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Categorized | Banks

Second woman in 800 years heads City of London

Posted on September 30, 2013

A woman has been elected Lord Mayor of London for only the second time in
the institution’s 800-year history.

Fiona Woolf, a partner at London-based law firm CMS Cameron McKenna, will don the ceremonial ermine and tricorn in November as she becomes the 686th head of the City of London Corporation, the Square Mile’s local authority.

    Ms Woolf, 65, is an expert in electricity markets and infrastructure. During her 40-year career, the privatisation specialist has worked in Argentina, India and Turkey, and lead the 38-strong team that advised on the privatisation of the National Grid electricity transmission network in the 1990s.

    In 1981, Ms Woolf became the first woman to become a partner at her law firm. Dick Tyler, senior partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, said she had driven the creation of the firm’s global practice in energy markets.

    “She was always a trailblazer. Forget the fact that she was a woman,” Mr Tyler said.

    One industry expert said she had a “highly commercial, pragmatic” style tempered by the political aspects of working with governments. “She would see all the angles,” the person said.

    The Lord Mayor plays a largely ambassadorial role for the City, spending at least three months of a year-long period of office promoting the UK financial services industry in overseas markets.

    But the sector remains under considerable pressure over banking reform, Britain’s uncertain future in Europe and the reverberations of the Libor scandal.

    Acknowledging the challenges faced by the City, Ms Woolf highlighted its importance to the economy. “Despite all the difficulties, the UK financial, business and professional services sectors continue to play a crucial role in driving jobs and growth in the UK and right across the world,” she said in a statement following her election yesterday.

    Ms Woolf, a former president of the Law Society of England and Wales and until this year a member of the Competition Commission, worked with the World Bank on bringing electricity infrastructure to countries emerging from war, including Liberia and Sierra Leone.

    As Lord Mayor, she
    follows in the footsteps of Mary Donaldson, who became the first woman to be elected to the post in 1983. Ms Woolf’s election will shine a light on gender balance in a City that remains male-dominated, particularly at senior levels.

    Just 6 per cent of managing directors in the Square Mile are women, and one-fifth of mid- to senior positions are filled by women, according to a survey last year by Astbury Marsden, recruitment agency.

    “She might act as a beacon to others, drawing attention to the fact there are more women in the City than in the past,” Mr Tyler said.”

    Ms Woolf will succeed Roger Gifford, who headed the UK arm of Swedish bank Skandinaviska Enskilda Bank. Her accession will take place on November 8, when Mr Gifford steps down at the Guildhall in a ritual known as the silent Ceremony.

    Singing solicitor hits high note

    Fiona Woolf was born in 1948 and educated in Edinburgh

    ● 1970 Keele University, BA in law and psychology

    ● 1973 Qualifies as a solicitor then joins Clifford Chance

    ● 1978 Joins McKenna, later part of CMS Cameron McKenna and becomes the firm’s first female partner in 1981

    ● 1985 Works on Channel tunnel negotiations

    ● 1990s Leads 38 lawyers advising on privatisation of National Grid, listed in 1995

    ● 2001-02 Senior fellow at Harvard. Made CBE

    ● 2007 Elected Alderman for the ward of Candlewick, City of London

    ● 2010-11 Sheriff of City of London

    ● 2013 Made lord mayor

    ● Interests A keen singer, she used to chair the Chelsea Opera Group and is part of its chorus. Governor of Guildhall School of Music and Drama