‘If faced with any opportunity, just say yes!’


Sally Wright HTB_

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Sally Wright, Head of Intermediary Distribution, Specialist Mortgages at Hampshire Trust Bank.

Sally’s career so far has consisted of 35 years in the financial services industry.

During that Sally has had a range of roles including Financial Adviser, Underwriter, Business Development Manager, Corporate Sales Manager, Head of Sales and now Head of Intermediary Distribution.

What brought you into financial services?

I love animals and as a young girl always thought I would be a vet.  However, by the time the end of school was in sight I just couldn’t wait to gain my independence and to get out into the world and start earning money.

Back then the high street was king and all the banks had a presence in the biggest, most impressive buildings.

I remember going to a cashier to purchase travelers checks to go on my first holiday abroad and being in awe of all the hustle and bustle in the background. I just felt I wanted to be a part of that.

When I decided at 16 that I was leaving school I went to four interviews at the four banks in Epsom High Street. Shortly after my financial services journey started at Lloyds Bank.

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

For me a successful leader, whether male or female, is someone that you look up to and aspire to become.

Someone who is approachable and listens because they value your views and genuinely cares about the team that they lead.

One that gives constructive feedback because they want to see you grow into the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

We have some outstanding leaders of both genders in this industry and many that I very much look up to and admire.

Personally, I am incredibly lucky to work for a very inspirational leader and for someone like me who has struggled through menopause over a number of years it was a blessing to work for a woman who I feel entirely comfortable to talk with on that subject.

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

Starting work in the late 1980s (showing my age I know!) I would have to say it was stepping into an incredibly male-dominated world.

At that time you wouldn’t have been able to find a female bank manager even if you had a rather large magnifying glass or indeed a woman in any position close to those dizzying heights; they were all reserved for men in suits.

I think it just made me even more determined to prove myself so I set about volunteering for every task going and increasing my knowledge across each department of the bank.

I had my eyes firmly set on the specials desk and eventually was given that chance.

Thankfully today I see a financial services industry that really has evolved and I don’t see those same barriers in place.

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

I would tell my younger self to slow down, think about what you absolutely love doing, what makes you happy and work hard to achieve it.

Your working life is long and the extra time in education needed to reach your goal may look like it stretches for miles in front of you at the time, but when you get to my age you will look back and realise five years or so at college and university is very short in the whole scheme of things.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Be strong and fearless. Push yourself outside your comfort zone – that is where you are going to grow!

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

I struggled with this for a long time as I am someone who is very conscientious and always wants to give 100%; I want to get to the end of the day achieving everything that I set out to achieve.

We all know that just isn’t always possible and it is very easy to get into the habit of starting early, working late and not taking any breaks which eventually leads to burnout which doesn’t benefit anyone.

Everyone is different but I know that I do my absolute best work in the mornings when my brain is fresh and my aging eyes are not failing me so I try and plan my tasks accordingly: what is going to take the most brain power?

I have started taking a break and making sure I eat something at lunchtime because I have worked out I am far more productive, more refreshed, and much happier with some food inside me and sometimes come back to a problematic task with a different view or a fresh way of approaching it.

I love my dogs, my garden, and my allotment and since Covid I have really embraced being able to work from home a bit more.

On those days I am up early, walking, picking fruit and veg, and doing the occasional bit of pruning before work starts.

It is amazing what different things you see when you go for a walk early in the morning, drinking in the sunrises, and nature that is going regardless even if no one is around.

The more balanced my life has become the more it has benefitted everything else. It has enabled me to give a higher percentage to every aspect of my life.

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

It doesn’t matter what position you get to and how long you have been working, there is always more to learn.

Be open to change, to listening to others’ views; in fact don’t just listen, ask for others’ views, especially from those who are new into the industry, as well as younger members of the team who have a fresh pair of eyes and may view a situation from a different perspective.

Change and difference are good: embrace them and be prepared to evolve.

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

Think about why you want this. Aspire to be a leader who wants to coach and develop a happy and productive team, not just to become a manager with a title.

What do you think is holding women back?

Themselves mostly… it is that age old problem where the majority of women look at a job description and think “Can I tick every box and if I can’t I won’t apply”.

As a wise woman recently told me: “If faced with any opportunity, just say yes!” It may push you out of your comfort zone but you will never regret it.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

There is so much fantastic work going on in our industry around diversity and inclusivity that I hope if there are any barriers remaining then they will soon be gone.

Personally, I feel this is a thing of the past and that everyone has the opportunity to work hard prove themselves and achieve what they want regardless of their gender; if they do hit that ceiling they can smash through it!

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

I would love for there not to be a need for it but I think it is great to have this Charter.

I would very much like to see more employers sign up to it and have more awareness of help that is needed on so many subjects that affect women.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

I think this needs to start at a much younger age. There is a distinct lack of education around finance in children of school age and beyond.

Children need to be educated about money, bills and how they discipline their spending from a much younger age.

I would love to see them having inspirational talks about our industry, renting, their first mortgage, and so on.

It all starts with a seed and grows from there.

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

I honestly look around our industry now and see so many more women in senior management positions, becoming ExCo members and joining boards which compares so favourably to my experience coming into this industry.

I therefore suppose I have just seen improvement year-on-year and haven’t really stopped to take in the statistic around the pay gap.

If this is the case then more transparency of salaries is key and companies that are not addressing this need to be called out.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

This is always a hard one! On the professional front, my work life has spanned decades and there have been many small wins along the way.

However, when I sit back, I smile and think that one of my biggest ever achievements is bouncing back from the credit crunch and seeing my career go from strength to strength.

Most importantly to me though is looking around at all the industry contacts I have made along the way, many of whom are very much friends and the feeling that we are all part of a big industry family.