Alexandra Hatchman has recently been appointed Chief Executive Officer of North West leading law firm Napthens. Gail Bailey meets Alex to learn more about her career journey
Alex Hatchman has a wealth of experience in different sectors, including holding senior roles in retail and management consultancy, but at school Alex never imagined she would achieve the academic success that she attained: “I was sporty and constantly in a PE kit, however I was lucky that my physics teacher, along with my mother, saw something in me which pushed me to work incredibly hard,” she says. That hard work paid off and she gained a place at the University of Oxford, graduating towards the top of her year.
Growing up in a single parent family, Alex saw her place at Oxford as a precious opportunity to create a better life for herself and her family: “I worked industriously at university and felt a sense of responsibility to make my place there mean something. My mother was an absolute hero and her belief in me drove me to achieve.”
Alex, a self-confessed ‘geek’, qualified originally as an engineer, however she never felt this was entirely her calling, and recognised her skills more as a natural problem solver: “I was sponsored by Ford Motor Company during my degree and did a gap year before starting university, as well as placements each summer. This work experience enabled me to grow and find my direction,” Alex says.
She then joined global management consultancy Accenture, where she had further opportunity to experience different sectors: “Working across a range of sectors and businesses, gave me an invaluable viewpoint from which to learn during a formative part of my career. It also gave me the opportunity to observe trends and I was fascinated seeing the retail sector change – it was the beginning of the dotcom era with different customer channels opening up.”
During Alex’s seven years at Accenture, she completed an MBA at INSEAD Business School in Paris. “My mother is Spanish, so I had grown up understanding differences in cultures, however during my time at INSEAD I met many people from different nationalities and backgrounds, and this gave me an even greater understanding. This appreciation of difference has been key to my own career and learning to never view talent from a narrow focus,” Alex says.
On leaving Accenture Alex went to work in a senior role at Tesco, which had become one of the biggest performing supermarkets, and from there she was head-hunted by Marks & Spencer to run their food logistics and supply chain in the UK and across the world: “As a relatively young woman I enjoyed the opportunity to ‘break the mould’ and be successful in what had previously been a predominantly male area, being able to challenge equal opportunity was, and still is, important to me,” explains Alex, who was further head-hunted to join Coles Supermarkets in Australia in a different role, being involved in the transformation of their 800 stores: “This again gave me more opportunity to learn and develop my own skills and gain further experience – both from a business and cultural perspective.”
On returning to the UK in 2016, Alex joined Fletchers Solicitors as a non-executive director, and then shortly after as the Chief Strategy and Operations Officer: “Law was a big part of my role with Marks & Spencer so whilst it was a difficult choice to leave the retail sector initially, overall, it felt like a natural next step.”
During the five years Alex worked at Fletchers she became Chief Executive Officer and was instrumental in increasing the turnover from £18m to £45m, cementing the company as one of the top 100 law firms in the UK.
“I have huge respect for law and for lawyers and feel privileged that my achievements whilst at Fletchers were recognised by the Law Society in 2018 when I was presented with the Excellence in Practice Management Award,” Alex says.
“I am looking forward now to utilising my management consultancy and legal experience to support Napthens as it continues on its own growth journey. I have been lucky enough to work with the firm previously and the willingness of the team to work together and the existing company culture is something that really sets Napthens apart, and something I’m keen to take to the next level.”
With a demanding role and a family, it leaves little time for other interests, although Alex is currently engaged in helping the Ukrainian crisis by opening up her home to a mother and daughter seeking refuge: “It isn’t easy as our government has been objectively slow on this matter. While there are necessary processes that must be followed, it is evident that unnecessary barriers are also in place which are causing delays in being able to help these desperate people fleeing Ukraine. We are in constant contact with our family and cannot wait to welcome them into our home.”
This echoes Alex’s business ethos and philosophy which is very much centred around people: “I of course drive businesses to be successful, however it is not just about the ‘what’ – it is about the ‘how’,” explains Alex.
“I often say that it is important to have a wise head, a kind heart and a strong backbone – there are always ways to drive commercial success, however it is important to treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve.”