My career story: Suzanne Liversidge
As a proud global partner of this year’s Dive In Festival, and in support of the annual theme of #InclusionImpact, we spoke to a number of our people around the network to find out about their individual career journeys, the challenges they have faced, the advice they would give to their younger self and what diversity and inclusion means to them.
At Kennedys we have a distinctive culture that makes us a successful firm where people enjoy coming to work. With over 2,000 people across 38 offices globally, our culture is a source of strength and differentiates us from our competitors. And, according to Senior Partner Nick Thomas, “as a diverse and global firm we need to ensure that everyone, whoever or wherever they are in the firm, shares and embraces our values”.
In the latest instalment of our career stories we spoke to our Managing Partner, Suzanne Liversidge:
For someone who is well known for her quick wit, it should come as no surprise that Suzanne’s initial career aspirations were geared to making people laugh. “I always wanted to be a stand up comedienne. It was my dream,” says Suzanne, reminiscing about her route into law. “You should always try and find a job that you love - and I loved comedy. I did achieve it for a brief period, but it certainly didn’t pay the bills. My degree course included the law, which I instantly loved, and so to my surprise, I became a lawyer.”
Suzanne joined Kennedys in 2010, arriving as head of our Sheffield office, which is in her home city. “I lived in a remote rural village. There was literally nothing to do so, as pocket money, my Dad and I designed and delivered a mail order jewellery business aimed at the punk market. I loved it - earning money whilst having fun, whilst Sally Mac did a 6am paper round for 20 pence. My first taste of business aged 14. Looking back, it taught me so much.”
Always be your true authentic self. Only then can you achieve your true potential. The day I stopped pretending to be someone else, is the day my career started.
Suzanne Liversidge, Managing Partner
This work ethic that was instilled in her, a family trait according to Suzanne, stood her in good stead when she became the first in her family to go on to do both A levels and University. “None of my family were from an educational background, mainly because it wasn’t the “done thing” back then. No female in my family, over the generations before me, had ever had qualifications or a profession as such, albeit hard work was a key feature of them all. So I guess I was unique in my family to go to university and start in a professional career. I wasn’t sure I would stay within the law, but once it gets its claws around you…”
After almost ten years with Kennedys, Suzanne became the firm’s first Global Managing Partner in August. Her journey has not been the smoothest, overcoming many challenges in the process, but Suzanne recalls advice from her mum which still resonates - ‘you can only be yourself, and you must make the most of “you” every day’.
Touching on the personal and professional obstacles that she has faced, Suzanne is refreshingly open. “I qualified in the early 90s. I was female and gay. I don’t think there could have been a greater challenge for me back then. Both weren’t really a great opportunity career wise! I had to pretend a lot, albeit I couldn’t get round being female! But it has made me the person I am today, with an empathy for others who felt different to the stereotype out there. Difference is what makes us great. Difference is success!”
Suzanne’s experience has helped shape the advice she would give to someone in a similar position. She simply says: “Always be your true authentic self. Only then can you achieve your true potential. The day I stopped pretending to be someone else, is the day my career started.”
This advice is extended to anyone thinking about starting a career in the insurance industry or legal sector. To this end, Suzanne adds: “Embrace every opportunity and stretch yourself at every turn. Don’t accept the norm, push boundaries, challenge and diversify - but always be true to yourself. And take people on that journey with you, you will be better for it.”
For many, becoming Managing Partner at a global law firm may be seen as the pinnacle of somebody’s career. But when asked what her biggest achievement or success has been to date, Suzanne is typically considered in her reply.
“Success is a strange word. It is neither title or pay to me - it is two things. Am I achieving my full potential and am I happy? If it’s yes to both, that’s success. Ongoing success is when you then share that with others. Seeing others grow and flourish under my leadership has been my biggest work success. In my personal life, my biggest successes were usually sport related. I was a keen sprinter and still run most days.”
Approaching almost ten years with the firm, Suzanne underlines what she enjoys most about working at Kennedys. “We are a diverse group of talented people who work well together across the globe. I love our core values and our family feel. It is this inclusivity that makes us successful a firm and it’s rare indeed! I can also laugh and be myself!”
And when asked what diversity and inclusion means to her, Suzanne responded: “Everything. It’s the only way we can be truly successful as a business. Without diversity, we are set to fail. With it, we can do anything.”
This year’s Dive In Festival, marks the second of a two-year campaign, Awareness into Action, with a focus on creating measurable impact. After three years of raising awareness of the business case for diversity and inclusion, the global movement now looks to harness the energy of previous years to help the insurance industry get fit for the future, highlighting the business case for diverse and inclusive workplaces and providing practical ideas and inspiration on how to bring about positive change.