‘I believe to be successful you need to listen. Listen to your colleagues, your team, your industry peers’
By Tony Sanchez
In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Paula Purdy, Head of Sales – Bridging at United Trust Bank.
Paula has worked in financial services since the late 80s and in specialist lending since 2000.
She has worked for lenders such as Platform, Commercial First, Shawbrook, Together and now United Trust Bank.
Paula is proud to work in the industry and particularly enjoys working with brokers, having a lot of respect for the role they play in ensuring customers get the right deal.
What brought you into financial services?
This happened by chance over 30 years ago. I started working at the Halifax.
It was a great introduction to working for a building society as I worked across all departments and particularly enjoyed being a mortgage adviser.
When I left the Halifax I worked for a mortgage broker and subsequently worked for specialist lenders since 2000.
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
I believe to be successful you need to listen. Listen to your colleagues, your team, your industry peers.
I feel it’s something that not everyone is that good at, which is a shame as it’s so easy to do and you can learn so much.
Listening is key regardless of gender, but having this attribute along with always being professional will stand you in good stead.
What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?
I have been very fortunate and never really experienced too many barriers.
I have always tried to do my best and to act with integrity. I think this has been key to my success.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?
Be kind to myself and acknowledge my success a bit more.
I look back and sometimes feel I was always worrying about ensuring I did my job well and that I didn’t actually stop enough and appreciate that I was doing ok.
This along with perhaps paying more attention to understanding how to be more tech savvy!
What’s your own personal mantra?
Very simple. Act with integrity.
As humans we may not always get things right but if you know you have acted with integrity in all that you do I believe you won’t go far wrong.
Coincidentally, Integrity is one of UTB’s core values. Perhaps that’s why I like working here so much.
What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?
It isn’t always easy. I find as I get older that I am great at telling my team they need to take more time for themselves, but I am not so good at doing that for myself.
I enjoy walking first thing in the morning as it seems to clear my head and set me up for the day.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Be willing to be challenged. You may not always like it, or agree with it, but allowing yourself to acknowledge that challenge is good can be life changing.
Self-reflection is good for us all.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Always be true to yourself and above all be professional. This is so important.
Specialist finance is still a very male-dominated industry and I believe women have to work very hard to earn their place, but being professional is key.
What do you think is holding women back?
I don’t believe anything is. I look around me now and I see capable women doing amazing jobs in demanding senior roles.
Becky Kidby and Helen Wakeford heading up Bridging’s regulated and unregulated underwriting teams.
Anita Kirkbright as Head of Operations. Caroline Mirakian as Sales & Marketing Director for UTB Mortgages.
If you’re good at your job the only thing holding you back is your self-belief, and that applies to women and men.
I have been extremely lucky throughout my career to work for some outstanding managers who have believed in me. This has empowered me to do my job with confidence.
Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?
Possibly in some places but I believe most modern businesses recognise that the best person for the job is the best person for the job and that gender isn’t a factor.
My advice to any woman who genuinely feels they’re being held back by their gender is to find a more enlightened employer!
What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?
I fully support it. The Charter reflects the government’s aspirations to see gender balance at all levels across all financial services firms.
This can only be a good thing. Supporting women to progress into senior roles is something I feel very strongly about, and I have been fortunate to work for a number of lenders where this is fully encouraged.
I have already mentioned some of the women at UTB who are smashing their roles and there are plenty more at UTB, other lenders and brokers.
How do we encourage more women into financial services?
I think articles like this recognising women who have been successful play a key part.
Celebrating our success should be supported and recognised.
The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?
It is down to each organisation to monitor, understand the reasons for the gap and then take appropriate steps if required.
It’s important to understand though that a company’s gender pay gap doesn’t mean that men and women in the same role are being paid differently.
I’m proud to say that UTB has monitored its gender pay gap for several years and have seen an improvement in the gap over the last three.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
This is easy for me – my daughter Hannah.
As a single mum, bringing up Hannah and working so hard to provide and care for us wasn’t easy at times, but I couldn’t be more proud of the beautiful young woman she has become.
She is a very kind and caring person with great integrity and humility. I am proud to be her mum!
Also, I haven’t done too badly in my career!