International Women’s Day is a globally recognised day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a day to raise awareness about gender inequality and advocate for women’s rights.

In this article, we shine a light on the contributions and successes of women in a wide variety of financial services roles from brokers to funders and our very own employees with the hope of inspiring more people to join our industry.

ELLY FORD: BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER (ASSET FINANCE SOLUTIONS UK LTD)

What is your role at Asset Finance Solutions UK Ltd?

“I have recently been promoted to Business Development Manager. I work with a number of businesses as their dedicated relationship manager. It’s my responsibility to ensure that support is given to these businesses, helping them manage their customer’s asset finance requirements in a timely and accurate manner and ensuring they receive the best possible service.”

What motivated your decision to work in this particular industry?

“I entered the world of asset finance in 2020 with no prior knowledge in the industry. For me, it was a great opportunity to be able to make a real difference to SME’s all over the country by funding their business-critical assets.”

How can companies encourage more women into finance?

“It’s important to highlight equality and create an environment that is understanding of gender diversity, removing typical stereotypes that may negatively impact on a woman’s ability to achieve progression in their career. I believe that encouraging women into the finance industry is a positive step and that companies should strive to offer guidance, support and awareness of the available career paths.”

What message would you give other young women looking at this career path?

“Be proud of yourself for taking the first step, you have already shown courage and determination.”

EMILY SKELLHAM: HEAD OF CREDIT (APPROVED BUSINESS FINANCE)

What led you to pursue a career in finance?

“I started in the industry back when I was 19 years old, fresh out of university, beginning my professional career in an administration role. Asset Finance was not something I had heard of before, so I fell into the industry to be honest! From my administration position, I’ve worked my way up through brokerages. I worked as an administrator, then managed an administration team, moved on to manage a team of brokers and now manage the credit team at Approved Business Finance. The knowledge of the industry came through having occupational experience and the motivation to stay in the industry was decided through the knowledge I took in, how rewarding my career has been and no day being the same.”

Have there been any challenges or hurdles you have had to tackle throughout your career? How have you worked to overcome them?

“When I first started, I noticed how very male-dominated the asset finance space was and at the time I was the only female in the office. I found when attending work events, I was one of the very few females in attendance. Building confidence over time in those spaces is all that I could do to overcome the challenge back then. Having experienced the asset finance sector and seeing the lack of female influence in the industry in my early days, I would say this spurred me on to be successful within the industry and get to where I am today.”

What are you doing today to pave the way for other women entering the industry?

“I have developed the credit team at Approved Business Finance, which currently is an all-female team. One of my main goals is to help them all successfully progress in the field of asset finance. The importance of this responsibility comes with increasing their knowledge through my learning and teachings gained during my journey and to hopefully see them have long and successful careers within asset finance. I hope my career path will encourage others to drive their own careers forward and give them the confidence to progress. I look forward to being a part of developing successful female led roles within the Broker space.”

KERRY PICKERING: BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER (UNITED TRUST BANK)

What led you to pursue this career? What motivated your decision to work in this industry and how did you start your career path?

“My decision to pursue a career in the finance industry stemmed from my motivation to make a positive impact and help individuals navigate their financial needs. This drive led me to embark on a journey that started with my first role in Bank of Scotland’s internal sales team back in 2001. During the interview process, I was presented with an interactive task that involved selling a car, which sparked my career in asset finance.

The more deals I processed, the more I wanted to learn more about different vehicles and their options, or equipment and what it was used for. When speaking with brokers and their clients about their purchases, they engaged in a very open and excited manner which helped end-to-end relationships flourish.

Through my foundational role at the Bank of Scotland, I immersed myself in learning the intricacies of the industry by supporting customers and engaging in Customer visits. This hands-on experience provided me with a solid foundation, further enhanced by credit training sessions and gaining expertise in proposal creation and the pay-out process.

As I progressed in my career, I transitioned to a more executive role with funders such as Conister Bank and Metro Bank, Where I started working with Brokers such as AFS UK Ltd.

The experience gained coupled with a genuine desire to assist individuals and make a meaningful difference, served as a driving force behind my continued dedication in the finance industry.”

Have you had any challenges working in this profession?

“When starting my career in the finance industry, I initially observed a predominantly male-oriented environment. However, I did not perceive this as a significant obstacle due to the support and encouragement provided to me by great colleagues and industry role models.

Over the years, we have seen a noticeable increase in the representation of females in the market. This positively attributes to the collaborative efforts of both men and women supporting and empowering each other. I have actively participated in mentoring programs aimed at assisting individuals in establishing themselves within the industry and addressing any potential challenges they may encounter.”

What advice would you give a woman wanting to start a career in finance?

“For aspiring individuals looking to embark on a career in finance, it is essential to cultivate self-confidence and actively engage in building visibility and credibility when pursuing opportunities. Authenticity of one’s personal identity is key and aspiring individuals should not hesitate to dream big.

The finance sector offers limitless possibilities for those who are willing to embrace challenges and strive for success.”

ANDREA O’BRIEN: HEAD OF BROKER SALES (HAYDOCK FINANCE)

What led you to pursue a career in finance?

“My journey began in asset finance when I saw a newspaper advert to work at Haydock Finance in their internal sales. They were a local independent finance company that had recently completed an MBI. I have always been good at mathematics and enjoyed building customer relationships so this role was the perfect opportunity to begin my finance career.”

What obstacles or difficulties have you encountered in your finance career? Have you successfully overcome these challenges?

“As you progress in any finance career, you will invariably face challenges. Over the last 20 years I have encountered recession, volatile rate fluctuations and of course the unprecedented Covid pandemic. It’s important to remember that any challenge is part of the journey and that by focusing on your strengths, you can help support the team to navigate them successfully.”

What influence do you aim to make on aspiring females wanting to work in finance and the broader environment?

“As a senior manager it is my responsibility to keep the broker sales team empowered and inspired. It’s important for me to have a clear vision and a clear path of progression within my team. I recruit both male and females on their ability to carry the role to best of their ability, rather than their gender. I ensure my team has access to training and skill-building programs to help them adapt and develop plus open their mindsets.”

WENDY TWAITS – SALES DIRECTOR (SYNERGY COMMERCIAL FINANCE LTD)

What led you to pursue a career in finance?

“My exposure to asset finance started in 1999. I was drawn to finance by an interest in all things numerical and a natural ability to work with figures. I had worked in credit control previously, but my career path has been varied, giving me experience across a range of finance firms mainly in sales positions, which has led to my current role as Sales Director of SCF Ltd.

I have a real passion for my job and the fulfilment in it comes from working with so many different people and knowing that finance makes a crucial difference to the business owners we and our AR’’s work with. I really feel my knowledge continues to expand in line with my experience and that’s what keeps me in the industry.”

What obstacles or difficulties have you encountered in your finance career?

“One of the main difficulties I faced was returning to finance after having my child. At that time, it was quite challenging as the industry was still very male-dominated and there was limited understanding or support for women wanting to work part-time. Senior female executives were few and far between, it was predominantly occupied by males in high-ranking positions, and no one really championed the issues of equality or diversity. Thankfully, there has been a progressive shift towards more gender diversity and opportunities for women to progress in the field.

Today, in our Group alone, there are plenty of positive female role models such as Shamila Khan, Claire Carter, Debra Grimshaw, Lynda Bate and Maggie Morgan. I have seen a significant positive change in the industry during my career and I am grateful for the progress that has been made.”

What advice would you give women considering finance as a career?

“Personally, I believe it’s crucial for them to know what they stand for and to be confident in who they are. They shouldn’t feel pressured to fit in but instead, embrace their uniqueness. It’s important to have a clear vision for your business and to stay true to your values. Nowadays, there are so many opportunities available for female entrepreneurs, and the traditional corporate image is no longer a necessity – just take a look at all the successful female-led businesses on platforms like LinkedIn.

When it comes to setting up a brokerage specifically, I think it’s essential to look at what’s out there and find inspiration from successful women in our network. Having a can-do attitude is key, as is surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals and building a strong support network. It’s important to be prepared to stand up for yourself and to exude confidence in your abilities.”

JOANNE HAYTON (JOANNE HAYTON LIMITED)

Tell me about yourself and the industry you work in as a broker.

“I’ve been in asset finance for the engineering sector for over 30 years now, working closely with the same group of individuals for over 25 years. I operate as an appointed representative and have been with AFS UK Ltd since 2008. Prior to that, I worked as a commercial manager for Royal Bank of Scotland for 17 years, primarily dealing with existing customers. It’s been quite a journey since joining the AFS network in 2008!”

What led you to set up your business?

“When Bank of Scotland shut down their asset finance division, I wanted to take control of my own destiny. I had already known and worked with Justin Ford, the Group Operations Director of AFS (UK) Ltd for years having previously been Branch Manager in the same organisation. So, joining AFS UK Ltd was a natural choice for me. They helped make the transition from a bank employee to a broker seamless.”

What have been your challenge as a female working in the industry?

“Well, the main challenge for me has definitely been working in the engineering sector, which is very male dominated. Over the years, I have had to work hard to stand out from the rest of the finance brokers and direct lenders whilst all the time staying at the forefront of the engineering sector. This has helped me earn the trust and respect of my customers and has established my reputation. Ultimately, this attention to detail and being female has actually worked to my advantage as customers tend to remember me.”

How can other women be successful in these fields?

“I think it’s really important for women to have thick skin in both industries. Whilst the sector remains male-dominated, I have noticed that many of the directors and contacts of the engineering companies I speak with do employ females, but they tend to work more on the administrative side. I don’t see many female engineers at all. However, I believe that women can certainly excel in the engineering field as long as they maintain knowledge and experience in their field which helps them retain credibility.”

What message do you think is important for women who want to set up a brokerage of their own?

“I believe it’s crucial for everyone (regardless of gender) to specialise and choose a sector that they are passionate about. Being a specialist allows you to have a deep understanding of the assets and funders you are working with. You have to really know the market inside out to ensure the right deals find the right home, funder wise whilst offering the customer the most suitable deal in the process.

Hard work and dedication to your work does not go unnoticed so it’s key to demonstrate it. Finance is a diverse industry and there are opportunities to tailor it to suit your needs. You can have a successful career while still maintaining a work-life balance. Of course, foundational training is key so make sure to invest in getting the right education and training.”

JO MALYON (BLUE BADGER FINANCIAL LTD)

What led you to pursue a career as a franchisee? What motivated your decision to work in this particular industry and be self-employed as a female?

“I’ve been in this industry for almost four decades and the lack of female representation back then really pushed me to prove that we belong here too. University wasn’t an option for me at the time, so I grabbed every opportunity I could to get to where I am now, running my own successful brokerage.”

What obstacles or difficulties have you encountered in your finance career?

“Throughout my time in the financial industry, I’ve often felt like I was striving to outperform my peers and get recognition for my hard work. What I believe these days is termed as Imposter Syndrome, something that many people face, especially early in their career or when breaking down a diversity barrier. I faced challenges such as deals not going through and being the only woman in business meetings. However, I never saw them as problems, but rather as opportunities to learn and grow.

By building a strong network and learning from other senior women in the industry, I have been able to navigate the challenges of being in a minority. Additionally, by constantly educating myself through both formal learning and hands-on experience, I have been able to excel as a broker and become my own boss thanks to SCF Ltd, who support me in providing the highest level of service to my clients.”

What advice would you give other women wanting to set up a brokerage?

“I believe it’s crucial for them to have confidence in themselves and prioritise their mental well-being. As a broker, you’re often on your own, so having a strong support network is essential. Authenticity is also key – don’t be afraid to speak up and be true to yourself.”

LUCY PERRY – SALES SUPPORT (COASTAL ASSET FINANCE)

What led you to pursue a career in asset finance?

“Well, I’ve always had an interest in finance. My Dad set up his own brokerage business as an AR of AFS Compliance and that gave me real insight to the industry. I originally considered going to university, but ultimately decided to get into work instead so, I joined the family business and have now been in my role for 2 years.”

What obstacles or difficulties have you encountered in your finance career?

“Well, there’s definitely a lot to learn in this industry with so many different products and services. I found it challenging at first to grasp everything, but I attended the Broker Academy which was really helpful in giving me solid foundational knowledge. Asking questions and constantly learning has been key for me in overcoming any challenges. Every day is a learning day as they say. As I work on the support side of the business, I’ve noticed that the majority of pay-outs teams I interact with from different funders are women, which is really empowering. It’s been a great experience navigating through this stage of my career and I’m constantly evolving and growing.”

What message do you think is important for other women considering a career in finance to hear?

“I would say that being a woman in finance should never hold you back. In today’s world, people are starting to recognise and appreciate the value that women bring to the table. If you have a family member like me whom you admire and aspire to work for but feel held back by your lack of education in asset finance, I highly recommend looking into the Broker Academy. Remember, if the boys can excel in this field, so can we 100%! Don’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of your success.”

The Broker Academy is a course run by the Finance Education Centre. For more details, please contact michelle.henley@financeeducationcentre.com.

Contacts
AFS Group, Asset Finance Solutions & AFS Compliance
  • Greenbank Court, Challenge Way, Greenbank Business Park, Blackburn, BB1 5QB
  • Tel: 01254 958777
Synergy Commercial Finance
  • Unit 2, Foxoak Park, Common Road, York, YO19 5RZ
  • Tel: 01904 481786
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