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Celebrating our people: Jackie Cooke reflects on 30 years’ service with Close Brothers

Earlier this month, Jackie Cooke, Managing Director, Transport Glasgow, reached a 30-year anniversary milestone with Close Brothers Asset Finance, having joined the company in 1991 in the role of Office Manager / PA.

We caught up with Jackie to learn more about her progression over the last three decades. She also reflects on what has made her time with Close Brothers enjoyable and the people who have supported her along the way.

You joined the company 30 years ago and have progressed to the role of MD. Can you tell us about your career history and the roles you held during that time?

I joined Close Brothers Asset Finance in Glasgow as Office Manager / PA to the MD and as I was the only operations person in the office, my job covered pretty much everything; documentation, telesales, arrears, legal, pre-underwriting….

As the branch expanded, I progressed on to the role of Operations Manager, then Senior Operations Manager, Senior Commercial Manager and Assistant MD. Finally, in 2017, I took on my current role of Managing Director for Transport Glasgow.

What was the business like when you started?

We opened the Asset Finance business in Glasgow on 4 June 1991 in an office in Newton Mearns on the outskirts of Glasgow. We were a team of four with Neil Hamilton as MD, two sales directors and myself. 

Close Brothers had 140 staff then, in stark contrast to our workforce of 3,000 people today. In the early stages, the office in Tolworth oversaw most of the operations whereas today now we have an Asset Finance and Leasing-wide approach with leads in each business.

Major changes then took place around 10 years ago when Neil Hamilton retired, and Colin Swanston joined as the new MD.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen throughout your time with the company?

Easily, the most seismic changes within the company have been the focus on staff development through mentoring systems and training.

A close second has been increased diversity at senior management level.

Lastly, technology; we would never have been able to grow the business without the correct systems in place and the new platforms and processes that have been recently been introduced to Close Brothers Asset Finance.

Are there any particular highlights or moments you consider your proudest from your time with the company to date?

The growth of the business, particularly in such difficult circumstances for everyone this last year and the way Close Brothers Asset Finance has ensured staff wellbeing is at the heart of what we do.

What do you enjoy most about working for the business?

The people – this is what makes us stand out from the rest; everyone working together to achieve great customer service and, overall, a great place to work.

Throughout our careers, we encounter many people who mentor us, help shape our roles and give valuable advice. Are there any individuals in particular who helped and advised you? If so, how?

Personal influences – positive or negative – are all useful on the grand scale.  Happily, my personal experience has been positive, overall. Notable mentions would include; Neil Hamilton, Colin Swanston (Director – Management, Transport Glasgow) and John Fawcett (CEO, Transport division). 

Neil started my training within Close Brothers Asset Finance back in 1987 until 2010, then Colin took over the role of mentor and I still seek advice from him to this day. 

John has been there for me when I needed support and has continued to be someone I can rely on.

I was also seconded to Head Office for almost a full year, assisting in the development of a CRM system as part of a close-knit team along with Aileen Boyle (MD, Braemar Finance) and Diane Webb (Head of Operations).

We were exposed to central departments, facilitating a more detailed knowledge of the staff and systems at Crown Place, Wimbledon and all Close Brothers Asset Finance branches – this really assisted with networking and strengthened my relationships across the wider business.

What’s been the best career advice you’ve been given by someone?

My major mainstay of advice would be applicable in all instances, maintain your integrity and keep to your principles.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to progress in their career with Close Brothers?

Be flexible, willing to learn, open-minded and take on tasks that take you out of your comfort zone.

However, stick to your own principles and values; maintaining your focus will allow a greater sense of achievement and development founded on those unshakeable foundations.