Mrs Moneypenny stays above par

The one thing British entrepreneur Heather McGregor does not like is wasting time.

Dr McGregor, 53, more popularly known by her nom de plume Mrs Moneypenny, will be here for the Singapore Writers Festival on Nov 7 and 8. It will be the latest of her many moments here, notably from 1997 till 1998, when she lived in a shophouse on Emerald Hill while reporting for the Financial Times (FT).

"I have a strong affection for the country and the city," she says of Singapore in a telephone interview. "As a businessperson, what I like is predictability, and Singapore has a very clear system of government and of doing things."

She will do two things at the festival: First, she will talk on the 10 things that every woman needs to think about, based on her best- selling 2013 book Mrs Moneypenny's Career Advice For Ambitious Women. Second, she will, over 90 minutes, show people how to develop their own regular column.

  • BOOK IT / TALK: CAN WE HAVE IT ALL BY MRS MONEYPENNY/ WORKSHOP: HOW TO WRITE A WEEKLY COLUMN BY MRS MONEYPENNY

  • WHERE: Summit 2, Level 3, Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre (for the talk) and Living Room, The Arts House (for the workshop)


    WHEN: Saturday Nov 7, 5pm (talk) and Sunday Nov 8, 10am (workshop)


    ADMISSION: $20 without booking fee (talk) and $50 without booking fee (workshop) from www.sistic.com.sg/events/swf2015m (talk) and www.sistic.com.sg/events/swf2015a (workshop) or from any Sistic outlet

Her own long-running one began when FT got her to start it in 1999. She was an investment banker in Tokyo then and used the pseudonym Mrs Moneypenny because she feared she would be fired for writing about her family and finances.

As of March last year, she has scaled back what had been her weekly column to once a month, focusing on career development, and then only online and in the FT's British print edition. Also, she now writes about her family only on her website www.mrsmoneypenny.com.

She writes monthly for the Australian Women's Weekly magazine too.

In the past 15 years or so, she has not only filed a column regularly for FT, but also written six books, staged her Mrs Moneypenny comedy act twice at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, anchored a TV series, run her global headhunting firm Taylor Bennett and got a private pilot's licence. She flies a leased Socata TB-20 Trinidad.

She says that not only helps her zip across Britain for business but also lets her spend time with her 59-year-old husband Rowan McGregor and their three sons, whom she famously refers to as "Cost Centres #1, #2 and #3".

About two years ago, she even flew her golf-mad husband, a professional cricket coach, around his home country, Australia, taking off in a hired plane from Sydney.

"It really was the trip of a lifetime," she says. "And I took the last two seats of the plane out so we could put the golf clubs in."

She champions time management guru Ruth Klein's mantra "integrate, not suffocate", or thinking creatively about how to incorporate family into business life. For example, she took up golf so she could have time with her spouse, although she neither likes teeing off nor is good at it. And whenever her overseas trips coincided with her sons' school holidays, she took them along with her, getting hotel staff to babysit them until her business meetings were over.

Her manner is warm, wry and brisk, her advice firm, frank and witty.

For example, she writes of her qualifications: "The only thing I can remember from my undergraduate degree is a diagram about how Japan supports its rice industry. From my MBA, how to sack people and from my PhD, how to use various online academic libraries."

In June, the Queen of England conferred on her the title Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her 30 per cent Club campaign to get more women into corporate boardrooms, and for giving Britain's minorities a leg-up.

In 2008, she devised a 10-week training programme for minority youth keen on jobs in communications, after she learnt that only 15 per cent among them were in the field.

"I'm creating the future," she says. "If we put more people at the bottom, they will eventually come through to the senior jobs."

Since then, she has put in about £1 million (S$2.1 million) of her own money into the programme, which she hopes to introduce soon in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia too.

"The only person I really have to explain myself to is my husband. And I think as long as we have money to pay for his golf club membership, we'll be fine."


• The Straits Times is the official media partner of the Singapore Writers Festival. For more stories on the festival, go to www.straitstimes.com/tags/singapore-writers-festival-2015

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2015, with the headline 'Mrs Moneypenny stays above par'. Print Edition | Subscribe