Though many industries have made significant strides in achieving gender equality, the industry closest to my heart, financial services, still has ground to cover. The broker and mobile lender channels, in particular, have struggled to keep pace in the race for gender parity.
The statistics for mortgage and finance broking reveal just on a quarter (25.5 per cent) identify as female, which is a record low for the past six years. In our own ANZ Mobile Lending business, only 23 per cent of our 150 or so franchised businesses are operated solely by women - yet these contain some of our most successful franchisees.
I spoke to a number of these women to try and understand their motivations in the business and how they bucked the trend. I also wanted to learn from them what companies and organisations could be doing on a structural level to encourage and inspire women throughout Australia to consider building their own businesses.
It’s important to remember brokers and mobile lenders are not ANZ staff, they are entrepreneurs who run their own small to medium-sized businesses. So their insights are applicable right across that sector.
Here they are:
Why did you get into the industry?
Elise Williams (St Kilda, Victoria) says she always wanted to own her own business and took the leap to be her own boss at the age of 29.
“I didn’t have a finance background but have had a passion for property and houses my entire life. The ANZ Mobile Lending franchise opportunity was really accessible in terms of set-up cost. From there, I was committed to working hard and building my own business and knew deep down that if I did put in the hours, I would get the results.”
Sallie Williams, (Joondalup, WA), the 2022 Franchisee of the Year, moved to Australia from the UK and originally started working at an ANZ branch.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people. I love meeting people, making connections and that’s what drew me to this franchise opportunity and what will keep me here. No two days are the same, every customer is different and has different needs. Even after 10 years it’s so exciting to help a customer into their first home or next home.”
Tammy Ritchie (Ipswich, Qld) enjoyed a varied 22-year career with ANZ, covering multiple aspects of the banking and finance sector, before transferring her skills and experience to her own franchised business
“I loved the thought of playing to my strengths and providing our customers bespoke solutions coupled with exceptional service (including strategic solutions and insights in a complex world). With my career in banking, it was inevitable I would own a mobile lending business.”
Why do you think some of your peers are hesitant to get into the industry?
Tammy says “some women might hesitate because of a fear of the ongoing changes in the industry” but she stressed potential franchisees should take confidence from the success of others. And when they are backed by the right technology and marketing support, it is an even more attractive proposition.
The fear of the unknown also rang true for Sallie who agreed fear can play a part in keeping women out of the industry.
“Many women wouldn’t risk doing it on their own without the support of their partner,” she suggests.
“You’ve got to be in a good financial position to take the risk of starting your own business and investing in a franchise. Part of owning your own business is being prepared that business will fluctuate and that can create uncertainty for many women.
“It’s understandable many might ask, How do I prepare? How do I budget? How do I sustain this?”
Elise agreed but was suggested there was opportunity in coaching female customers. “I found when I first started doing this job that many women don’t take control of their own finances.”
There is also the longstanding perception men perform most roles in the financial sector. This has existed for years in roles such as mortgage brokers, financial planners or accountants.
“It’s quite old-fashioned thinking that both financial matters and indeed sales of financial products are not aligned with feminine skills and values” Elise says.
“Some women also feel that these opportunities lack creative flair but that’s a misconception. An ANZ Mobile Lender can be really creative in their role.”
What could the financial services industry do to encourage more female participation?
Elise is clear: “We need to get more people talking about it… and repositioning the role from being purely a sales role. It’s about helping people. If you’re good with people and are passionate about helping people reach their goals then this might be the path for you.”
Sallie agrees that amplifying the conversation is crucial: “We need to keep talking about it… sharing stories, sharing successes of women who are raising families and also running successful businesses.”
Tammy says she has no doubt the ANZ Mobile Lending model can be successful however “we could complement this further by showing the autonomy it creates. This is a truly flexible career, meaning you can balance the demands of work, family and lifestyle. I can work around the needs of my family and still be accessible to customers.”
The passion, commitment and supportive attitudes of these franchisees, though only three of many in our network, fill me with immense pride. Hearing their stories of how they navigate biased attitudes and still achieved success is testament to their resolve.
Our conversations were further evidence of the crucial role played by many females in our industry and have cemented a passion to ensure diversity in our franchise businesses across Australia, and indeed in our staff.
Nathalie Hesse is Head of Mobile Lending at ANZ
*MFAA Industry Intelligence Service Report, 14th edition.