Women in Finance: Interview with Lucy Barrett, Managing Director, Vantage Finance
By Tony Sanchez -
Lucy Barrett is the founder and Managing Director of Vantage Finance, an established master broker within the specialist finance industry.
Since starting the business in 2004, Lucy has built Vantage Finance into one of the UK’s leading specialist finance distributors with a reputation for first-class service and the ability to complete even the most complex finance cases.
Lucy has grown and actively mentors a team of talented advisors that work hard on ensuring Vantage Finance has excellent relationships with specialist lenders and one that prides itself on the bespoke service they provide every client.
In 2016 she led the business through a Private Equity transaction for a significant minority acquisition and later a trade acquisition by the ENRA group in 2018.
As a well-respected name in the specialist finance market, Lucy has sat on various industry body boards including the NACFB, is a regular commentator in trade press and speaker at industry events across the UK.
What brought you into financial services?
Probably similar to many others, I fell into it! I was toying with the idea of giving up with my A-Levels as I was completely undecided on a career path and wanted to get started without going through further education, and a good friend of mine got me an interview with a small mortgage packager she was working for.
The rest is history!
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
Personally I think demonstrating that you can do the job you are asking of others and have done either currently or in the past really helps to gain respect from your team.
Hard work and commitment drives a culture of the same so dedication is important. When it comes to differentiating for woman leaders, I am a firm believer of just being yourself, male or female.
When you try and adapt your style to stereotypes it rarely works, if you are a strong leader – be that, if you are a collaborative leader – be that, etc.
What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?
I think age was a big barrier when I started out, more so than gender, but perhaps combining the two in the early part of my career was when I saw the biggest challenges as a result.
I was 18 when I started Vantage Finance and that usually brought the average age in the room down quite considerably!
Once I had a few breakthroughs that started to fall away over time as people begin to take you seriously.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?
It’s never (usually) as bad as you think. Problems arrive, and problems fall away, some clearly are more sustained and give rise to what can feel like insurmountable challenges but on the whole, whether it’s people problems, issues on transactions, too much business to handle, not enough business to let you sleep at night these things always seem worse before you get stuck into dealing with them.
A bit of a cliché but these things do make you stronger and more resilient so embrace them.
What’s your own personal mantra?
Be fair with people and true to yourself. Those are two things you can nearly always control.
What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?
I think there is a miles on the clock comparison here, my younger self was a real martyr and would always want to be first in, last out.
Reply to every email whatever time of day to show how responsive I am to both my team and externally.
However with experience (and age I suppose, if I have to admit it) you begin to realise that it’s important to work hard, be committed and do what needs to be done without going the extra mile on things that make no real impact to anyone if they are dealt with at 8pm or the next day.
So I would say pick carefully the things that matter and disregard the ones that don’t to ensure you are not a prisoner to the emails.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
You cannot please all of the people all of the time.
In fact sometimes you can’t please any of the people any of the time either, so I try and do what I think is right whether I believe that will be the view of everyone in the team because it’s important to focus on the best overall outcome.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Work hard, accept that knowledge and experience is gained over time and that if you put the effort in and get the results you will get noticed.
I don’t see being a woman as a barrier or hurdle, just keep your focus and drive.
What do you think is holding women back?
Unfortunately the misconception that a woman won’t be able to put in as much once she starts a family is still clearly one of the biggest issues women face.
It’s a lot better now but the expectation that once a women does have children she will not be able to work as hard or be as committed to her career as she previously was still exists in some businesses.
There are also social dynamics, including golf course business culture and similar which very rarely incorporates women.
All that said there is a lot more focus on gender equality and attitudes have shifted significantly, I personally meet very few men in the industry who don’t respect women in business.
Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?
No, not really. Talented people will rise to the top regardless of challenges faced.
What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?
Great for awareness and absolutely necessary to drive change.
How do we encourage more women into financial services?
Time will take care of that. Entry level positions are readily available for both women and men, and the journey to progress is partly in the hands of the individual.
There are some great women in this industry with a good media presence which I hope gives confidence to those who aspire to grow their own career.
The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?
That feels really simple to me, there should be ongoing reviews to ensure this doesn’t continue.
If you have a mix of men and women doing the same thing then the pay range should be clear and carefully monitored.
Holding themselves accountable by publishing stats on their own gender pay gap is a good way to keep people honest.