Career Guide

No place like home! Jenny Loynton finds Malaysia unforgettable

Taiping-born Loynton with British Prime Minister David Cameron Taiping-born Loynton with British Prime Minister David Cameron

Being deprived of parental guidance since childhood did not stop Taiping-born Jenny Loynton (nee Simon) from realising her dreams as a successful lawyer and a notable member of society in the United Kingdom. She is happily married to Briton Paul Goodwin and is a mother of two girls, aged 10 and 12.

Loynton and her three elder sisters and a brother were born and grew up in a Thai Buddhist temple, Wat Bodhiyaram. After her mother passed away before she turned one, her father took off by himself leaving the children with their grandparents.

“My father was Indian and my mother was half Thai, half Chinese. We are grateful for the temple monks and patrons for providing shelter to us. My maternal grandfather, Nai Boon Chitraphon, was the caretaker of the temple and my ancestor was one of the founders of the temple. My eldest sister Nelly, who was only 16 then, had to take care of us,” she relates to

Instead of blaming her circumstances, Loynton practises the virtues of gratitude, humility and not taking things for granted to earn her place in life.

She willed herself to do well academically and to put behind her heart-wrenching days in Taiping to become a notable Malaysian in the UK.

For the past two years, the 50-year-old director of her own legal firm, Loynton & Co Solicitors Ltd, is Queen Elizabeth II’s Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands; a royal representative reaching out to the ethnic minorities in Britain. She is the first Malaysian to be appointed to this role and will be carrying the coveted title until she reaches 70.

Capping her string of achievements that also include being on the board of governors of the Birmingham City University, is her recognition by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as “one of the people” of Birmingham.

Loynton attributes her success to the love and support from good Samaritans, including the monks and patrons of the Thai Buddhist temple, and of course her own unyielding effort to make good in life.

The words of the chief monk of the temple still inspire this vivacious lady.

“He predicted that I was destined for big things when he heard my first cry. However, to achieve these things I had to ‘go across the waters’. I was only seven then and it was my first day of school! When the time came for me to leave for the UK, the monk gave me a betel nut to remind me of home. To me the betel nut is a token given by someone who symbolises humbleness and inspirational attributes,” she recalls.

Loynton proved her mettle by studying hard and earned herself the opportunity to pursue her A Levels in the UK. Her sister, Nancy, and brother-in-law Christopher Boyd, who is executive chairman of CB Richard Ellis Malaysia, supported her studies financially.

It was during her student years in the UK that Loynton took up her first job “filling shelves” at Marks & Spencer’s Food Store in Solihull, an affluent upmarket town in England.

Although the job seemed menial, it provided her with many worthy life-long lessons.

“Probably to some people this must be the lowest paid job but to me it was an opportunity to learn and to integrate into the English society and understand them”, she says.

She had to clock in at the store before 7am daily from Monday to Friday.

“I remember my first day at work vividly; a winter morning in December 1981. It was misty and dark when I arrived at the store and was immediately given a uniform. There were a few other ladies much older than me but I was the only ‘brown’ person. The supervisor was a stern and officious lady. She showed me what was to be done and told me that I should put fresh items at the back and the ones with shorter shelf life in the front. Checking the ‘sell by’ date was extremely important as those items with expired dates had to be removed. It was important that the items on the shelves looked attractive and neat. I made sure of that”.

Invaluable insights

Jenny Loynton and her family with the plague from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery recognising her as "one of the people" of Birmingham Jenny Loynton and her family with the plague from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery recognising her as "one of the people" of Birmingham

An important lesson she gained from the job was how to make things attractive on a shelf and the importance of time-keeping, communicating with people and being aware of the surroundings.

“I learned very quickly how to pay attention to details which unwittingly prepared me as the lawyer I am today. I particularly appreciated the opportunity to be a part of the community and to ‘people watch’ without staring like some Malaysians do”, she muses.

One particular enduring moment of her first job happened one Saturday when the store was busy with Christmas shoppers, piling up their trolleys with jars of cranberry sauce, minced pies and turkeys.

Loynton was in the bread section when she witnessed a well-dressed woman putting a pack of hot cross buns into her own bag instead of the trolley.

“I was horrified and did not know what to do. I had to use my common sense and followed the woman around the store pretending that I was tiding up the shelves praying that she would do the right thing by putting the pack back on the shelf. When she came to the checkout, I managed to alert a fellow shelf filler. A supervisor quickly arrived. I felt my heart beating twice the beat. I was so scared as I could have made a mistake!”

That day she learned her first lesson that would shape her career and personal advancement.

“I did not know it then but I suppose the job ‘tested’ me. I knew that it was my duty to report the woman to my employers and to use my common sense. In Malaysia, when I was growing up I did hear stories about people stealing but usually those people were poor and stole to feed their families. Here, in this affluent town why did a woman, who looked prosperous, steal those buns which probably cost only pennies? I was asked to make a statement of what I saw. Now, as a lawyer, I have written many statements, reports, affidavits and declarations. I did not know then that I was going to be a lawyer but the experience of that day prepared me for the path of becoming a lawyer dealing with my first case of theft”, she reminisces.

Besides getting praised by her supervisor for being attentive, she also learned the importance of work ethics which she came to adopt in her business.

At Marks & Spencer, there was a canteen where the management and staff sat and chatted during their breaks. And today, Loynton provides lunch to her staff, engages and talks freely with them during break time to create harmony and a sense of togetherness.

Reaching out

On her role as the Queens’s representative, Loynton says it provided her with the opportunity to reach out to ethnic minorities and make people feel special.

She also lends support and offers praises wherever the situation warrants.

Her “royal duties” are extremely important to her “as I am interested in what people do and of their achievements”. She says she has never abused her position as Her Majesty’s representative, or allowed it to increase her profile professionally or personally.

“I view it as an honourable, purposeful position. I feel it is important that people’s achievements and celebrations are marked with honour and pride”, she explains.

Loynton started her law firm 11 years ago after leaving her former partners who she says “were totally unsupportive and chauvinistic”.

There are five lawyers and five support staff in her firm today.

Although she has 100% control of the shareholding, Loynton does not view herself as superior or senior.

“I am approachable and work very hard. Good work ethics and an early start in the mornings which were the basis of my first job are important to me until today. I have not stopped working since I started training in 1985. I try to be the first one to arrive at the office so I can ensure that the office looks clean and attractive every morning”, Loynton adds.

She stresses that her main aim is not to become wealthy but to be a good person.

Going forward, she aims to make Loynton & Co the number one British law firm that makes significant impact in investments for clients from Asia and China into the UK.

“I think that I will be a very good envoy for Malaysia as I feel that Malaysia has not sold itself to this fast moving 24-hour media world. People in the UK still consider Malaysia as a third-world country! I’d like to change that perception. Whenever I have been asked where I originate from, I felt a sense of pride when I say I am from Malaysia”, she beams.

On life in the UK, she says, “of course there are good moments and not so good moments but generally they are good. My upbringing of being respectful of others has been important as I have never felt any racial discrimination or prejudice”.

There have been many memorable moments for her; getting invited to Buckingham Palace, meeting up with British Prime Minister David Cameron, and dining in the House of Lords, among the highlights.

Having being away in the UK for over 30 years, Loynton says she would love to retire in Malaysia. “This is the place I was born and where the sun never stops shining. It is the best place on earth! The food, smell and sound of Malaysia are hard to forget”, she says.

Loynton and her siblings still maintain a strong sense of togetherness and will travel across the world just to be with one another, “even if it was for only 24 hours”.

Sharing her words of wisdom to her fellow Malaysians, she says, “never forget your roots, be respectful and grateful for everything that comes your way”.

“Always have a big smile and never be revengeful. If a poor disadvantaged girl like me can make it, any young Malaysian can do it too. Never forget that Malaysians eat, sleep and talk all at the same time! No time to be depressed,” she chimes.