developments (LCD). I’m also the founder of East Eight a property investment fund which manages our own funds and raises investor funds to finance LCD’s developments. We raise funds from high net worth investors as well as via crowdfunding. I’m especially excited about the crowdfunding as it allows those with as little as £500 invest in property developments generally only available to larger investors.
I started a pre-med degree after school but switched to commerce once I realised I didn’t want to study 7 years to become a dentist. I then started working fulltime at a broking firm while continuing my education via distance learning. I also completed the equivalent of an IFA qualification and became the youngest qualified IFA in Australia at the time.
Upon moving to London I worked for a couple of fund managers in equity research.
How did you get into this? Did you attend university, and/or fall straight into a role or was it a more roundabout journey?
Property was very much a roundabout journey. I’d had three kids in three years and knew I couldn’t go back into the City. It was my partner who suggested that I get into property. I bought my first development project in 2012 and haven’t looked back.
Can you explain what a typical day for you would be then?
I start each day at around 6-7am by rolling out of bed and straight onto my yoga mat. I go through a number of sun salutations and poses before facing the chaos of getting my kids ready for school. Once they’re on the school bus I either go downstairs to my home gym or for a 14km run. I then have either a giant smoothie or soy yoghut with seeds and berries for breakfast. By 10am I’m either working at home with my team or at The Devonshire Club. I do spend a few hours a week going around to visit sites in construction meeting with the project managers and making decisions on various stages of the build. Lunch is often sushi if I’m at The Devonshire or soup with good bread at home. I also meet with investors and potential investors as well as a couple of people I mentor.
Between 5 and 7 I pick up my kids from various after school activities, we have dinner together and then I put them to bed. Sometimes I speak at events in the evening or have client drinks. If not I watch something on Amazon Prime or Netflix while working on my laptop or phone. I always read for at least 30 minutes before sleep and then try to switch off by 10:30-11:00.
What’s your experience from a woman’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?
Property is a great choice for women or anyone who would like flexible working conditions. I can completely plan my work days and try never to miss my children’s special events.
What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering that profession?
Just do it. Find someone you admire in the industry and ask to shadow them or be mentored by them. It does help if you have a bit of money to invest in your own property initially but this can also just be your own home. Just start though. Don’t overcomplicate things or wait for the stars to align. They never will. Just start doing it and things will fall into place.
How has it helped you in what you’re doing now?
Being a woman perhaps helps because we do have a different approach to risk. Perhaps it makes investors more likely to invest with me. I don’t really know. But having an all woman team in this industry is unique and our female investors like it.
Has it hindered you at all?
It was hard in the beginning to be taken seriously. Agents would just think I was someone’s wife with a bit of money to play with. One told me to go back to playing with my doll’s house and leave property to the big boys. Needless to say I didn’t work with him. I sometimes am included on emails and then get sent the invoice as they think I’m the secretary or bookkeeper rather than a business partner. Another misconception is that I look after the interiors while my business partner looks after the construction. We’re both actively involved in both. But really these incidents are isolated and it’s not happened much. As long as I perform and purchase properties when I say I will agents and other consultants respect me.
What’s your best financial advice for any woman?
Ensure that you have good advice. Whether that be an accountant, lawyer, or both, be sure to structure your business correctly from the outset as it will solve many problems that might arise as you continue. Ensure the structure is scalable too so it can grow as your business grows.
Also make sure you reward yourself. Don’t just pay yourself a pittance or you’ll burn out and become bored. Reward yourself properly. At the end of each project I purchase myself a nice piece of jewellery or art. It is a little something for me to reward me for the hard work I’ve put in.