We are proud to announce that last month, four amazing members of our team were finalists at the Credit Strategy #WiCAwards!
The awards, hosted by Credit Strategy, and judged by prominent industry leaders came together to celebrate, and champion the work of incredible women, and those who empower them across the entire credit and financial services industry. They support and recognize achievements among inspirational women and allies in the industry.
See below for a profile of our incredible team members who made the final lists.
Claire Lewis, Chief Operating Officer - Woman of the Year
When Claire joined Optimum in 2017, she immediately went into action, building a top class team and developing a culture that entices new talent to the business.
Claire started her career as a teenager and has always been in the invoice finance space, where she has not only developed market leading skills and knowledge, but a passion for supporting others with their cash requirements.
Unsurprisingly with a career in a sector spanning over 25 years, Claire is well known in the invoice finance space and not only attracts new talent, but new introducers and clients. Recognising the importance of cash to businesses, Claire is an advocate for supporting SMEs with their cash flow needs.
Helping clients who had been ignored by other providers is something that brings her immense satisfaction, knowing she is delivering funding to those who need it most.
In her role as COO, exceptional client service remains at the forefront of her focus. She not only helps to manage risk but is also laser-focused on maintaining high level service provision. This ensures strong retention, which in turn results in strong recurring revenue and financial performance for the business. Evidence of the value add created by Claire and her team can be outlined in the fact that numerous clients that no longer require funding have retained the credit management services of Optimum, highlighting that the business is much more than a financier. Claire is central to this.
Throughout her time in Optimum, Claire has helped guide colleagues through some uncharted waters. This includes coming through the Covid 19 pandemic stronger and better equipped for the future. The resilience, the culture and the passion that Claire exudes cascades throughout her team, and even into other departments within the business.
Optimum is extremely proud to have Claire as part of its Senior Leadership Team.
Vicky Baber, Senior Account Executive – Team Player of the Year
Vicky arrived at Optimum Finance in October 2017 and was immediately presented with the challenge of onboarding prospects and consolidating business leads as the new business support manager. Having previously worked in credit control, the role of drafting and issuing legal paperwork and onboarding clients meant acquiring new skills. Vicky embraced this challenge and subsequently supported new colleagues to the business in developing their knowledge in the same area.
Whilst many fear change, Vicky adapts quickly, and immediately proved her worth. When the company restructured in 2021, following the COVID pandemic, Vicky took on a further new role as a Credit Control Manager, requiring adaptability, astute leadership and mentoring skills to guide the team through a period of uncertainty. She was a key player in supporting the business through a difficult time that impacted the whole alternative finance industry.
It was in this period that Vicky truly excelled, as a team player, cultivating a strong, determined team to navigate their way through financial challenges.
Today Vicky has another new role as a Senior Account Executive, building upon the successes of her past experience and benefiting from the unique position she finds herself in. It is through this experience that Vicky stands out, supporting a team of relationship managers and whilst mentoring and guiding a team of Account Executives, to work together, ensuring the prompt recoverability of debt and a high level of service to the business’s valued clients. This collaborative approach and incredible team player attitude has been a major contributor to the company breaking numerous records, in terms of collections, revenue, profit, employee engagement and DSO.
Thanks to Vicky and her willingness to support with exceptional knowledge transfer skills, the team has truly flourished, with a stellar credit control team being a direct result of her involvement. In fact, the team have achieved an incredibly DSO of less than 40 spread across hundreds of businesses sales ledgers for almost all of June 2023.
Sherie Culley, Head of Operations – Team Leader of the Year
With a career taking her from Resort Management in the Swiss Alps to the glamourous world of auditing and risk, and from Head of Compliance & Customer Relations to Head of Operations at Optimum Finance, it’s safe to say that Sherie’s career to date has always been on an upwards path. Her time in Invoice Finance has been characterised by success, with leadership skills to match.
But where Sherie truly excels, is through her talent in adapting teams to differing environments, driving their collaborative efficiency and positively reinforcing team behaviours to breed a culture of innovation, confidence and togetherness which yields significant reward.
Since becoming Optimum’s Head of Operations, the UK has gone into, and come out of a global pandemic, placing significant strain on funders to manage their exposure. It has required a committed, and personable approach towards maintaining client relations and motivating a team during economic and personal uncertainty and encouraging staff to learn and develop – in part to close an industry-wide skills-gap – and her efforts have been nothing short of spectacular.
In fact, under Sherie’s supervision, her team have achieved many incredible results, from collecting over £800m from debtors of our clients to delivering market leading stats including DSO. Sherie consistently receives CEO commendation for exemplary work.
With particular talent for identifying individual and team strengths and weaknesses, an internal restructure presented an excellent opportunity for Sherie to demonstrate her organisational skills, defining a new way of operating and providing the skills training to equip the team for future growth.
Thanks to Sherie, Optimum Finance has grown exponentially in the last few years. Whilst coy over stating personal achievements, she selflessly dedicates this nomination to her exceptional, independent team. As with any successful team, however, this is rarely achieved without a strong leader.
Madison Hardcastle-Ward, Commercial Team Executive – Rising Star of the Year
Having no experience working within invoice finance prior to joining Optimum, Madison has been nothing short of exemplary in her new line of duty. She started with very basic knowledge of how invoice finance works and has grown in every aspect of the role to now being a supporting figure to the Commercial Team manager. Always eager to keep learning and lend a hand to any challenges that may arise, Madison has stand out passion and determination. She often says that the world of invoice finance can look like a black and white 9-5 office job from the outside, but in reality, it’s a rainbow and no two days are the same, this is why she has enjoyed and continues to thrive in her role. \ \ Within the workplace, Madison does not shy away from any task. In fact, she thrives on delivering exceptional results and going above and beyond to deliver to her team and the company’s objectives. In the short time she has been with the business, she has had a profound impact on the team’s daily morale. Confident and personable, one of her key assets is her ability to identify fellow workers in need of additional support and always keeping the team upbeat. Her incredibly infectious personality is not just restricted to internal stakeholders but carries great favour with clients and prospects alike.
Madison unwavering enthusiasm to her work showcases adaptability when dealing with client relations. Recently Madison spent weeks with a new client learning and using their in-house app, for all business operations, so they could better work together and so she could understand client's needs. It is this dedication and drive in delivering practical, personal solutions for clients that Madison excels, and the main reason behind her being put forward for this award.
Madison’s short time within the company has been impactful to say the least. She has developed quickly as an individual, and in her role, and is well regarded as a dependable member of the team, helping to source new deals, reduce risk, and consistently being nominated as internal ‘superstar of the month’.
A big well done from all of us at Team Optimum.