‘The best relationships are built on trust and honesty, never be afraid to be your true self’
By Tony Sanchez
In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Gaynor Morgan, Relationship Director at YBS Commercial Mortgages.
Gaynor has been with Yorkshire Building Society for over 18 years.
The first 10 years were spent working in residential mortgages, personal loans and banking, before moving into the commercial lending team eight years ago.
What brought you into financial services?
In all honesty, it was something I fell into.
After finishing college, I intended to go to University to study criminology and forensics, however, I wanted to take a gap year before doing so, and during this period, I applied for a number of jobs (with no real expectation that any of these early roles would lead to my future career).
One of those happened to be with Norwich and Peterborough Building Society as a mortgage administrator.
Although I was unsuccessful in securing that role, I was called back and interviewed for a trainee mortgage underwriter position, which is where my financial services journey began.
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
Being a successful leader isn’t about having an impressive job title or numerous qualifications. It’s about being able to drive the right behaviours and inspire others to achieve their potential.
It isn’t always about leading from the front but is about giving people the ability to use their own initiative, knowing they have the right support behind them.
I’m also a believer in not asking others to do things that you yourself won’t do.
What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?
The biggest barriers I have faced are around perception and stereotypes.
For example, earlier in my career, I often came across the belief that a certain role is only suited to a set type of individual, and that you must exhibit certain behaviours and act in a particular manner to be successful or to fit in.
When I first started within commercial lending, it was a heavily male dominated industry.
Over the years, this has very much started to evolve, with more women in the industry, and a much more diverse world.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?
Never apologise for being yourself! Knowing who you are, and what you want, is nothing to apologise for.
If you have an aspiration to be, or do something, go for it.
Don’t be ashamed or afraid to want to make something of yourself.
What’s your own personal mantra?
The best relationships are built on trust and honesty, never be afraid to be your true self.
What do you think is the key to finding a successful work-life balance?
Switching off! Turn off the laptop, turn off the mobile! This is something I have fallen foul of on many an occasion.
I also think it’s so important to recognise that you can’t perform at 100 miles an hour all the time.
That’s why it’s crucial to take time out to re-charge and enjoy life outside of work (pretty sure my boss will make note of this and remind me when I next logon on my day off!)
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
It’s great to have a plan and a goal in life, but as we know, things very rarely go according to plan.
Don’t be afraid to revisit your plan and, if need be, make new goals.
Doing this doesn’t mean you have failed; it makes you adaptable and flexible.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Know your worth and don’t settle until you reach your potential.
Everyone has to start somewhere, but this doesn’t mean it has to be where you stay.
Be inquisitive, ask questions and explore different options to discover what type of role or industry best suits you and your personality.
What do you think is holding women back?
Lack of representation is a key factor.
It is important because seeing people like yourself doing a role can help to show you that you can also do the same role..
I also think that workplaces need to ensure they do as much as possible to support everyone who wants to have a family and a career if that’s what they choose.
It isn’t necessary to pick one or the other, and practices like flexible working can help to facilitate this.
Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?
Definitely! Although doors are opening, there is still more to be done to make financial services more inclusive, as well as other industries.
This isn’t exclusive to creating opportunities and equity for women either, but also includes improvements that could be made for other diverse groups too.
I think just generally everyone should be given the opportunity and support to grow and develop.
What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?
It’s great to see something which is there specifically to support gender balance at all levels across the industry, but I also think the fact we need Charters like this is disappointing.
We should be past the stage of needing initiatives to correct historical inequalities that still exist.
We also need to remember that individuals want to be hired based on their abilities and achievements – it’s not just about meeting a quota.
How do we encourage more women into financial services?
I think we need to spend more time recognising and promoting the success of women in the industry.
Last year I had the opportunity to listen to Anne Boden (CEO of Starling Bank), who gave a speech about herself and her background, and how she went on to establish the bank.
It was great to hear about her success and her journey to where she is today.
Having more people like this available to talk to my younger self would have been an amazing motivator and would have encouraged me to realise the potential of financial services as a career from the outset.
The other way to encourage more women into financial services is to provide them with access to women’s networks, where like-minded people can share skills, experiences and support one another.
This can be a valuable way of obtaining new expertise which can lead to new opportunities.
The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?
Although individuals don’t always start from the same point due to background and access to opportunity, what organisations can do to address this is quite simple.
People should be paid based on their role, experience and potential.
Organisations should work towards achieving this as much as possible.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date is navigating the last four years as a working parent, which – I can’t lie – has been a challenge at times.
Outside of this, there are number of things I’m proud of, including competing in a sport I love across the globe, as well as successfully obtaining a number of qualifications, during the course of my career.