As the sales and marketing director of New Zealand’s leading statutory trust business, Perpetual Guardian, Charlotte Lockhart is accustomed to a rapid pace: on any given day, her work can involve a quick trip to Dunedin to oversee the company’s new sponsorship of Otago Museum’s Perpetual Guardian Planetarium; interviews with candidates for a business development role; or helping to lead the charge on the company’s digital strategy to make estate planning services more affordable and accessible to global citizens.
While on the surface she may appear to live a fortunate life as a woman in the senior leadership ranks of a booming business and as mother to two sons, Andrew (19) and Jack (17), Charlotte has encountered — and seen off — her share of adversity, and now dedicates her professional life to parlaying what she’s learned into services that will help others.
The worst of times
In 2004, seemingly out of nowhere, Charlotte was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news came as a huge shock not only because of her age — she was only 37 — but also the lack of a history of the disease in her family: the cancer was detected by a compulsory medical check-up attached to a review of her insurance policies. At the time, Charlotte was self-employed within the Mike Pero Mortgages group, both helping to direct the group’s larger strategy and advising individuals on home loan structuring and management, and taking a break wasn’t an option.
Fortunately, Charlotte says now, she was surrounded by a strong team and an “amazing” husband and family, and as it often goes, in the midst of treatment she received some of the greatest professional accolades of her career, and marked her most successful year in business. Charlotte was named Mike Pero Mortgages’ top broker by value in 2004, and won a national quality award in the same year. She was also regional broker of the year in both 2001 and 2008.
Charlotte acknowledges today that her children played no small part in her recovery: “Having two precious boys gave me an incentive to get out of bed every morning.” Her tenacity and resilience have not ebbed in the years since.
Where there’s a will, you have your say
This is the mantra that now guides Charlotte’s work within the country’s leading statutory trust business, which she joined last year. Estate planning has long been of personal importance to Charlotte, who made her first Will at an unusually young age. “I was 22 when I got married, and I set up my Will because of that. My husband and I were going to be living overseas, in the Middle East, so we did enduring power of attorney at the same time. It meant that our affairs were easy to manage back in New Zealand.
“I reviewed my Will again when we came home some years later. By then we had a young family and had guardianship orders to add — I wanted it to be my choice as to who would care for my children and take responsibility for the money we were leaving behind.
Earlier this year Charlotte played an instrumental role in Perpetual Guardian’s acquisition of Mai Chen’s My Bucket List, which now sits within the business as one of several accessible online services to easily prepare, update and store Wills. The company is evolving rapidly as it confronts the substantial task of bringing two (now combined) brands — Perpetual Trust and Guardian Trust — fully into the 21st century, while preserving the values and heritage that have been painstakingly formed and protected over 130 years of service to New Zealanders.
The next frontier
Charlotte is not stopping there. While, in part thanks to Perpetual Guardian’s work to bring a renaissance to the sector, the numbers of Kiwis making Wills is steadily increasing, there is still an alarming gap, which the company is filling with its own products and services and through targeted partnerships.
An example of the latter is Perpetual Guardian’s sponsorship of the Superdiversity Stocktake, this year’s inaugural analysis of the implications of an ethnically superdiverse New Zealand for business, government and citizens. Perpetual Guardian’s fellow sponsors include Chen Palmer, BNZ, Xero, the Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Education.
There’s much more to do in educating Kiwis on estate planning as well, Charlotte says. “Everyone knows why Wills are important, but fewer people understand that enduring power of attorney is just as essential, because it dictates who looks after your financial and personal affairs while you are alive but incapable. In our business we see and hear all the horror stories, and I feel so passionate about helping people avoid the pitfalls by making their wishes explicit in properly structured legal documents that are based on sound advice from experts.”
Everyone knows why Wills are important, but fewer people understand that enduring power of attorney is just as essential, because it dictates who looks after your financial and personal affairs while you are alive but incapable.
– Charlotte Lockhart –
“We’re conscious as well that these services cannot be prohibitive in cost or time. We’ve conducted research to find out why New Zealanders, young and old, avoid making Wills and EPAs, and some of the most prominent reasons are that people think it’s too expensive and has to involve extensive work with lawyers.”
“The onus is on us to properly communicate that this isn’t the case and that we have a whole suite of solutions that make creating and updating a Will as easy as opening a bank account or updating an insurance policy. The challenge is ours, and we’re up for it.”
Watch our behind the scenes video of our cover shoot with Charlotte Lockhart below-