Chartered director Karl Pemberton talks leadership, creativity and switching off

Karl Pemberton

Karl Pemberton, the managing director of the Stockton-based firm Active Chartered Financial Planners, who is also a trustee of a local charity and a chartered director, reveals his approach to business – and his attitude to life beyond it

I like to do things that don’t need much brainpower when I’m not at work. When you’re cleaning the car you don’t have to worry about anything other than making it shine, for instance, but there’s still a sense of satisfaction afterwards. That’s my little escape.

I was given a flying lesson for my 40th birthday recently. Up in the sky you’re at peace and so free. I’ve got a fascination with flying. When I was younger I applied to join the Royal Air Force. I’d got through three or four recruitment stages when Yorkshire Bank offered me a job. I took the secure option instead, so there is unfinished business.

I wanted to turn 40 fitter than ever. I didn’t want to be overweight or unfit, as it can be hard to pull things back at this age. I attempt – and that’s probably the best word – to be as healthy as possible.

If you saw my iTunes favourites, you would laugh. I listen to everything, from Fleetwood Mac and Paul Weller through to hardcore dance. The music I choose will depend on my mood and what I’m trying to achieve.

I’m motivated by not standing still. Every time you stop moving, your rivals are creeping up behind you. As long as you’re constantly thinking and looking for ways to improve, you’re maintaining a competitive advantage.

If I’m better at my job now than I was this time last year, that’s brilliant. I have realised that I don’t need to be the world’s best financial adviser because I’ve already got those working with me. If I improve as a leader, that’s going to stand our business in better stead.

The chartered director qualification has really changed how I approach my day-to-day work. The business has adopted some new structures and strategies as a result of the programme.

I try to look after everyone at work as though they’re family. We’ll go on a 10-mile walk together in the Yorkshire Dales, where everyone brings their partners, kids and dogs. There could be 30 to 40 of us. I’ll pick up the tab for a nice pub meal afterwards.

We just try to be ourselves at work. No one here is trying to be someone they’re not. We are just ‘us’. That’s what makes my firm such a tight-knit group.

Serving as a charity trustee is a humbling experience. It’s a good thing to ground yourself. When you see what happens in the lives of people less fortunate than you, it makes you think twice about your “problems” at work.

We’ve raised more than £2m in five years at the Middlesbrough & Teesside Philanthropic Foundation. My firm gives a percentage of its profits each year. The money helps people in the community who need it more than we do. It’s a small gesture, but it would make a huge difference if every business did that.

Karl Pemberton is a member of IoD North East

How to become a chartered director

The chartered director programme is the only professional qualification for all directors that demands both knowledge and experience of how to make boards effective, and a commitment to continuous professional development. Click here to find out more

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The IoD has a range of memberships for directors, founders and co-founders, providing all the resources and facilities needed to enhance your business. To find out more about membership offerings and to join today, visit

About author

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty

Until she left the magazine in August 2019, Hannah Gresty was the assistant editor of Director. She previously worked on a local news website and at a fashion PR company before joining the Director team as editorial assistant in 2016.

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