Challenges of being a woman in the Finance/Banking Industry – Q&A with Hannah-Louise Smith

Hannah-Louise Smith

CFR  So tell us about your life in Finance/Banking to date?

HLS  “I started at RBS Commercial as a Portfolio Manager after University just before the financial crisis of 2008. I had worked at Merrill Lynch in Chicago as part of my year in industry and got a taste for Banking. I started in Relationship Management/ Business Development which led me into Financial Markets at Lloyds Bank. I worked my way up in Financial Markets and then got asked to join Lloyds Corporate Banking to do Business Development in the North West. 

I then got approached to set up a new National Deposits Business Development team in SME. I led this successful team until there were structural changes in Commercial at Lloyds when the whole team were put at risk. I took this opportunity to take voluntary redundancy and was fortunate to join Metro Bank to work for my old boss from Lloyds days – Mark Stokes, who had joined Metro as Managing Director.

At Metro Bank I reported to Mark at C-Suite level and enjoyed the opportunity to build Business Development, Relationship and Cash Management teams. I regularly attended ExCo to update on trading performance and strategic initiatives. This fast paced, dynamic environment was challenging but fabulously exciting and enjoyable!” 

CFR  Q. Have you ever felt that your career progression was being hampered by being a woman? What key challenges have you been faced with?

HLS  “One of the biggest challenges facing women in Banking is ourselves! I’ve always found women tend to be confidence players – that’s reflecting on myself and my teams as I’ve supported their talent and progression. It’s not a bad thing at all to be humble, on the contrary, but a little more confidence to ask for that job or that pay rise would help us help ourselves. That imposter syndrome creeps in and we second guess ourselves. If we look at a job specification, we focus on what we haven’t done before. Men, in my experience, tend to look at what they can do and go into an interview with confidence. This is where role models and sponsors come in. I wouldn’t say I had many female role models in the Banking industry but I’ve certainly had fabulous friends, mentors and sponsors who have helped me be a better me!”

CFR   If you were starting your career in Finance/Banking all over again what one thing which you have learned would be most important to you?

HLS   “Work hard, really hard and make your boss look good! Relationships are key and you’ll find those sponsors along the way who will help you progress when the time is right!”

CFR    Q. Do you feel the greater clarity and understanding of Gender Inequality, thanks to things like the Women In Finance Charter have helped? 

HLS   “Absolutely, these networks are really helpful for us to educate ourselves and support other women. Women should help each other and in the words of Abby Wambach in her Wolfpack speech,  ‘Be the Wolf and Champion each other!’” 

CFR    Q. Does your current or did your previous employers have policies in place to promote Gender Equality?

HLS   “Yes they did. I agree with the sentiment, although how these policies are applied in practice can sometimes be counter-intuitive and counter-productive.”

CFR    Q.  What is your piece of advice for women looking to be successful in Finance/Banking?

HLS   “Work hard and don’t be afraid of letting people know what you have achieved (even better if others sing your praises instead!), build relationships and champion other women.”

Campbell & Fletcher Recruitment would like to thank Hannah-Louise for her time; If you would like to discuss anything raised in the article or would like to take part in a Q&A with Campbell & Fletcher Recruitment about a subject you feel passionate about then please contact us here.

Campbell & Fletcher Recruitment are proud members of the Women in Finance Charter.