‘My advice to Gen Z? Go for it in finance’
By Laura Miller -
Ever noticed how you don’t see old bangers on the road any more? Miriam Howarth, head of marketing at lender Hope Capital, is part of the reason.
Way back when she was studying International Business at Sheffield Hallam University in the early 2000s, Howarth took a job with a car finance firm, one of many that launched an army of teenagers in brand new Nissan Micras onto the roads of Britain.
“Part of my degree was a placement year where I was a marketing assistant for a sub-prime car finance firm which I absolutely loved,” she says.
“It was a young, successful and fast-paced business with a great team of people – it was far removed from how I envisaged the financial services industry.”
The experience gave Howarth a solid grounding in both marketing and regulated lending, and perhaps more importantly for her future career, vanquished the ‘boring’ finance stereotype.
“More than anything it showed me that it didn’t matter what you were marketing, you could always have fun doing it,” she says.
It’s a joie de vivre Howarth has poured into a decade of marketing roles, including in claims management, debt management, and at Bank of America, before joining bridging lender Hope Capital last April.
“I love working in financial services, whether mainstream, specialist or sub-prime lending,” she says. “Bridging in particular, as it’s linked to the property market and general economy, both of which I’m interested in. It’s relatively new for me, I’m still learning – fun and frustrating in equal parts!”
Financial services has long been a traditionally male-dominated profession, though this is less true of marketing departments. Howarth said she found no problem either getting into or progressing through the sector.
“I certainly didn’t feel that there were any barriers, perceived or not,” she says. “Because I had experience in it prior to finishing university that almost gave me the foot in the door I needed and was definitely a huge benefit when I was looking for my first ‘proper’ job.”
As head of marketing at Hope, Howarth is responsible for developing the overarching marketing strategy and implementing it across all channels. Her biggest challenge right now is trying, like the rest of us, to second guess the economic headwinds.
“As a business we’re putting ourselves in the strongest position possible by listening to changing market needs,” she says, with a focus on maintaining service quality, and plans to continue creating new, innovative products.
Hope by name, hope by nature – the lender is anticipating incoming economic changes will create opportunities, as well as risks. Howarth says the bridging financier, which is privately funded, is confident it is on a solid enough financial footing to weather the recession.
“We are prepared to succeed if and when we are confronted with challenging economic times,” she says resolutely.
This month the government launched its Kickstart Scheme to fund job placements for 16 to 24 year olds, hit hardest by the spike in joblessness. What advice would Howarth give to a Gen Z-er thinking of following her footsteps into finance?
“Just go for it. There’s lots of different roles and a variety of businesses, so there’s bound to be something enjoyable and rewarding,” she says.
Those picking marketing should know it’s not for the faint-hearted, however. Howarth often finds herself stretched across everything from product design to events and PR – but that’s the thrill.
“I love that my role is really varied,” she says, “no two days are the same and it’s great to see the business grow and progress through all that we do as a team”.
Laura Miller is a freelance journalist who writes about money and business. She regularly appears in UK national and trade newspapers and magazines, and has previously worked for ITV News and the Telegraph among others. Find her on twitter @thatlaurawrites