Meet Sinead Stewart, Director in Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Banking & Finance Team

Banking & Finance Director, Sinead Stewart, tells us about her career journey, some of the key challenges facing the Banking & Finance sector, and explains why it is so important to never stop learning.

1. Why did you choose a career in law?

I chose a career in law as I recognised that the law influences all aspects of life, from buying and selling houses, to litigation, wills and probate, and family law. I also wanted a role that is both challenging and rewarding.  As lawyers, we constantly have to adapt to suit our client’s needs, dealing with complex documents against a background of legislation that is always changing.

A career in law is also very people orientated and it’s great to be able to work alongside some very driven and talented colleagues and clients on a daily basis. It’s also very satisfying when you complete a deal or solve an issue for a client which achieves both the client’s commercial goals and gives them the legal protection they need. Being a lawyer ticks all the boxes for me and I am lucky to say that I enjoy what I do.

2. What attracted you to your position as a Director in the Banking & Finance team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin?

A new challenge presented itself which would allow me to develop my banking expertise in a leading commercial law firm in Belfast. The development of the Banking & Finance department provided an exciting opportunity to help shape the growth and development of the team’s services and work alongside Director, Stephen Cross, who is widely recognised as a leading expert in banking law in Northern Ireland.

3. What are the challenges facing the banking industry and the economy in general?

These are certainly challenging times for everyone, from the unrest in the Middle East and Ukraine, to issues relating to global warming and strikes. There is also much volatility in the finance sector due to inflation, cost of living pressures, crippling energy costs, and increased interest rates putting more and more borrowers under financial strain.  However, unlike in the financial crisis, credit remains available to support corporates, and we are also seeing alternative lenders operating in the Northern Ireland market with many more funding options available.

Another big challenge for the banking industry is increased regulatory scrutiny. Banks have to comply with various regulations, from anti-money laundering to data protection law, and this can be a time-consuming and costly process which can impact the profitability of banks.

Consequently, businesses must continue to evolve and navigate a world transformed by global uncertainties, technological advancements, changing business models, increased regulatory scrutiny and a renewed focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.  They will need to be resilient and creative to survive the current challenges.

4. What has been your biggest lesson in your career so far?

Never stop learning. You will always encounter people who have more experience than you throughout your career; learning from people with more experience will help you to grow both personally and professionally. Adopting a learning attitude throughout your life will help you to become a well-rounded, educated and fulfilled individual and professional.

5. How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

The pandemic was a game-changer for me in terms of having the ability to work from home.  Living in Dungannon and working in Belfast pre-pandemic often meant many a wasted hour commuting into Belfast, five days a week, and being stuck in heavy traffic. Hybrid working now offers me the flexibility of working from home when I need to be at home for the children, gives me more quality family time in the evening and provides me with some downtime. In turn, it means that I am also more appreciative of the days when I am in the office catching up with colleagues.

Find out more about Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Banking & Finance services here.

This interview was initally published in the November/December 2023 issue of Ambition Magazine

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