‘Even in the worst possible scenarios there will always be a light’

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Louisa Sedgwick Hampshire Trust Bank

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Louisa Sedgwick, managing director, Specialist Mortgages at Hampshire Trust Bank.

Louisa has been enjoying a career within Financial Services for over 25 years, starting her journey as a mortgage administrator within a busy Building Society.

Louisa has worked in a multitude of roles; BDM, Corporate Account Manager, Head of Sales, before landing at HTB as MD of Specialist Mortgages.

What brought you into financial services?

I would love to say it was a childhood ambition, but it wasn’t!

I always wanted to travel the world and be rich and famous, clearly I didn’t want in enough!

I was really lucky to land a temporary role at the Rochdale branch of Bradford & Bingley, which fortunately became permanent and gave me the opportunity to pursue a career.

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

That’s a really tough one. I have never had a female boss, so it’s difficult to say from my own personal experience.

I can say what I think makes a good leader, irrespective of gender, that is; approachable, empathetic, not taking themselves too seriously, willing to share experience and give feedback.

There is a big difference between a manager and a leader, one is self-aware, the other doesn’t care!

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

I suppose this would have to be in my early career when I wanted to become a BDM.  I applied for a role at Bradford & Bingley, several times and just kept hearing ‘no’.

They eventually offered the role to a man, who changed his mind and I approached them again, to be told it’s a ‘mans world’ and not a job for me!

Eventually I persuaded them to give me a chance – a 6 month trial – I told them I would double the amount of business in that time that the previous incumbent had done in 12 months – I must have had some balls at that time – anyway the rest is history!

Being a BDM in in my mid -twenties in what was a male dominated environment was really tough, arguably easier to get through the door, but so much harder to prove you were worthy of a second visit!

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

Lighten up!  Question why you are doing what you doing – is it truly that important?

What’s your own personal mantra?

What’s good about this? Even in the worst possible scenarios there will always be a light.

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

That’s a really tough one. Find someone you respect, who does it well and copy them!

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

Patience – dealing with objects is really easy, dealing with people is far more complex.  I have learnt to listen, reflect and ask others for advice and feedback.

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

Ask yourself why?  What is it you want?  Do you want a leadership position for a title?  Do you want to add value?  Do you want money and lifestyle?

Once you ascertain what it is you are looking for, the journey will become much clearer.

What do you think is holding women back?

Themselves largely.  I think we are really good at apologising for what we believe we can’t do, instead of recognising what we bring to the table and why.

Diversity of experiences and knowledge makes the workplace far more profitable.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

I have never experienced this, so not something I can comment on personally.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

I think we need to encourage more young people in to FS in general.

As FS Institutions we should be thinking about trainee schemes and academies – not just graduate schemes, not everyone elects to or can go to University.

We need to be more open and accepting of peoples’ culture, values and experience, and shout about it.

If young adults can see images of themselves within FS, then they may be more encouraged to join the party.

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

I am always surprised to hear this statistic – I don’t believe my gender drives my salary, I believe it’s my experience and what I contribute.

However that said, of course there are fewer women in senior leadership positions, which naturally impacts the salary scale.

We need to continue to encourage our female population, think about how we embrace some of the challenges they face in life eg; pregnancy, menopause, illness and how they can be supported.

An organisation who support and nurture their teams, will see them grow and thrive and that is a fantastic outcome.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Personal: My greatest achievement is Erin my daughter, she is an amazing, beautiful young woman (age 16) who I couldn’t be more proud of.

Professional: First female Chairman of IMLA.  Whilst it was a super achievement and one I was delighted to reach, it’s disappointing that it took 32 years of IMLA for it to happen.