We need to drive positive change in the mortgage industry
Louisa Sedgwick (pictured) director of sales, Vida Homeloans
If I was to say I had spent my whole school life dreaming of joining the mortgage industry, it would be a stretch of the truth. I dreamt of probably what most young girls during their school years did which was stardom coupled with a life of riches. However, you could say I simply fell in to the mortgage industry, which I have come to love and am proud to be part of.
I started my career in retail banking and moved in to intermediary mortgages, in the late 1990s, joining Mortgage Express (MX) as a business development manager in the North West. I steadily moved up through the ranks at MX, however what became abundantly clear to me was I was one of less than a handful of females in similar positions, the awards dinners were simply a sea of black suits, with an occasion ‘lesser spotted dress’.
Like a lot of the mortgage industry, the credit crunch in the late 2000s took my career in a different direction; working with LPA receivers, asset managers and debt collection agencies, as a result of the turn in the housing market and customer indebtedness, what a learning curve. I have a vivid memory of going to visit an LPA firm, with two members of my team, who happened to be male, to conduct an audit. The partner in the LPA firm asked me if I had joined my colleagues to pull out files and make the tea and coffee, he was mortified after I had explained who I was and why I was there. The expression on his face still makes me chuckle.
I was delighted to then join Leeds Building Society in 2014, where I spent two fantastic years, before having the privilege of joining Vida Homeloans, ahead of its launch in 2016 as director of sales. Since launch Vida has gone on to complete over £1.3bn of mortgages, having over 11,000 intermediaries registered to submit business. I currently also serve as deputy chair of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), a role that I really enjoy and have held since 2017.
At Vida, nearly 50% of all our employees and 70% of our field-based sales team are women. As an industry, we need experienced teams of key account managers who are ready, willing and able to support brokers; these workers are the backbone of our profession and play a key role in growing brokers’ businesses and client base – regardless of their gender.
I am often asked what challenges I have faced during my career and what impact being a woman has had on my career progression. I have certainly faced discrimination, however never from any employer, more from the industry in general and their expectations of women. I know, historically, I have been invited to speak at events, based on my gender first and my knowledge second, however with a couple of exceptions I would like to think of this being firmly in the past.
As an industry, we need to attract more men and women with ambition, confidence and an open-mind to do what’s best for the mortgage industry by driving positive change. Skill should never be outweighed by gender.
Despite the increasing number of women in the financial services industry, there is still more work to be done before women truly have an equal presence to men. As the industry continues to grow, it’s critically important to build strong, diverse teams in which individual attributes and expertise make a difference.