‘Always back yourself. Be your biggest fan’

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REim Medhurst Women in Finance

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Reim Medhurst, Lending Manager for Commercial Acceptances (Part of the Close Brothers Group).

Reim has been working in the specialist finance sector in a front office role for the past six years.

Originally from Manchester, Reim began her working career in Preston, then Manchester, and has been based in London for the past four years.

With a joint honours degree in Economics and Spanish from the University of Leeds Reim spent a year living in Madrid as part of her course so speaks both English and Spanish.

In her spare time, Reim enjoys running, trying new restaurants, travelling, and has most recently embarked on a career as a fair-weather golfer!

What brought you into financial services?

I suppose a path into financial services would seem a likely route for someone who has studied Economics, however, when I finished University I didn’t have a particular career in mind and actually nearly ended up on the Hilton Hotel Graduate Management programme.

I knew I wanted a role which would allow me to put some of the skills I’d developed studying Economics to use and would be client facing, so I started looking into mortgage advising.

Instead, I stumbled across an advert for a position in sales for a property finance provider, two things which greatly appealed to me, sales, and finance.

I got the job, and two weeks later I was travelling down to London in first class with my boss for an industry awards event which, being a recent graduate, I thought was a real treat at the time!

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

Valuing staff, having a high level of mutual respect, authentic communication and continuing to evolve professionally.

This applies for both male and female leaders, there’s no difference in my eyes.

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

The main barrier I faced when I first began my career was not gender related but is a point worth discussing for anyone entering the industry.

I struggled with the physical inability to ‘study’ the sector and wanted to know everything about property and legal title straight away.

There’s an abundance of property, banking, and finance books and courses to study out there, but when I first started out I struggled with not being able to study every part of the industry as I am an academic by nature.

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

I think all previous experiences in business, the good and the bad, help to build on your own professional capabilities so I wouldn’t necessarily change anything from early on in my career.

I would probably just reassure myself that it’s ok not to know what you want to do as a career by the time you turn 16 and to continue to follow my interests, which is what I did, but I think it worried me at the time that I didn’t have a very specific career in mind.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Always back yourself. Be your biggest fan, work on your own personal branding and continue to evolve and learn.

No one is going to care more about your success and happiness than you, so you have to hype yourself up and be your own coach.

Referring to work specifically, this applies not only when celebrating small wins, but is also relevant when having to deal with a difficult scenario.

I think it’s important not to dwell on negative situations and to ‘pull your socks up’, learn from the situation and continue to encourage yourself by remembering you are doing a good job.

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

The recent lockdown has probably allowed people to master this more. I think at the end of the day you have to put your own happiness and well-being first, so it is important to have designated down time.

Two things work best for me, the first is organisation. I have designated days for meetings, and other days where I can focus on more admin heavy tasks. I find this helps me work smarter and prevents me working into the evening all the time!

The second is focusing on what I’m doing when I’m doing it, ‘being present’! Whether I’m out for dinner with friends, or on a long walk outside, I try and keep my mobile away!

What do you think is holding women back?

If you work for the right organisation and have a positive network of people around you personally and professionally, I don’t think anything is holding women back!

Whether you’re female or male, I don’t think you should dwell on what you think is holding you back. Work hard at doing your job well, become a subject matter expert and focus on making specific goals that will help you get to where you want to be.

I don’t believe there’s a lack of ambition for women wanting to ‘climb the ladder’. In my experience, the main hurdle is that career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself, a behaviour which historically women haven’t been encouraged to portray.

I think naturally, men find it easier to ‘put their hand up’ for a promotion and advocate for themselves whilst women can be guilty of talking themselves down.

Commercial Acceptances is one of the longest standing companies in the short-term finance industry, so the depth of knowledge available for people like myself to ‘learn from the best’ is vast and invaluable.

An International Women’s Day event organised by Close Brothers at their Crown Place office this year involves ‘speed-networking’ where there’s a chance to mix with senior men and women across the Group.

This exercise of senior men and women taking time out of their day to help women, like myself, who are looking to succeed is a key way forward in encouraging women to excel.

I’ve always had a business mentor and have never being afraid to ask questions to more senior staff to help build my own knowledge further.

Having a positive circle of women is key too. My mum has been running a successful business for the past 20 years so has always been an encouraging model for me.

I think generally, the world could definitely do with celebrating other people’s successes more and limiting jealousy.  Someone else’s success and happiness won’t take away from your own!

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

45% of the Close Brothers Group are female and we are an organisation of approximately 3,000 people.

There are also a number of senior women within the specialist finance industry who I greatly admire.

I don’t think there’s necessarily an issue of encouraging women into a career in financial services, there are plenty of graduate and apprenticeship programmes out there, similar to the ASPIRE programme that Close Brothers offers to school leavers.

I think the real work to be done is encouraging women to feel empowered in business and creating the right environment for women to excel in senior and front office roles within financial services.

Both male and female senior leaders need to take the time to pass on knowledge and motivate women into the higher paid roles, if that’s what they are seeking.

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

I understand the argument for having a mixed gender team leading to better company results, however, I can see it being tough for the construction industry in attracting women into the sector.

When discussing areas such as building consultancy, I think there certainly seems to have been progress in terms of encouraging a higher number of women into the workforce.

I know a panel PMS of ours is actively encouraging women into the sector through methods such as mentoring, work experience and bursaries.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Moving to London four years ago was certainly a big leap for me, especially after having a childhood predominantly based in the North-West out in the countryside with a small bubble of friends and family.

I used to catch an Uber everywhere when I first moved to London and named the tube stations by colour!