International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day to celebrate the achievements of women in all sectors, but private banking and wealth should not be ignored in 2023. The industry has come a long way, but there’s still some road ahead. Anika Sidhika and Patrick Brusnahan speak to some leading figures in the industry on this day
Emma Wheeler, head of women’s wealth, UBS Global Wealth Management
- What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
In this role, each day feels empowering due to the work that we do in the women’s wealth space, but International Women’s Day is a great time to reflect on how far the world has come in recognising the achievements of women. According to UBS’s US 2022 Own Your Worth report, 92% of women surveyed believe that involvement in long-term financial planning can enable them to make a greater impact on the world. These are promising statistics, and we want to encourage more women to take a seat at the financial table and be empowered by their finances.
- What advice would you give to young females looking to build a career in financial services and technology?
Network like mad! Create meaningful connections with female role models that you look up to, both professionally and personally. Believing in yourself and saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity will also help put you in new and unique situations that will contribute to the success of your career.
- How well do you think the financial services sector demonstrates equity within the field of diversity?
Women’s wealth is accelerating, female entrepreneurs and female-led businesses are on the rise, there is unprecedented wealth transfer between generations of women, and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted female resilience and power. In the financial services industry, if you want to stay relevant and be the advisor of choice for women, regardless of where they are on their financial journey, companies will need to reflect the changing demographic in their workforce. Diverse decision-making leads to better outcomes for all, including better economic outcomes. The industry is shifting, and we can’t afford to be complacent.
- What inspires you in your day-to-day work?
I’m lucky in that I get to work with some incredible people in this role, but in particular, the female founders that we work with are inspiring, their energy and determination is profound (more about how we’re working with them here). Unfortunately, female founders are extraordinarily underfunded, but their strength and determination has been reflected in the recent UK Rose Review report, which shows that in 2022, there was a 4.5% rise in the creation of female-led businesses. Surprisingly, the biggest leap was among 16-25 year olds, which rose by almost 25%. As a parent of a young daughter, this gives me great hope in the women we’re raising and what the future could look like for female entrepreneurs.
Melissa Henderson, paraplanner, BRI Wealth Management
This year’s International Women’s Day theme reminds me of my own experience as a woman working in financial services.
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I was pregnant during the latter part of the pandemic. When lockdown ended and people started to return to the office, my direct manager was very supportive and understanding by not only allowing me to continue working from home but also in letting me take time away from work whenever I needed to attend appointments or was feeling unwell.
During my maternity leave, I had regular contact with my colleagues and manager and felt that the keeping in touch days were very helpful and eased the transition back to work after being away for a year.
Once I returned to work and my son started nursery, I again felt supported. Having flexibility in my working day was not an issue and I have been able to make adjustments. I plan to return to full time at some point in the next year or two but I have not felt any pressure to do so by my employer. Returning to work when you have a baby/toddler can have its harder days, for instance when they are sick or have had broken sleep from teething etc. My colleagues and manager have been very understanding and, overall returning to work has been a really positive experience so far.
I have ambitions to progress within the business and have received encouragement from my manager in this regard. We have been discussing how I will get there, including realistic timeframes given the balance I need between work and raising my son.
Despite efforts to have a more diverse workforce, the financial services industry continues to have a significantly larger proportion of men than women. However, the support and encouragements I have received during and after my pregnancy from my manager and colleagues clearly shows that women’s challenges are increasingly being recognized and that the industry, as a whole, is seemingly endeavouring to create a more equitable work environment.
Sue Wakefeld, director, ZEDRA Manchester and Head of New Business for the UK
Working in the finance industry in the 80s was very different from today. Looking back at those early days, when the industry was traditionally male-dominated, I believe my confidence, resilience, and ambition were key drivers in helping my career progression. 25 years ago, I became the first part-time manager Barclays Trust Company in the UK had ever appointed. It has been rewarding to see that my success has paved the way for other women in the industry to become a driving force reshaping the financial services landscape.
Cultivating an environment where everyone is respected, empowered, and given a voice is embedded in ZEDRA’s DNA. When looking around the colleagues I am globally working with, it is very heartening to see that individual competences are vital and championed every day regardless of genders, diversity of nationalities, educational backgrounds, cultures, or age.
Silvia Mensdorff-Pouilly, Head of EMEA Corporates & International Banking, FIS Global
Nowhere does this year’s IWD theme of Embracing Equity feel more relevant than for the financial and fintech industries, particularly at a senior level. In 2021, just a third of senior management positions in the finance industry were held by women. In 2022, businesses committed to increasing that number to 40%, and the majority of firms are on track to reach that target. But whilst progress has been made, there is more work to be done to ensure greater representation of women and other diverse groups in all financial roles.
The need for better representation is not only fair, it is directly related to business success. If industries like finance and fintech are to stay central to a changing world, and to best serve customers, they must represent, understand and deliver for all of them. It’s hard to serve customers if you don’t understand them. It’s also hard for diverse groups in business to drive innovation if their talents are not properly supported.
The European Women Payments Network (EWPN) is an example of an organisation that is truly embracing equity and helping to hone the talents of women entering and navigating this often imbalanced industry. However, support groups and networking can only go so far. Leading financial organisations are at the centre of this change, and in 2023, more of them must back up fine words with fearless action. My hope is that for IWD 2024, we will see even more progress to achieving equity in an industry that must innovate for society.