Women in Finance: Interview with Donna Wells, Director, F4B

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Donna Wells, director at First 4 bridging

Donna has over 20 years’ experience working in financial services and has been with F4B for 13 years.

Donna joined F4B in 2007 after previously working for Lancashire Mortgage Corporation where she was in constant contact with brokers and packagers, including F4B.

Having initially joined the company as a case manager, Donna was promoted to the position of operations manager.

Her primary role was to oversee the implementation of necessary processes and systems to improve performance, productivity and efficiency.

Now acting as a company director, her main objective is to ensure that F4B maintains the exceptional service standards it is widely renowned for, whilst offering an extensive sourcing facility which fulfils all introducers’ bridging loan requirements.

What brought you into financial services?

I came into financial services completely by accident. I was previously in music management, which was the life of a single person, so I decided to change direction.

I applied for the position of an administration manager through an agency and got the job which happened to be with Lancashire Mortgage Corporation. That was more than 20 years ago and here I am.

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

You can only be a successful leader if you have a great team around you. I have always had a very hands-on approach and I don’t expect any of my team to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.

I also believe that you earn respect and cannot command it.  No matter how busy I am, I will always make myself available to support my team, whether it is just a little guidance and direction or reassurance.

I believe women are more empathetic and have the patience to bring out the best in others. Lead by example, be firm but fair and you cannot go wrong.

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

Honestly, being a woman!

Finance is a very male dominated industry; you only have to go to awards ceremonies to see this.

When I worked for a lender it was not so apparent as the introducers did not have much choice if they wanted funds for their client.

However, it was very apparent when I joined First 4 Bridging. I would call brokers on cases and leave messages and on numerous occasions they would not return my call but would call my CEO.

Fortunately, my CEO was, and still is, incredibly supportive and knew my capabilities and he would direct them back to me.

I must have made a good impression though because I am now the first point of contact for many of them.

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

You cannot be everything to everybody – working the clock round is not always productive.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Be the best version of yourself and not the second-best version of someone else.

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

Structuring your day to make sure there is a cut off point. I would always stay in the office until around 8 pm to make sure every email was dealt with before I went home.

This coupled with the journey time meant I was not getting home until 9pm at the earliest. As you get older and wiser (hopefully) you realise that you are more productive when you are not quite so drained.

I now leave the office around 6pm and if there is anything urgent, I will deal with it from home, otherwise it can be dealt with the following morning by the team.

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

Not everyone will agree with your opinion or your decision. You are here to lead so lead you must.

I always try to support and encourage any member of my team, however, any decision I make is not only for the benefit of the team, but also for the benefit of the business.

My decisions are not taken lightly, and I believe my team understand this.

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

Only you can hold you back. If you are confident and determined and prepared to work hard there is no reason why you would not be successful.

I am a firm believer that you take out what you put in.

What do you think is holding women back?

Other than the old clichés that women belong at home looking after their husband and children, I believe some women allow themselves to be suppressed by general opinion.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

Not particularly, women can get to the top if they are focused and driven.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

It is certainly a great way of raising awareness and ensuring women are given the opportunities they deserve within the industry.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

There are some highly successful women in this industry which should already encourage more women.

If you have a passion for financial services, then gender should not hold you back. Be focused, stay on track, do not be distracted, realise your own worth and be successful.

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

Accept that this is an issue. Equalise performance reviews and ensure both men and women are evaluated fairly and on individual merits.

Have input from both male and female managers for an unbiased approach. Attribute a salary to a role and not an individual.