Top tips for women in banking and financial services

woman taking notes on a glass board with red pen

Banking and financial services used to be seen as an "old boys club" industry, but this is changing significantly as we see more women professionals climb the ranks at influential banks and financial institutions across the world.

We spoke with Francesca McDonagh - Head of Retail Banking & Wealth Management UK and Europe at HSBC Bank plc to get her top tips for women working in banking and financial services and ways you can make yourself standout in your job.

Know your objective

It is often seen that employees just fall into the routine of completing their daily tasks required in a role, often done very well, but fail to define an end goal. Hopefully in that capacity you can help drive the company or department forward, but many times women will find themselves stagnate in these situations.

Francesca suggested, "Instead, stand out by clearly defining and working towards your objectives in a job so you know what goals you are trying to reach. This will help you measure progress for yourself, and also allow you to recognise your achievements and the skills you've gained easier in appraisals." 

"Discuss these objectives with your employer along with key drivers for you. Being honest about these at the beginning can help when time comes for a promotion," she continued.

Do you know you want to work in a certain area, or is a bigger pay-rise a driver for you? Maybe you know you want to work in management someday and would like to tailor your responsibilities to give you more experience in this area? Be honest about these objectives and clear on what you want to achieve. 

Also, by defining your objectives on a larger-scale, within your career, it can help you decide between progression opportunities and responsibilities. This way you know everything you are doing is working towards getting you to your ideal next step. 

Pick your boss

Do you think its always about the job you're doing, and the boss that goes along with that role is just what it is? It's not.

"Be intentional about the positions you work in, the company, and the team so that you can pick the professionals you are working with," Francesca stated.

You are more likely to work harder and learn more in a role where you enjoy working for the employer. 

Will you always have the ideal boss? Probably not. Sometimes you may need to work with someone you would not want to. But by being aware of the person you are reporting into and their areas of expertise you can still capitalise on their skills and knowledge.

Be open to a mentor or coach

More professionals are choosing to engage with a coach or mentor. Usually this will be someone in a senior position within the banking and financial services industry who can give guidance on how they achieved their career goals and practical advice for you as a professional. This is a great tip for any industry, not just banking. 

Don't be afraid to ask someone to mentor you. It is flattering to be asked and if they don't have capacity to coach you at this time they may have recommendations of who could. Clearly define and work towards your objectives in a job so you know what goals you are trying to reach. This will allow you work smarter and to better highlight your achievements.

Communicate openly with your colleagues

More and more frequently authenticity is appreciated and valued in a professional setting.

"Communicate with your colleagues about work you are doing so everyone knows what is needed," Francesca expanded. "Be open about areas you may need help with, and be willing to help others on work when you can." 

Effective communication within a team can help the whole team work more cohesively and progress towards a common goal. This will not only help the team stand out, but also you as an individual. 

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