‘It’s important to be open and honest’

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Sabinder Sandhu Avamore Capital

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Sabinder Sandhu, Head of Operations and Marketing at Avamore Capital.

Sabinder joined Avamore Capital as Marketing Coordinator in April 2018 having previously worked for the business via a marketing agency.

At the end of 2020, she was promoted to Head of Operations & Marketing and now splits her time between executing a multi-channel marketing strategy and managing the operations of the business.

She graduated from Durham University with a degree in Classics in June 2015.

What brought you into financial services? 

Like lots of people, I fell into financial services. I initially met Avamore when I worked for a small marketing agency.

At the time, the company was fairly young, and I ran their account. I enjoyed the way the Principals worked and could see the potential to make a big impact on the business and so had been keen to move in-house for a long time.

It was the opportunity to build up the marketing function that interested and motivated me.

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

I think a successful leader is a good listener, someone who motivates others and cares about the growth of their peers as well as themselves.

Good leadership is something I feel really passionate about (I co-run a charity outside of work which focuses on promoting leadership in young people); when people get into management positions, I think they should use their knowledge and seniority to everyone’s advantage.

I see being a leader as a privilege which means when you’re in that position, you should be generous with your time and committed to supporting the people around you.

I don’t see a difference in leadership between men and women. Good leadership should be consistent regardless of gender.

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

I have not experienced any major barriers in my career. Avamore Capital is an incredibly supportive and inclusive environment.

I’ve always been encouraged to do more and think big, as long as I am acting in the interest of the business, there is no need to feel constrained by anything.

I saw this first-hand with my recent promotion to Head of Operations and Marketing (and internal promotion to VP);

I joined Avamore almost 3 years ago as Marketing Co-ordinator and since then, I have had the ability to shape my own path and freedom to explore the operational side of the business which has in turn helped me grow my role.

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

If I could tell my younger self one thing about business it is that in a company, you always have value to add.

I remember when I started that it could sometimes feel scary to put your ideas out because other people were more experienced but, what I realised is that noone can be an expert in everything.

Businesses hire to expand their skill set and their knowledge, ultimately, a good company should want to hear your take on things.

What’s your own personal mantra?

My personal mantra is don’t ask anyone else to do anything that you’re not prepared to do yourself.

Of course there are certain people in specific roles and it’s their job to execute them (and like I said previously, you can’t be an expert in everything) but, if you aren’t willing to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in, then it’s unreasonable of you to expect someone else to do that same work.

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

The key to a successful work life balance is setting personal boundaries and sticking to them.

At Avamore, I have always felt that everyone is very respectful of one another’s time.

Of course, there are instances where we all have to work late or do the odd few bits on the weekend to get ahead but that’s more for me and my own management rather than through obligation.

I tend to make sure I switch off in the evenings and try not to look at my phone too much past a certain point.

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

A key leadership lesson I have learnt along the way is that it’s ok to not know everything.

There have been lots of instances where I have put my hands up to say I don’t know that answer and that I need help from someone else.

As a leader, I think it’s important to be open and honest, it’s going to help everyone at the end of the day.

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

I’ve been with Avamore since it was 7 people and it’s now at a team of 20.

As I’ve grown with the company, I’ve not had to consider how my path might differ.

I suppose my advice would always be to be as open and honest as possible about what it is you want long term.

You can demonstrate your commitment through work but sometimes you do need to have the conversation with management to say that you would like something more.

What do you think is holding women back?

There is a noticeable gender imbalance between men and women in our industry and I think it’s going to be a collective effort to fix that; in my view, there is a key point around accessibility.

Something that would be beneficial is for the industry to find ways to educate more people from a younger age about the opportunities available in our space, for women and men.

The roles that you can do in the specialist finance sector are so varied that there is absolutely something for everyone regardless of gender, age or personality type.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

I can only speak from personal experience. At Avamore, I am the first person to be promoted into a VP position (Phil, Head of Underwriting was hired in as a VP in 2019).

Avamore is full of talented people and we are rewarded on hard work; I am proud of the fact that I get to hold a position of seniority in a company that I really care about and amongst my peers who I really respect.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

From personal experience, I have to admit that I do not know enough about it.

In general any steps to create better equality in an industry need to be clear and tangible.

We need to be actively doing things to make a change. For me, that’s about building equal footing for men and women to learn from one another.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

As I mentioned previously, I think this is an education piece.

The industry could be targeting people at a younger age to show them the opportunities in our space and also, dispel stereotypical myths.

Something that could help is working with recruiters to attract people outside of the sector with similar skill sets; this might help improve the imbalance.

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

I think that transparency is a way to even out the gender pay gap.

I imagine that if firms had to publish their staff’s earnings to the team, fewer would be comfortable admitting that men are being paid significantly more than women despite being in the same position.