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Nicola Flannigan
International Women's Day
Written by Nicola Flannigan on
Happy International Women’s Day one and all! It has only been in recent years that I have really engaged with this day and recognised how important it is to me. A time to reflect and celebrate the achievements and support of women around me, as well as recognising the progress of women in the wider community. Importantly, today is also a day I take time to reflect on my journey in this wonderful industry.

It was at the mere age of 18 that I started working in financial services.  The ambition to work within this industry was there from a young age.  I managed to secure work experience with KMPG at 15, and then an apprenticeship opportunity with Smith and Williamson after my A Levels at 18.

As a young woman, I was struck by the lack of women in Senior Leadership roles. Women were working in the sector, in fact women outnumbered men 3:1 in my department, but there were no senior female leaders.  This made me question why?

In the next few years I changed sector within financial services, moving into Wealth. There were a few changes also in my personal life in the years to come. I met my now husband, I bought a house, we got married, and 4 years later had our daughter Sofia. I suddenly felt a weight of responsibility was placed upon me! I had bills to pay and financial decisions to make. I was now the customer of a sector I had worked in for the past 10 years. There I was, consuming financial products and services mostly created and delivered by men, with little or no input from women at a senior level.  How were these products ensuring they met the needs of women?

This was something I wanted to change, and the desire within me to get a seat at that leadership table strengthened. I knew I could contribute in many ways: such as bringing a different perspective to the table, and an understanding of how women consume financial products and how their needs may be different to those of men.

I have been lucky to work with some great leaders in recent years, in many propositional and transformational projects. I have watched how men and women collaboratively work together to achieve the outcomes required.  But undoubtedly, I have noticed the real strengths women bring to a leadership table through their feminine energy. I draw out below just a few of my observations through experience:

Creativity – I believe women are naturally more creative, this means we are not afraid to think outside of the parameters set, and are able to create unique solutions with a different sense of awareness through our creative standpoint.  Boundaries can be pushed, and not everything needs to trust the logic in the eye of a woman.  This can really deliver effective solutions.

Emotional connection – Women can often be perceived as more emotional, and in the round, I would agree, but do not see this as a negative.  Women have different emotional, physical, and mental experiences to men. This provides us with an ability to connect with our peers and, more importantly, customers on a different level.  It also enables us to communicate feelings more easily and provide a sense of unity within a team. We can take command of a situation when needs be, without the need to be overbearing and dictatorial.

Being present & attentive – I once read that in a woman’s life, she will wear many different hats depending on the role she is playing, and wow does that resonate with me now! Like many other women who are balancing careers, households, and parenting duties, I am also juggling my wellbeing and everything that comes with it. However, I believe, this experience helps us adjust to change and new situations quickly and be present and attentive to the task at hand. It gives us the ability to find a solution to a problem as swiftly as possible, to ensure we have capacity to focus on the next thing that requires our attention.

Reflecting on the above and other strengths, it really does make me wonder how Financial Services survived for so long without women being in more leadership roles.

This year is my 20th year in the industry, and I have jumped into the world of Consultancy, working for Altus. In 7 weeks, I have already met some wonderful and inspiring men and women.  But what I am most excited about is, the opportunity to work with female leaders, working across the different organisations we serve as clients. I look forward to learning from their experience and wisdom, something which was lacking in my early career. Importantly, I know that both the men and women representing the clients I will be working with, will give me a seat at the table and listen to the value of my recommendations and challenges.

Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be with them, may we raise them!

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