‘Investing time in your team is always time well spent’
By Tony Sanchez
In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Samantha Herod, Head of Credit, Development Lending at Octopus Real Estate.
Having worked at Octopus for the last two years, Samantha has recently stepped up into the Head of Credit role for the Development Lending team.
Samantha has worked in the industry for 18 years with a wealth of experience across relationship management and debt restructuring roles.
What brought you into financial services?
A chance encounter!
I was off to university to study Graphic Design when a careers advisor came along to my sixth form and gave a presentation on a school leavers programme in banking.
She obviously did a good job as I took an application form away. My mum, who had a career in banking, spotted the application form and sold me the dream.
So I guess you could say I was following in her footsteps.
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
Whatever your gender, I think being your genuine self along with hard work and commitment drives the same dedication.
What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?
I don’t have a degree, so early on in my career this was something that was regularly highlighted to me as a weakness.
However, my experience soon became far more valuable and I am proud of the fact that I have learned my trade by learning on the job.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?
Have confidence in yourself. Your thoughts and ideas are just as valuable as others with more experience.
What’s your own personal mantra?
Always treat people as you would want to be treated.
What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?
Discipline. I currently work a 4-day week which I really value as I have a young family.
It can be easy to let my working week drift into my non-working day, so I work hard to set myself up well for the 4 days I’m at work.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Investing time in your team is always time well spent.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help and support of some amazing managers that were prepared to give their time to share their wisdom and experiences with me.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Don’t let that voice in your head convince you that you can’t.
You definitely can and, if it’s what you want, continue to strive.
What do you think is holding women back?
The availability of flexible senior leadership roles.
I’m lucky to work in a business that is very open to this, however, there is still a rigid view out there that if you’re a senior leader you can’t possibly do the role on a flexible/ compressed hours basis.
I’m walking proof that you can!
Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?
In some more traditional finance businesses yes, but I look around the room at the various meetings and conferences that I attend and there are definitely a lot more women present than there were 10 years ago.
The key is to support these women to ensure they rise through the ranks and take up future senior leadership roles.
What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?
It’s great that there are more and more businesses committing to the Charter, and it’s needed to drive wholesale change.
How do we encourage more women into financial services?
There is definitely a more diverse workforce coming through the ranks.
It’s our job to ensure we develop and support female talent and give them strong role models to aspire to.
The gender pay gap in financial services is second worst only to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?
There should be pay parity across role bandings, which to me is pretty simple and I would like to think this is being considered by all businesses at this point.
But I think the gender pay gap in financial services is linked to the age-old issue of women leaving the industry for more flexible jobs and therefore not reaching those senior positions.
Employers need to focus on that transition back into work post having a family and take longer term views of employees’ journeys; being flexible in the short term can pay off with longer term employee loyalty.
Octopus signed the Women in Finance Charter in September 2021. Sponsored by HM Treasury, the Women in Finance Charter is a pledge for gender balance across financial services.
The Charter asks financial services firms to commit to four industry actions to prepare their female talent for leadership positions:
- Having one member of our senior executive team who is responsible and accountable for gender, diversity and inclusion
- Setting internal targets for gender diversity in our senior management
- Publishing progress against these targets each year in reports on our website
- Having an intention to ensure the pay of the senior executive team is linked to delivery against these internal targets on gender diversity
Octopus is committed to a 50/50 gender split across senior roles by May 2025.