Top job: Laura Wander, group HR director, Freedom Finance

Laura Wander has been promoted to group HR director at Freedom Finance, a loan and mortgage broker. She joined the company in 2000 as HR manager to set up the HR function and was soon promoted following the growth of the group.

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

Prior to joining Freedom, I worked at J D Williams (Home Shopping). My role on leaving was HR manager in its customer services division, comprising 800 staff.

What will be the duties in your new role?

My role has become a lot more strategic and I am involved in the direction of our people strategies. Currently, I am heavily involved in ensuring our policies and procedures, primarily in recruitment and development, are in line with Financial Services Authority requirements under the new regulations.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

I hope to continue to develop the people management philosophies within Freedom and to spread this to other companies in the group. Placing our teams and our managers at the heart of our business has resulted in great returns for the company.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

Being the only woman on a senior management away day. The after dinner games were an eye-opener!  

How will HR change over the next five years?

More and more companies will appreciate the value HR can bring to a business and I think our profile will continue to grow enabling us to finally shed the ‘tea and sympathy’ image.

Who is your ultimate guru? 

Someone most people won’t know. His name is Graham Keen and he runs a great course on getting the best out of yourself.  

What is your essential viewing?

The West Wing.

How do you fill your spare time?

I try to cram as much in as possible to make the best of it. Socialising, theatre, learning Spanish, gardening, and training my dogs.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Moving to Freedom Finance. After seven years with J D Williams and the support of a large HR team, it was a big risk moving into a role with no infrastructure or support network. I don’t regret it for a minute.

What is the most over-rated tool in your job?

E-mail – I couldn’t do without it. but it is too easy to e-mail and not to talk to people. It can also be incredibly time-consuming.

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?

Be interested in the business you work in. HR is about people, but more importantly it is about the people in your business and how they work together.

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?

I was going to choose someone glamorous, for obvious reasons! But reality set in and I think Sue Johnston (in her younger days) because she is a strong, real woman.

What is the best office party you’ve ever attended?

The best office parties are the ones we have at Freedom. They get bigger and better each year and are a real night to remember.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

Tony Blackburn. His incessant drivel drives me mad and I really don’t suffer fools gladly!

Wander’s CV

2004 Group HR director, Freedom Finance

2003 Group head of HR, Freedom Finance

2000 HR manager, Freedom Finance

1993 HR manager, J D Williams

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