Andrea McNaughton, state director at Loan Market for Victoria and Tasmania, told The Adviser that without diversity it can be 'very hard' to grow a business.
“If you focus on what the customer wants, you may not be able to predict that if you don’t have a diverse team that can bring those skills to the table,” she said.
Speaking at Loan Market’s Leading Ladies Summit last week, Ms McNaughton said that teams reflect their client bases, adding: "And don’t you want a diverse client base?”
“If one sector is performing poorly then you want to take advantage of the other; and if you're too niched in, if your focus is too narrow and your culture is too defined, you risk losing a lot of customers and alienating a lot of customers. I'm not sure why anyone would want to do that,” the state director said.
Currently, Loan Market aims to recruit a diverse range of brokers by focusing on the skills required and holding in place a target rather than a quota.
“People will line up behind a target to have 50/50 business owners [of male and female],” she said, acknowledging that currently the ratio is closer to 25–30 per cent female. The notion of a quota can be misunderstood and has negative connotations, she added.
In terms of recruitment, the current strategy at Loan Market is to channel new-to-industry brokers into loan writing roles and more experienced brokers with a history in lending into franchisee positions.
“It’s too difficult for head brokers to make new-to-industry brokers productive, and we won’t take on new-to-industry brokers as franchisees. It’s not fair on them, it’s not fair on our resources, so we made a decision that new-to-industry must be mentored.
“We don’t go: 'Hey, let’s go recruit some females'. We’ve had a targeted focus on recruiting bankers. . . . We’ve got some really exciting prospects at the moment that have been in the bank and they just don’t have the flexibility around their kids and their families and they’ve also got no flexibility around panel, so they're like: 'I could help so many more clients if I could do this myself', so that's really a target for us.”
Ms McNaughton also observed that in the financial services sector, the word ‘diversity’ was taking on a greater meaning to include brokers who speak Chinese as well as brokers of different ethnic backgrounds.
“It's just one of those things that you would ignore at your peril. Your team needs to reflect the needs of the community. If you don't have people that can engage with those people, then they're not going to come to you,” she said.
According to Ms McNaughton, introducing greater diversity into the executive tier will take time.
“It’s about setting targets for industry. . . . That’s what we need to do, to get more equality and get more diversity of opinion, thought and experience around the table; that's when we'll see our society flourish,” she said, arguing that the “knock-on effect” of promoting diversity would be to challenge the “male-dominated institutionalised strength” both in and outside of the workplace.
“They say privilege is invisible to those that have it, like there's so far to go. To me it's such a no-brainer; you can't afford not to have diversity of skills, of gender, of experience, of views at that table being presented, and debated and challenged. That's the value in diversity — deeper thought processes.”
A part of Momentum Media's commitment to championing diversity, we have launched the inaugural Women in Finance Awards.
The flagship Women in Finance Awards, presented by Momentum Media together with principal partner NAB, aims to highlight the outstanding work of women within financial services and put them on a national stage to support the continuing growth and development of women in the financial arena.
The finalists for all 28 awards, which recognise individual and group performance, have now been released.
The full list of finalists is available on the Women in Finance Awards website.
Winners will be announced at a five-star gala event at The Star Event Centre in Sydney on 21 September 2017.