‘Take it on board, learn from it and then move on’

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Dawn Trustam The Bridging Group Women in Finance

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Dawn Trustam, head of new business at The Bridging Group.

The Bridging Group are an independent award winning bridging lender in the unregulated market.

Dawn is head of new business where she has and will continue to support her brokers and team with finding logical solutions for short term finance and has been with TBG since its origination in 2018.

She has a wealth of experience in the specialist finance industry from being a broker herself to working for lenders.

What brought you into financial services?

A college lecturer introduced me to this industry as it was part of my course and I really enjoyed the subject.

Literally from the age of 18 it was the industry I wanted to be in.

I started as a broker, then moved into banking and then onwards to specialist finance where I seem to have found my calling.

Trust me I did try and leave on two occasions, but it kept pulling me back. I have now come to terms that this is where I am supposed to be.

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

Being someone that will lead from the front, someone who is willing to do the work that you are asking others to do (and that the team know this), and someone the team can turn to if they need support.

I don’t think a woman has to do anything different other than be herself, and if he or she earns the respect of the team by doing the above then in my eyes they are successful.

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

When you are a woman and you start in this industry at the age of 21 (in the 90s), it was tough.

You were looked on as not someone of the same level, even when you worked twice as hard.

It only needed the right manager who was forward thinking to make a difference, and I was very lucky when I started at a small firm in Kent when I was 23 who could see the potential in me and others and supported that.

The industry has changed so much and for the better and will continue to change due to the great people in it.

Do not get me wrong, there is still a stigma about women, but then that is the problem of those who hold it and not the main consensus anymore.

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

In the words of Dory “just keep swimming”. Things happen for a reason and you either learn by it and move on, or you get stuck and never come back from it which is a massive detriment to you.

Take it on board, learn from it and then move on. It may hurt, it may knock you back a few steps, but in the end you will be greater for it.

What’s your own personal mantra?

This has changed over time as things have happened.

It is now, be yourself. You will never please everyone in your life, but as long as you are you and you are happy with your choices, then that is all that matters.

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

I would love to know, as I am still trying to find it! I think we all know what is needed, it’s just putting it into action.

I was always of the thought process that I had to be the last one around to show how hard I was working.  So not the case!

As long as the work gets done, then that is all that is needed, and should it get to much and you need a break – take it!

Life is very different now, especially after COVID and we need to adjust to what works for the business and for the person.

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

Stop trying to be everyone’s friend. This was so important to me when I was younger.

Not everyone will like you, but that’s fine. If you tried to be everything to everyone just so they like you, it would be exhausting and you would never be true to you.

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

This is not just for women, but for anyone wanting to move forward.

Think outside of the box, knowledge comes with experience and you will find that you will look at things differently as you move forward.

Work hard, keep focused and enjoy the ride. (last bit was tacky I know!)

What do you think is holding women back?

Currently, I think it’s ourselves a little. We have more women in the financial services sector than we’ve ever had.

Yes, it is still predominately men, but this is changing and there are some great businesses led by male and females who now see talent in whichever route it comes.

Also, I still think us women are a little scared of helping each other.

The social situation of finance is still classed as male orientated, but why should it be?  If you want to play golf, do it.  If you want to set a female five a side – why not?

But then us women need to come up with some other things to do, I have a few that I am working on for next year which I would love some help with – from others in the industry – male or female.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

There is, but glass can be broken. People will get through it if they really want to.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

I think it’s a good idea to keep awareness up, but why should we have a separate awards ceremony?

I think the idea around this was good, but I think it defeats the object of women feeling equal in their industry.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

I think businesses will continue to see talent where it is – in any form.

There are some great companies to work for in this industry as well as new ones arriving all the time.

Any new talent in this industry is welcomed and I don’t care what form it takes!

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

Businesses need to have regular reviews and as a woman or a man who has someone in the business doing the same thing as them on a higher wage, then they need to address this head on.

Clearly that organisation is not one that is set for the future and really shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

It would have to be where I am now. Starting with a new lender in this very competitive industry is always scary.

We are coming up to our fourth year and that is a big feat as we all know so many lenders who unfortunately do not make it this far.

We still have a long way to go and lots of learning to be done, but I am truly so proud of the business we have become and looking forward to the journey ahead.