‘Be ready for a challenge, be resilient and constantly grow’

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sarah fisher kensington shorre

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Sarah Fisher managing director at independent brokerage, Kensington Shorre a premier provider of business and property finance.

Kensington Shorre work with business owners and professionals looking for secured and unsecured business finance, including the construction sector, where they have specialist knowledge in financing small and large developments.

What brought you into financial services?

Like many, I fell into finance and originally trained in graphic design and technical illustration, quite a difference I know!

I soon realised that it wasn’t what you knew in the design world but, who you knew and promptly came to the realisation that from a financial point a view, this had to remain an interest and not a career.

I began with an entry level position and soon became addicted to the pressure and satisfaction from closing deals.

From there on in, I have been lucky to have held positions in almost every line of financial services, from, Corporate, Business, Principal funder, Broker and over multiple product lines – ending now as the MD of an independent brokerage.

The vast cross section of financial services has served me well, I rarely come across a deal with a niche angle that I haven’t come across before.

However, when I do, I revel in the fact I can broaden my knowledge and provide more insight to my clients.  Every day is a school day after all!

What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?

Empowerment: Over the years it’s sad to say I have learnt more from poor leadership than good – in a nutshell – how not to be!

When you empower your staff to grow, the respect and buy in is tremendous. I take great pride in Stewardship; always leaving a person or situation in a better position than I found it.

Brutal Honesty: Sometimes, in life and roles we have to be acutely aware that on occasion we/the product is just not good enough – I feel in recent years a blame culture is more prevalent – complete honesty and ownership is sometimes a hard pill to swallow however with it comes an opportunity to improve.

Support: Let’s face it the industry can be terribly hard at times, as everyday life has been recently with the Pandemic, to be there for your staff, peers and counterparts in regards to any issue that is having an effect on them is paramount – I’m a firm believer in a problem shared is a problem halved.

I have some amazing support in the industry, that I do not know what I would do without – therefore I always try my upmost to be there with a listening ear and a wise word.

The industry is filled with some truly amazing people I have the pleasure of working with, and I hope to continue to support them as they do me.

What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?

Looking back on various challenges I have faced over my career, I can sum this up into two categories – ‘The glass ceiling’ and ‘self-doubt, self-criticism’

The former, I have experienced and at the time it felt like I had to scream louder and produce 10 times more results to been seen or heard, in retrospect the fear of the leadership at the time to promote new blood was the failing – not myself – this then compounded itself to moving on and rising further rather staying in a stagnating institution.

In regard to ‘self-doubt, self-criticism’, no one can be harder on You than Yourself – push harder, take it on the chin, put a line under it, are all phrases the majority of us have used as mantras at one time or another.

With experience I have learnt that its ok to breathe, its ok to realise your faults and it is most certainly ok to fail as long and it is a lesson and not a habit.

If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be? 

Tomorrow is a new day – don’t dwell on the negatives.

With experience you realise that every day brings challenges – and for too long in my younger years, and still now to some extent, I would focus on the failings of the day and almost disregard the wins with the unfounded belief that this is what makes you stronger – hindsight reminds me daily to take stock of every single win and to not allow a poor result to rule the day.

It’s tough – but the right balance will propel you forward more than you know, the work you are doing now is opening doors you can’t even see yet.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Be ready for a challenge, be resilient and constantly grow.

What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?

This is an Achilles heel for me – I don’t feel I will ever master it – as they say if you love what you do – you’ll never work a day in your life.

I’m forever trying to address this balance – so if you know – please tell me!

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

When I was much younger and starting my career, a wise older MD taught me a lesson that I will never forget ‘Keep the passion and lose the emotion, it’s all just business’

When you are young and achingly trying to climb the ladder of success – these lines can be blurred and to be honest it becomes exhausting.

I remind myself of that meeting regularly and thankful to have had a mentor that impacted me so many years ago.

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

Just go for it – the only one holding you back is yourself – It will not be easy; you will fail at times and it isn’t going to fair – deal with it – life isn’t fair.

No one remembers the glossy wins – they remember how you get back up when knocked down. Make a tangible difference to people and organisations you are involved with – it will reward you greatly.

Be prepared, confident and never put your comfy slippers on – being uncomfortable is a powerful driver in all aspects of your career.

What do you think is holding women back?

I could go on about the equality issues – however this has been said may times.

Whether you are male, female or non-binary – you are the one holding yourself back – having a lack of self-belief in what seems an impossible situation is the death of anyone’s aspiring journey.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

The industry is now multi-faceted in regard to institutional employers, challenger and private – I would be lying if I said I haven’t experienced it in my career.

I feel as the years move on and the market is more diversified this is becoming less prevalent which is a joy to see.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

I think the Charter is so very welcomed and well received – the light it is shining on some inspiring women is fantastic.

The hope is that this encourages women to step out of their comfort zone and find their voice.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

The WIF Charter is shining a light on the diverse opportunities within the sector and will for the first time in a generation show the new women coming through, that the options are endless in regard to role type and to throw away the perceived ideas of roles in Finance.

For too long finance/banking roles have been cloaked in mystery to either fit a cashier, entry level or complex Director levels at opposite ends of the spectrum.

By showing and educating people on the vast array of roles that make up this sector we should encourage more new blood.

The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?

There has been a lot of press and also readily available data on this subject over recent years – it is the responsibility of the individual to push the boundaries on this – highlight the issues head on and push the envelope.

I, for one had to do this many years ago; yes, it was uncomfortable, very uncomfortable – however knowing your worth is one of the most powerful strings to your bow.

The statistics do show that the more senior the role the more severe the gap – employers need to value the performance and results of the individual – ultimately this is all that truly matters to any institution that wants to grow, if they do not see this, do you even want to be employed by them?