Right from Finland’s all women coalition government to the ‘Me too’ movement to large multinationals pushing for more women on their boards, 2019 was an eventful year for women equality. This year’s International women’s day theme of ‘Each for Equal’ aims at sustaining this momentum through 2020 by focusing on what each of us could do at the individual level to make a difference. So, while large movements and big headlines capture our imagination, it’s time to delve into simple and effective steps we could incorporate into our day to day lives. In line with this thought, we caught up with successful women Branch heads at Yellow Brick Road (YBR) to understand and seek inspiration from what has made them thrive in a male-dominated industry.
The current scenario
Despite the inspiring increase in the number of women professionals in other industries, the mortgage broking space continues to lag behind on this front. As per Anne Steer, Branch Principal, YBR Campbelltown & Narellan “It is the perception the field has. Most view it as a line of work that involves a lot of number crunching and long hours”. This perception is perhaps why many women looking to balance family and career don’t look at mortgage broking as a viable profession. A closer look at successful women in this field, however, reveals that this industry offers flexibility for work-life balance. It also provides opportunities for growth that are uniquely suited to women’s strengths like communication and relationship building.
Challenges come in all shapes and sizes. There is no tried and tested approach to resolving issues. Statistics globally cite that women undervalue their strengths. Facing a challenge is all about having faith in your abilities and replicating best practices. It’s unlikely that your problem is unique. In today’s day and age of accessible information and instantaneous communications, you could reach out to peers and industry veterans alike for solutions. As per Violetta Trajcevski, Branch Principal YBR, Kensington “When I decided to start my own business, I suddenly realised that I needed to take on multiple roles of marketing, sales, IT, admin and client service! I began by taking small steps towards understanding the basics of each function. I soon found that the best practice for a small business to manage this aspect was to outsource certain functions and focus on core areas. I gradually began building my network of support and was able to get my business up and running fairly soon”.
Building mutually beneficial networks can go a long way in not just bringing in clients but also adding value to them. As per Effie Nicol, Branch Principal YBR, Earlwood, “My biggest challenge was building my client base from scratch. I began by investing time and effort in networking comprising referral partnerships including buyers’ agents, accountants, and solicitors. Not only did they help to bring in customers, but I also connected them to my customers when they need other professional services.”
The work-life balance jigsaw
While managing your own business has its pros and cons, work-life balance is certainly a benefit. Being your own boss lets you schedule your work around personal engagements. Sharing her experience, Violetta says, “I’ve been single mom to two children for nearly 13 years and although I do have a network of family and friends to support me, being my own boss gives me a lot of flexibility with my work timings and with how much I would like to work and earn. It lets me prioritise personal commitments over professional ones or vice-versa depending on my circumstances”
What does success look like?
There are multiple criteria to measure success – tangible and intangible. In the mortgage broking, most experts would agree that customer satisfaction is by far the best measure. As per Effie, “My customer's success is my success as it means I have helped them to achieve their goals and dreams. It’s especially rewarding when you can help someone who has previously been told their dream is not achievable and you are able to support them to reach their goal. “
What contributes to success?
Nurturing client relationships is crucial for success in this field. This is an area that women excel at. Going the extra mile to differentiate yourself is a tried and tested approach that works if you are consistent at it. It’s important to stay on track. Adding to this, Effie said “I believe in helping everyone that comes to me, even if they’re not ready to apply for finance. I work hard to deliver exceptional customer service, like travelling to client homes or offices after hours when needed. My goal is to ensure every one of my customers feels understood and in control. Often my clients are people who have been refused by the banks. I work with them to build a long-term strategy, teach them how to create a budget and coach them along their savings journey.”
Women typically tend to neglect their wellbeing and needs. Investing in yourself is necessary for professional success. Speaking on the subject, Violetta said, “I take the time and effort to invest in my physical, mental and professional wellbeing. I begin my day quite early at around 5 am with exercise and meditation. I feel I owe it to myself and my clients to prime myself physically and mentally so I can give my work my 100%. I visualise and prioritise tasks for the day before I begin work. I also consistently educate myself and stay updated on the latest products, services, best practices and developments in my field. This knowledge is the foundation of my confidence and a cornerstone of my relationship with clients”.
What can be done?
As mentioned earlier, women possess qualities that are suited for the mortgage broking space. Building awareness on these strengths and sharing success stories can go a long way towards attracting women. The industry could amplify this by spreading the message across communication challenges and creating networking opportunities for women to engage with other successful women for inspiration and ideas.
Sharing her view, Effie said, “Firstly, I think we need to continue to celebrate the achievements of women working in finance. The more women see other women succeeding, the more they will believe they can do the same. Female students should be given more opportunities early on in working in the finance industry. There are lots of different roles in finance, and we should encourage more work experience as well as mentoring and cadetship type roles for university students to experience the whole range of jobs, including broking. We should also help women who have left the workforce to have children to re-enter. More flexibility around hours and working from home is one thing, however, I think more training programs that focus on these types of women would make a real difference. The programs would allow women to learn new skills to fit into finance roles at any age, rather than having to start in the industry young.”
As per Violetta “I know a lot of clients that prefer women mortgage brokers on account of superior communication and the emphasis they place on building and nurturing relationships”.