Getting to know Tonia Lenaghan, Portfolio Administrator Manager at Contango December 2015

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As portfolio administrator manager at Contango, no two days are ever the same for Tonia Lenaghan. Drawn by the opportunity to broaden and enhance her skill set in an exciting new area and to working again with former colleagues, Tonia tells Industry Moves that she's enjoying the fast-paced nature of the role and the challenges ahead. She also reveals her secret talent (an antidote to her busy life), names the hard-working man for whom she has the most respect, and shares a fun story of a family 'dispute'.

Can you briefly describe your role at Contango?

My role involves managing everything from trading, reconciliations, corporate actions, cash flows, performance, reporting, compliance and proxy voting.

My day usually involves some form of problem solving which includes a lot of data analysis but also close contact with our brokers and custodians. With multiple portfolios to manage, it is no wonder that each day presents new challenges and no two days are ever the same.

What initially drew you to take up the position at Contango?

I was initially drawn to the role at Contango because it gave me an opportunity to get back to doing what I loved a few years ago at HSBC Asset Management. But the role also offered me an opportunity to broaden and enhance my skill set by undertaking performance and attribution analysis which is an exciting new area for me.

I was also drawn to Contango as I was excited to again work with the founding members who I had previously worked with at HSBC Asset Management. Compared to working at a large firm, working in a boutique like Contango has many advantages including its flat management structure and lack of overbearing bureaucracy. I feel this gives me and the other staff more opportunity to develop and broaden our skills which has enabled me to add more analysis work to my role.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

I enjoy the challenge of being on top of the fast paced nature of my role and problem solving the inevitable issues that arise in dealing with brokers and custodians. Given Contango has portfolios right across the market cap spectrum, including in smalls and micro caps, there is always the chance of trades or reconciliations going wrong and needing my attention. I enjoy knowing that I have helped our portfolio managers make decisions based on accurate data and I know that this adds value for our clients which is our ultimate objective.

Most importantly, I also enjoy working with the great team here at Contango. We have a great culture which I believe is critical to getting the best out of people. Although the team works hard, there is always time for fun which creates a great atmosphere.

What do you see as your biggest challenge for the next 12 months?

My biggest challenge over the next 12 months is managing the implementation of Bloomberg and the AIM trading platform. This is a big but exciting systems upgrade for Contango which will significantly improve our portfolio analysis and change the way I work. The new system will allow me to do more analysis work and less manual data crunching which is an exciting opportunity for me.

What is one of the best pieces of advice you've ever been given?

The best piece of advice I have been given is to try your best at everything you do but also be thankful for what you’ve got. My parents instilled this in me at a very young age and I still try and live by this, both in my personal and professional life.

Who do you most admire and how have they influenced your life/work?

I believe my dad has had the greatest influence on my life. Both my parents migrated here from Europe in the late 1950s and they had to overcome a lot to succeed including mastering the language, learning new jobs and getting used to the new lifestyle.

My dad had to leave everything behind in Europe, including his own successful horticultural business. He was fortunate to be placed in the care of a successful accountant who took him on board. My father worked very hard for him to repay the favor. With his help, dad was eventually able to start his own business and provide for his family.

Where did you grow up?

I am a life-long Melbourne girl who was born and raised in the eastern suburbs. I love living and working in Melbourne and even though I have been fortunate enough to travel abroad, it is always so nice to come back home to Melbourne.

Growing up we lived close to Glenferrie Oval and my dad used to take us to the footy every time that Hawthorn played. I have very fond memories of my sister and I standing on milk crates trying to see the game. I still love going to the footy with my sister and my children although I am glad that the MCG has seats as opposed to milk crates! My family and I are one-eyed Geelong supporters expect for one son who unfortunately goes for Carlton. He is obviously grounded until further notice.

What was your very first job?

My very first job was as a ‘checkout chick’ at Coles Supermarket when I was 15 years old. I eventually moved into other roles at Coles which allowed me to see different sides of a business which no doubt helped me get into my current line of work.

My fondest memories of working at Coles were the staff and the fun times we had working together. As it was quite some time ago, it was the time that Melbourne first started the late night shopping hours. I will say that late night shopping, first trialed on Thursday nights, did not catch on straight away, so there were many times that there were hardly any customers in the store. We had to keep ourselves entertained in some way and we did this in various silly games that we played with the other staff who also had to work. My best friends are still some of these people and we are all thankful that we met and worked at Coles during this time.

Do you have a secret skill/hidden talent?

In my spare time (which most of my friends would attest is a rare commodity these days), I love to paint in watercolours. It is something I set aside time for each week and I love being able to get away from my busy life to sit and just paint whatever I like for either myself, or as special presents to my friends. My other hidden talent is that I am an identical twin. I am not sure if it is a skill or a talent but when people first meet both of us they often get tricked.

Is there a particular cause or charity that you support?

I have been an avid supporter of the Make a Wish Foundation for children, the RSPCA, Guide Dogs and for the Breast Cancer Council especially for a very close friend who is going through this disease. In the last few years I have participated in the Mother’s Day Classic walk/run for Breast Cancer with my family and friends to support this very worthwhile and needed cause.

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