‘Don’t feel guilty when you do something different to everyone else’

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Louisa Willoughby Fiduciam

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Louisa Willoughby, Case Manager at Fiduciam.

Louisa joined Fiduciam six months ago, in the midst of the pandemic and just after Fiduciam had begun completing CBILS loans, so it was a busy time to jump in and hit the ground running.

Having studied Law at university, she decided not to pursue a legal career and worked for several start-ups in different industries; from placing project managers in high-risk countries, start-up support for military veterans and, most recently, being a founding employee of a fitness company in central London.

What brought you into financial services?

My first role in financial services came almost by accident when I joined a Social Enterprise working with military veterans on entrepreneurship and business finance.

This was my first insight into start- up loans, alternative finance and business support services, which I have been able to build on at Fiduciam.

Finance is also at the centre of all core decision making in start-ups and finding the right funding solutions can dictate the direction a company goes in.

I believe experiencing this first-hand has given me a good understanding of where our borrowers are coming from when we are structuring transactions.

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

I have always believed in leading by example, delegating and putting responsibility in the hands of those following you up the ladder, allowing people to test out and demonstrate their own skills.

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

Excel – but I think I’m getting there!

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

Don’t feel guilty when you do something different to everyone else or change the career plan you made originally.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Always say thank you, and never ask someone to do something you would not do yourself.

Do you think women are still held back compared to men?

We are really lucky to be part of a generation where the commercial world has more female role models and managers, and an environment where the playing field is more level than ever before.

I believe that teamwork, being innovative, adaptable and having a strong work ethic are the standout characteristics of people, especially in smaller businesses, that have been successful even in traditionally male dominated industries – rather than gender.

However, this change is slower in larger, more established institutions and companies, where women will continue to need greater support from management, mentors, and policy to encourage faster progress.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

From my perspective, I would not have considered applying into financial services until I realised that there were much broader, diverse roles in companies like Fiduciam.

I really enjoy getting to know our customers, managing projects to completion and problem solving; I don’t think these are the types of roles people associate with the industry – and they should!

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

Companies publicly sharing their ambitions and commitment to women in the industry can only be a good thing and will encourage more women to consider companies where they know there are progressive ambitions and transparent policies in place.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

I don’t think there is still a glass ceiling as such, as there are currently great examples of women in high profile roles in international politics, major banks, magic circle law firms etc that broke that ceiling in the first place.

Now it is a case of maintaining that consistently – and I think that will be the challenge.

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

Still working on it! Sport and exercise have always been my down time, so as long as I can fit that in then I feel like I have some balance.

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

I don’t believe this really becomes apparent until women begin to make choices between their work and family commitments.

I do think women often shy away from discussing their salaries and progression compared to their male counterparts from day one, in all industries, and this can be improved.

What is your biggest achievement in your career to date?

I don’t think there is one stand out thing that I’d pick out, I enjoy celebrating the smaller wins as they come around!