From the ladies who lunch to women who cut hedge fund deals

IT STARTED as a girls’ lunch,” Lindsey Parslow tells me. “Me and a group of other hedge fund office managers would get together to share ideas,” she explains. “We were all frustrated with the same things at work. We didn’t want to be paying so much for everything.”

They knew they were paying too much because Parslow and her fellow luncher Rosemary Howman had worked in big corporate offices before. They knew that everything from stationery to hotel and flight bookings could be bought more cheaply on corporate rates. Their little hedge fund offices, however, just didn’t have the brand recognition.

“So we clubbed together and started using the ‘Hedge Fund Network’ as a name to buy things under. It worked wonderfully,” says Parslow. “Gradually we built up an internal list of trusted suppliers that we passed between each other,” says Howman. Hedge fund office managers urgently needed this service, they explain. “There are always hedge funds setting up around Mayfair and for the newly-appointed office managers this means creating an entire internal infrastructure,” says Howman. Parslow nods. “I’m pretty sure I spent the first year in my hedge fund putting suppliers in place, only to find new and better ones the next year. I would have killed for a list of trusted contacts.”

Parslow became convinced of the idea’s business potential one morning. “I just found that I was spending most of my train journey, updating and sending around this Word document that our little network was using,” she explains. So teaming up with Howman, they put all the information on to a website “to act as a centralised hub” for everyone to use.

And that was how Mayfair Quarters, the subscription business, was born. The ladies quickly realised they needed to devote more time to get bigger deals like flights and win more subscriptions. So far they have 350 hedge funds and venture capital firms signed up. “There are a good 800 in Mayfair, we’re not stopping until we have them all,” Parslow laughs.

It hasn’t always been so easy to be ambitious, she adds. They launched the week before Lehman’s crashed. “It was terrifying, we just sat there asking each other ‘what have we done?’”

Parslow and Howman now seem slightly surprised by their success and aptitude for negotiation. Indeed, people of their background don’t tend to set up businesses aimed at the finance industry: Parslow is a mum of five and Howman had trained as a chef before working in office management.

These ladies aren’t stopping at Mayfair though. They’ve already launched an office in New York. “They have lots of new hedge fund and venture capital offices over there too,” Parslow assures me.

Co-founder: Lindsey Parslow

Age: 46

Born: Bognor Regis

Lives: West Sussex

Studied: Bognor Regis School

Talents: “Holding a thousand ideas for the business in my head whilst juggling home, the children and still retaining their expectation of me as ‘Mum’”

First ambition: “To be David Essex’s girlfriend.”

Co-founder: Rosemary Howman

Age: 49

Born: “Germany – my father was stationed there in the army.”

Lives: Clapham

Studied: St Georges Ascot and Guildford County College of Technology

Talents: “Cooking and a good organiser.”

First ambition: “To be a top chef.”

Drinking: “Yes – vodka.”

Reading: “Yes – fiction of all sorts.”