To Gibraltar for today’s Sovereign Story featuring Nikki Neal who has recently begun a temporary assignment there working in Group Finance. As so often in this series, we soon discovered that there was much more to Nikki than may have seemed obvious at first glance.

This Oxford graduate and mother of four is half-Irish, half-Austrian. It should come as no surprise then that she has travelled widely across Europe in recent years. However, she does so on a bike and stays in a tent insisting that she “does it for pleasure”. When transferring to Gibraltar recently, she travelled by boat from Guernsey to St. Malo then spent nineteen days on her bicycle travelling through France and Spain before reaching the Rock. Part of the trip followed the ancient pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela. Equipped with two panniers on the bike, the rest of her belongings were crammed into a suitcase and sent in the post. How did this rather refreshing attitude to life come about? We went right back to the beginning.

After Norwich High School, Nikki went up to Oxford University where she attained an MA in geography. Moving directly into accountancy, she obtained her ICAEW qualification in 1996 achieving a second place national prize in her final exams. She is also a qualified chartered tax adviser.

Having qualified, Nikki paused for breath. She had not taken a gap year earlier, and decided instead on a six-month jaunt to South America. From Peru, she backpacked to Bolivia where she climbed a 6,000m mountain – without oxygen. Following this, she volunteered on an Operation Raleigh expedition in Chile.

Returning to England, Nikki joined one of the then “big six” firms until she moved to Adidas as Group Internal Auditor in 1997. She followed this success by establishing the London-based finance function of a biotech start up.

By early 2001, the Channel Islands beckoned. Part of her husband’s family lived in Alderney, which with all the other islands excepting Jersey forms the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Nikki moved to the island to raise her family. She undertook various contract assignments for several finance sector firms before joining a trust company full time in 2007.

Moving to Guernsey in 2010, she completed further contract roles including at a couple of the island’s top banks. As her children were by now grown up, she began looking for a more challenging role that could best exploit her considerable talents and experience. She joined Sovereign Guernsey as assistant Finance Manager in 2019 and just over a year later took over as Finance Manager.

A key responsibility in the first couple of years has been to meet the challenges posed by the restructuring of the Guernsey business into the fiduciary and pensions companies.

As part of her new group finance role, Nikki is currently working in Gibraltar, and will possibly be visiting other locations to build up her Group network. It demonstrates the global reach of Sovereign that she can work away from base supporting Group expansion, and it is helpful to cite such examples during the recruitment process for other positions group wide.

Nikki has four children. First to arrive was Christopher then in short order, Jessica and finally twins Francesca and Timothy who are now nineteen years old. Francesca narrowly beat her brother into the world.

Timothy won the 2021 Guernsey Sovereign Art Foundation Students Prize for his piece “Maureen”. He has also been shortlisted for “Twinned Sister” and “Waiting for Dawn”. His success has led him to rethink his career path completely. Nikki fully supports him following his passion although she admits to having been surprised that he had entered and that he is so gifted.

Nikki was a keen marathon runner and tri-athlete. In Alderney, she used to train for marathons by running the set course that is three times around the island! She became the Channel Island record holder, at 2h 54:19. Using her leave, she has explored Europe in recent years – cycling and wild camping. With cycling trips from St Malo to Geneva, on to Vienna or toward Paris ticked off, the ride to Gibraltar from Guernsey when relocating there earlier this year is perhaps not so surprising.

Despite her passion for two wheels, Nikki has ruled out any idea of a “round the world” bike trip. She freely admits to being frightened at the prospect of encountering bears along the route. Moreover, the sheer hassle involved in sorting out visas and so on in today’s troubled world means that for her, “Europe is where it’s at”. It is still a pretty big place, Nikki.

Currently working in Gibraltar but living in Spain, she loves the mountains and opportunities to visit historic towns such as Ronda – all on two wheels of course. We wish Nikki every success in her new group role. Wherever she settles, we look forward to hearing more of her adventures.

Thank you for your time Nikki. Ride safely.

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