Mary-Helen Shakespeare Career Talk

Mary-Helen F right. Linda Wilson T left

Mary Helen Shakespeare was born and brought up in Ayr, attending Ayr Grammar School and then on to Ayr Academy. Off to Strathclyde Uni thereafter where she studied Commerce and Economics with French and German. Between school and University, Mary Helen spent the summer near Frankfurt to improve her German and the year after secured a summer job with Agfa Gevaert within the Bayer Leverkusen factory. Thereafter she switched courses to study Personnel Management and subsequently became a member of the Institute of Personnel Management.

After marriage and graduating she moved to the Lake District, where she secured an interview with the Provincial Insurance Company where it was made clear by the Personnel Manager at the time that there was no vacancy for her job! Mary Helen ended up checking applications for mistakes in Motor policy applications, a pretty boring job but, it was a job. Very shortly after starting, an opportunity arose to join a team of representatives from each floor of the building to assist the consultant from PA Management Consultants with an organisation and method project which was started in the company.

Then she was invited to represent the whole floor. It was by its very nature, a temporary post, but just as it was drawing to its conclusion, the Overseas Office which had been based in Cannon Street in the city of London, was transferred to Kendal. There arose a vacancy for someone to look after the investments which were held purely to cover our liabilities in various territories across the world, not in the Branches but in the Agencies. It was an interesting time said Mary Helen with great changes with indigenisation going on and many branches were gradually becoming governed in the main by locals and in some areas the company had to pull out completely. One of her other jobs was trying to secure land into our name from lapsed mortgages in Venezuela. The company chairman had visited that country and had decided that the Provincial should deal directly in credit insurance and vast sums of money were lost but had claim to large tracts of land there.

During the next couple of years Mary Helen had a variety of part time jobs starting with a YTS position as Editor of a Community newspaper followed by selling space for the Peterborough Evening Telegraph for the annual East of England Agricultural Show, working for Thomas Cook in Travellers cheques refunds and then as a PA to the Personnel Director. Bored by that role she successfully applied to Legal and General, where the training was thorough and very well organised. However, over the next 23 years that was to be the first of innumerable exams and quite a number were 3 hour ones. It certainly was a baptism of fire as new recruits had to find their own clients. At that time Mary-Helen was advising on whatever the need was i.e. Life assurance, Pensions, Investments and Mortgages. Later in her career with L&G she went into Wealth Management and let go of Mortgages.

Mary-Helen found her niche was first of all advising mainly women on AVC’s additions to their pensions, as nurses in the NHS had only been allowed to join the pension scheme from 1987 so were lacking in a decent retirement pot and also women who had had broken service due to childcare were also her subjects such as teachers. In the late 90’s she also realised that there was a market for giving Inheritance Tax planning and she and another colleague embarked on a large scale seminar programme and went from Birmingham down to London giving talks and then visiting clients in their homes. She also became a parent governor shortly after her son started at primary school and later became chairman of Governors. At that time the local Rotary Club was opening its door to women and so in November 1996 Mary-Helen became a member, the first woman in Peterborough, served as President and was awarded the Paul Harris accolade for her work in the community.