Having recently been awarded an MBE in the Queens Birthday Honours – We ask Judith’s opinion on the challenges facing the finance sector, why she views her job as a privilege and exactly how does one feel about meeting Royalty?
Business is very good. We’ve recently launched a new supply chain/trade finance company and the combination of a new and fresh solution for business owners and the ability to finance their working capital needs from supplier to buyer has created a real ripple in the market.
How did you get started in the industry?
I was the classic school leaver in the mid 80s – I didn’t fancy university so tried a few financial services related roles before joining Danske Bank (then Northern Bank) and developing a career in business banking with a specific specialism in working capital and trading business. I then did the classic, ‘turn 40 and need to do something different’ thing. So, I left Danske and set up Upstream in 2011.
Typically, who are your clients or customers?
Our clients come from a variety of sectors – manufacturing, wholesale distribution, the service sector and all the sub sectors within those – and are generally SME level in size although increasingly, with the new Trade Finance facility, we are seeing more of the mid corporate level, larger client. Geographically we can fund clients across the UK and Ireland as well as global purchases and sales in most tradeable currencies.
Do you enjoy what you do, and what in particular?
I love it. Meeting new people and hearing their stories – good and bad. Learning about all types of businesses and the very best part of all, being able to say yes when they ask for our help. To play even a small part in the success of a business is a privilege. As small business owners ourselves, we really do understand and have empathy for the many challenges a company faces daily.
What are the challenges facing your sector, and the economy in general?
The uncertainty of Brexit and the lack of governance in NI is naturally to the fore right now and is a challenge and an annoyance for us all. To be fair though, I believe the finance sector is in reasonably good shape. We have lots of choice and many really good advisers and funders, willing to sit down and package facilities for all sorts of business needs.
And finally – What was your reaction to being awarded with an MBE and how do you feel about meeting Royalty?
I was shocked and if I am honest, my initial thought was that perhaps someone was playing a trick on me. To be awarded an MBE for doing a job that I love and working in a sector that I really believe in, is just a joy. I feel humbled to be in the company of so many really worthy recipients and I am still pinching myself. It’s very much an award for the team in Upstream as I am simply a figure head for all their hard work. I guess meeting a member of the royal family will be exciting and nerve wracking but at the moment its hasn’t quite sunk in…