Helen Blackford

Taking on the chief executive role is no mean feat but straddling three companies as a CEO is almost unheard of in the financial services realm.

Helen Blackford takes it all in her stride. She has been in the hotseat across Lonsdale, Millennium3 and IOOF Alliances for the past two years. These are three quite distinct businesses with different adviser bases, she tells Professional Planner.

The key to handling such as mammoth task has been looking for ways to take advantage of the similarities in these companies to utilise a shared services model.

“We saw a lot of synergies within the communities that we realised could be integrated to create greater efficiencies, while still maintaining three distinct brands,” Blackford says. “This makes the entire process far more efficient on the inside than perhaps how it appears on the outside.”

Who is Blackford?

The Brisbane-based CEO started out working as an adviser for the Commonwealth Bank.

“Like a lot of others, I sort of fell into the advice industry. When you work for a bank, you’re often faced with this choice at some point,” she says.

The financial advice division rose to prominence in the late 1990s, and she decided to put her hand up to transition into this new field.

She studied financial planning and worked as an adviser for five years before being presented with the opportunity to step up into dealership management.

“I’ve always had a passion for education and learning, so being able to share what I know with a community of advisers and grow the business was really appealing to me,” she says.

She describes herself as a grounded and approachable leader. She keeps her ear to the ground to understand the issues and deal with those as they arise.

Blackford has 15 direct reports due to the shared services model, relying heavily on colleagues to handle the granular grunt work within the network.

“We’ve got a big network, but everyone is invited to call me anytime. I genuinely care about our team,” she says. “I tend to lean into the difficult parts of the role, which allows me to free up my time to be an accessible, approachable leader.”

Making a difference