Ten questions for Jonathan Luke of NEL Fund Managers

Dealmaker Jonathan Luke joined NEL Fund Managers in 2004 before subsequently becoming portfolio director and deputy chief executive.

NEL is the North East England’s most active business investor, providing financial products to small and medium-sized businesses across the region, and is authorized and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

What was your first job (and how much did it pay)?

Clerk at NatWest Bank in Newcastle city center in 1985, earning £ 60 per week at the age of 16. My pals had started factory apprenticeships at £ 35 per week, so I thought I’d leave school and go for the big money!

What is the best advice or support you’ve been given in business?

Don’t waste time worrying about something you can’t affect – focus on the areas that you can influence instead and do them well. I’ve been very lucky to work with some very good people over the years, as well as some who weren’t so impressive, and I’ve learned an awful lot from both.

What are the main changes you’ve seen in your business / sector, and what are the challenges you’re facing?

The pandemic and Brexit have both had major effects on business and more than ever there is a need to understand the challenges and opportunities. Over recent years, the number of potential funding providers has increased, but the type of lending is often purely transactional, rather than something based on a relationship with the borrower and a clear understanding of their actual needs. NEL’s challenge is to ensure that we continue to balance our business objectives with those of the firms we’re working with and to provide the service element which often seems to be absent elsewhere in the market.

How has the pandemic changed the way you work?

I’ve always much preferred dealing with people face to face, so while the virtual platforms we all used during lockdown were very useful, I’m pretty much back to my old style of working while having a much greater appreciation of how fortunate I am in this respect.

Who is your role model in business?

I don’t really have a role model in business, but am instead inspired by people who achieve great things whilst maintaining high standards and respecting others. As a sports obsessive, my role models are more from that world, with Jonny Wilkinson and Kevin Sinfield being good examples.

What would your dream job be?

I love horse racing, so being a professional tipster would be fun, although my success rate might make it a short-lived occupation.

What advice would you give to someone starting out a career in your sector?

Enjoy it, first and foremost. Be involved with the people in your environment, build relationships, understand how you can influence business growth and be supportive of others. Acting with integrity and building trust gives you the best chance of being successful.

What makes the North East a good place to do business?

It may sound like a cliché, but it’s the people. There is a level of resilience here that comes with having to earn every success, as well as a genuine desire to help each other and achieve great things for the region.

How important is it for business to play a role in society?

Extremely important. A successful business environment naturally provides better quality jobs and allows individuals to have more lifestyle choices, while businesses should also set the right tone for society by behaving ethically and responsibly.

Outside of work, what are you really good at?

Enjoying life! I like spending time with family and friends, eating, drinking and watching sports, often all at once, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the years honing these essential skills!


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