Putting the ‘Woman’s Touch’ on Financial Services.

Apricity is a proud member of The Verve Group, and as a collective set of businesses, we’re breaking the mould when it comes to stereotypes within the industry and we want to change the face of financial services as we know it.

Females have long since been underrepresented in financial services, and recent statistics show that only *6% of chief executives of financial services firms are women.

In honour of  International Women’s Day, and the 2019 theme #BettertheBalance, we caught up with our all-female group leadership team to get some insight on their experiences of being female professionals within an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men, and what advice they would give to young females, and males, starting out in their own professional careers.

Who is your personal inspiration or role model?

“I take inspiration from lots of people around me – female, male or otherwise. My Mum is a great source of inspiration, but more in terms of how to be a nurturing mother and supportive wife rather than an ambitious professional.
 
Professionally, my greatest inspirer is my Dad – a baby boomer and a successful, self-made engineer. He worked hard, made sacrifices in the name of creating new opportunities for himself and his family, he led by example and I’m in no doubt I have him to thank for my work ethic. I’m one of four children – 3 girls and 1 boy – and collectively, we’ve all been encouraged to be who, and do what makes us the best version of ourselves. The desire to strive is innate in me and I believe that comes from his influence – though I loathe admitting the homework related lectures I got as a child were worth it in the end!”

Natalie Bell, Director of People & Culture at The Verve Group.

What does being a female professional mean to you, and what challenges have you overcome?

“My industry can be very male orientated. When I first started out, I used to get quite offended by the “old boy” antics of some of the people I interacted with. Misogynistic and demeaning comments were abundant and it did affect my confidence.

I felt I would never progress in what was very much a man’s world as I was seen as automatically inferior. I was very aware of my look and whether I needed to look professional and how much makeup to wear to a meeting.

Once I started to realise that the antiquated attitude was one to pity, not be upset by, it became an object of ridicule in my mind and no longer an issue. It turns out I know as much about financial planning regardless of whether I wear lipstick or not. If I want to, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. Once I overcame that barrier, I no longer held myself back with negative assumptions and stereotypes. Now I’m changing the world, one tinted lip balm at a time.”

Jo Campbell, Director of Quality & Operations at Para-Sols (Apricity’s sister company).

How can we attract more women to a career within an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men?

“It’s all about visibility; I truly believe that people seeing others in financial services that are similar to them (whether through gender, age, previous careers, skill sets etc. etc.) will encourage them into the profession. So, the more we make noise, and the more we interview/film/ nominate/award women, the more exposure they will have, and the more likely we are to attract more.”

Cathi Harrison, Founder & Owner of The Verve Group.

What does the International Women’s Day theme, #BalanceforBetter, mean for you in your work life?

“I really believe that as a group of businesses we are on the right track. We’ve got a real mix of people in the office and are committed to providing the right opportunities for the right person for the job! I’d like to think that this more colorful generation will result in less discrimination overall in the workplace not just gender bias. 

There are still people out there who discriminate unfortunately – we recently heard sexist comments about ourselves.  Whilst it is few and far between, it’s nice to see so many other businesses in the industry that are also incredibly diverse and forward thinking.”

Kim Binks, Director of Client Relations at Apricity & Para-Sols (sister company).

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman looking to start their professional career?

“It’s a bit of a cliché saying, but oh so true: “find a job doing what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I never think of work as work – it’s something I’m privileged to be able to do, to challenge and motivate me every day, and which also then supports my ability to live a life away from the office. I would tell anyone, male or female, to work out what they truly enjoy doing, find a career off the back of that, and define their own version of success. There is no right or wrong career choice. And your definition of success isn’t going to be the same as everyone else’s. Decide what success looks like for you and chase that.”

Cathi Harrison, Founder & Owner of The Verve Group.

There is clearly a long way to go to achieve gender balance within financial services, but The Verve Group are making big waves to balance the difference for the better. Please get in touch if you’d like to join our movement! #BettertheBalance

References:

*NICKY MORGAN, The Guardian, [online] 8/03/2018, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/08/finance-gender-pay-gap-inquiry-nicky-morgan

Putting the ‘Woman’s Touch’ on Financial Services.