By  Tina Wilkinson is Global Head of Product at Lombard Risk

A shortage of women in senior roles still exists in the financial industry today despite efforts to achieve equality. The industry needs to encourage more women to pursue careers in finance as it is mutually beneficial to female professionals and the global industry.

We’ve learned from Mercer’s survey results last year that support staff in finance and insurance are 76 per cent female, but women make up only 30 per cent of senior managers and 21 per cent of executives in the industry. Moreover, out of Europe’s top 50 Fintech firms, women hold less than five per cent of top executive roles, according to Innovate Finance.

Having spent over 30 years in financial services myself, I consider this to be an opportunity missed, for both employers and women in the workforce. Women can make an immense contribution towards the industry and can carve out a fulfilling and rewarding career for themselves.

Changes in the financial services sector have created opportunities which require a range of skills to fulfill – from technical to strategic to relationship management. Financial institutions are changing; they are reassessing their structures, introducing new – and more senior – roles to deal with the increasing range of regulatory measures with which they need to comply. They are also embracing the opportunities technology provides to improve customer service and provide competitive advantage. Morgan McKinley’s UK 2016 Salary Guide cites growing opportunities in the industry in the areas of compliance, risk management, auditing, project and change management, technology and digital product management.

It’s a fast-paced and exciting industry; one that is in the throes of unparalleled change that’s unlikely to abate. Having a competitive edge and a drive to stay ahead of the game is essential; as is a desire to embrace roles that are central to an organisation’s business success.

While contributing factors to job satisfaction vary from person to person and across stages within an individual’s career, I would call out the following top four reasons to work in financial services:  

  1. Pan-team working
    The time of silos in financial institutions is past. To ensure the customer is front and centre in a financial services firm’s focus, companies have to work across business lines, product lines and market segments for a ‘holistic view’. Firms need to act and be one organisation. This means working across teams responsible for different sectors, with everyone pulling together to ensure successful delivery.

Many financial organisations operate globally so there is the opportunity to gain experience working across markets and regions, interacting with colleagues, suppliers and customers from different backgrounds and cultures. Women form a valuable part of the diversity of teams. Teams with a broad range of skills, background and culture are generally more successful, and financial institutions are embracing this.

  1. Being a part of change
    The pace of technological change at this time in financial services is unprecedented. To meet the demands of evolving regulation, competition and rising customer expectations, companies are automating to accelerate, drive efficiency and deliver more immediate, comprehensive business insight. Now is the time when individuals with vision can make a real difference in the way companies meet their objectives, as well as how the industry develops. There is never a dull moment.
  2. Learning from great minds
    The demand for new skills within the industry has brought fresh talent in, providing software, data and collaboration expertise. This provides golden opportunities for individuals to expand their own knowledge, to develop contacts and build connections with people who are driving the industry forward.

Within my own career, I have worked with global firms in the US, France, Luxembourg, Germany and the UK.  Working and living in strategic European Markets, while running global business lines, has allowed me  to develop a strong network of colleagues across the banking and insurance sectors.

  1. A chance to develop new skills
    Financial services offers opportunities for individuals to broaden their skills within their own discipline and to develop and build new skills in other areas. Working with global banks and insurers, which also have strong domestic markets in the above countries, has given me an appreciation for the cultural nuances that drive the decision making processes in different firms. One approach in management, like one size, never fits all. Firms, like each of us, are unique.  Learning to adapt is a key skill.

Much of my career has been focused on working across many different markets.  What I have realised is that by working outside your comfort zone and, if you can, outside your home market, will allow you to learn more about yourself and about clients’ requirements.  You learn how products are built to excel in specific markets, and how they are sold.

And language skills count.  While English is important, it is not enough.  Every language is a map to its culture.  Learning what each culture values, adds value to you.  It is this flexibility, this agility that transforms your experience into something vital for global firms.  And each firm will need to articulate its “uniqueness” ever more effectively in order to differentiate its services from competitors in an increasingly global market. This is the real challenge.

So much is changing in the financial markets today.  Regulation provides a framework, but it is a moveable feast.  This makes marketing products that are somewhat intangible even more challenging. So all risk and compliance professionals, as well as marketers and sales professionals – I encourage you to bring your expertise to a fast evolving industry.  Technology affects speed and delivery mechanisms in finance.  If technology is your area of focus, the changing shape of banking and the channels we use to reach out to clients, along with the necessity to do everything faster and more efficiently, offers a wealth of challenging and rewarding opportunities.  The bottom line is – creative and motivated women can have a tremendous impact in this industry.

As women take up a higher percentage of roles in financial services, they will be in a privileged position to shape and develop one of the most exciting industries.

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