‘Ask for help and guidance. This is not a weakness – it’s a strength’


Maria Gilbert Market Financial Solutions WIF

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Maria Gilbert, Chief of Staff & Senior Executive Assistant at Market Financial Solutions.

Originally from Wiltshire, Maria’s career began in retail & later hospitality.  A strong basis for customer service, emotional intelligence and resilience.

Later moving into the world of finance at an accountancy practice where she ran and managed the administration and company secretarial teams.

Maria eventually spread her wings and moved to London where she had various roles within the finance sector before finally finding her home at MFS.

In her spare time, she is a keen cyclist and also enjoys fine dining and travelling whenever she can.

Maria has already managed to visit over 40 Countries and her favourite places include Lisbon, Madrid and Paris. Next on her list will be Santorini!

What brought you into financial services?

Initially, it was down to most of my family working in the finance sector.

However, I quickly learned that the fast pace of finance is what really keeps me around.

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

I think the key to successful leadership is learning to listen, as well as being firm but fair. I don’t think gender plays a part.

What’s needed is respect all round and a willingness to learn and progress. None of this is exclusive to either men or women.

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

Finding the right company to work with.  It’s important that there is a mutual benefit between company and employee.

Culture is often overlooked in organisations, but it is key for growth & retention.

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

Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to question and challenge the status quo.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Don’t do tomorrow what could be done today!

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

Organisation and understanding priorities as well as communication.

It can be easy to understand why some tasks need to be prioritised over others, but if you can’t explain how it benefits the workflow over the long term, you’re only addressing part of the overall challenge.

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

There are always two sides to a story and to learn as many facts as possible before making decisions.

Rash decisions or knee-jerk reactions rarely work out well in finance!

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

Ask for help and guidance. This is not a weakness – it’s a strength.

What do you think is holding women back?

Sometimes, women may inadvertently hold themselves back by not believing in their own abilities.

But at the same time, leaders may also hold women back by not managing their company culture correctly.

What’s important is recognising these drawbacks as they arise, and taking action to amend them.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

In some organisations yes, I think it does exist. That is why it is so crucial to find the right organisation for you personally.

I’m lucky to have found a company where no such ceiling exists but for those who haven’t, it’s worth taking the time to find the best option available.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

I think it is a great initiative and is needed within the finance sector.

Diversity is crucial for organisations to excel. It is always good to see things moving in the right direction, although it’s a little disappointing that these initiatives are needed in the first place.

We should all be treated equally after all no matter our gender, race, ethnicity, or any other factor.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

It starts at the interview selection process.

Businesses need to address any unconscious bias at this stage to ensure all candidates have the same opportunities.

It’s also key to ensure organisations are attractive to a diverse selection of candidates so that more people apply in the first place.

What might be an attractive benefit to one person, might not be to another.

It is about finding the right balance so there is something for everyone.

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

Regular salary reviews and benchmarking.

Ensuring pay relates to performance, especially where several people are doing the same job.

Having a strong HR function is important here as well to maintain fairness, but also to address any issues with senior leaders.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

In work, it is definitely finding my feet at MFS and being a big part of the company’s growth & success.

Within that remit notably recruiting a team, moving offices and most importantly being able to work closely with our CEO and achieving my most recent promotion.