Women in Finance: Interview with Marieke Eskens, Head of Case Management, Fiduciam
Apr 16, 2020 ~6 minute read

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Marieke is Head of Case Management at Fiduciam. She holds an LLM in European data protection & privacy law from the University of Amsterdam. Marieke trained at the corporate department of Allen & Overy Amsterdam before moving to a boutique law firm in London advising mainly UK SMEs on corporate matters. Starting at Fiduciam early 2017 marked her move to finance after having spent over nine years in total at various law firms. Due to her legal background and language skills she has been involved in setting up Fiduciam’s lending activities and legal framework in The Netherlands, Spain and Germany. She is currently closely involved in Fiduciam’s expansion into other European countries.

What brought you into financial services?

A phone call from a head-hunter, when in London…

What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?

Being critical, being an active listener and being yourself. What leaders in general need to be more aware of is the fact that their conduct is setting an example. Women leaders in particular should use their leadership to inspire and help other women to grow their careers.

What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?

My impatience combined with a lack of direction has been a hurdle. I have now taken the position that my current and potential future roles do assist in achieving my long-term goals, but I need to be more patient and accept the way towards the goal is as important, or maybe even more important, as reaching the goal itself. This can be easy to forget.

If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?

Don’t focus on being liked by everyone, focus on gaining respect from the people around you. First of all, it’s not possible, secondly it won’t get you anywhere. Women have a natural tendency to feel that they need to be liked by everyone but it’s an absolute waste of time and energy.

What's your own personal mantra?

Smile.

What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?

Communication and prioritisation. Keep your friends and family up to date and involved on what you do and what your goals are (work and non-work related). Besides it being extremely refreshing to talk to your friends and family about work and ask them for advice, if they know what you’re doing they are more likely to understand your choice to skip a dinner party to work on an important project. At the same time, they will appreciate it even more if you fly home after a busy week to visit a friend in need or attend a family weekend.

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Leaders should be approachable. It’s easy to close yourself off from the outside world due to the overwhelming amount of work, but by making time for someone who comes to you with a question or to put forward a new idea, you ensure your colleagues will also assist you in your role of building the company.

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

Show that you take responsibility and don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate tasks – the latter being something I struggle with myself. As long as you really show your superiors that you can own a decision and act on it, irrespectively of whether that decision is made by someone else for you or by you yourself. This way you reassure your colleagues that they can count on you.

What do you think is holding women back?

Overthinking things. Women these days are higher educated and hold more years of study than many men; it can therefore not be the level of education that’s holding women back from rising to the top. A capacity I envy in men is their ‘just do it’ attitude; women often lose momentum whilst contemplating what others will think of them personally if they do this or say that. Again: waste of time.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

Absolutely. The issues of both the gender pay gap and saving imbalances are also laid bare by the coronavirus. The FT recently published research showing evidence that women and young people will be hit hardest by the economic measure taken to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. I do have hope though. Having worked in different countries and cities, I have to say London probably provides the best environment to create the first cracks in the ceiling. It’s an absolute bubble, but generally London based employers make a real effort to avoid discrimination based on gender, race or nationality.Working for a rapidly growing alternative lender, it has been encouraging to see how women’s careers can be advanced without there being any glass ceilings.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?

It’s a great initiative to raise awareness, especially among those that weren’t privileged enough to grow up in an environment where they realised that the lack of gender equality and inclusiveness is an actual problem.

It is good to see a great variety of professionals across both genders and of a broad spectrum of age and position, attending WiF events as it’s incredibly important that the message reaches the whole industry. We need to ensure the debate remains focussed on the goals of the WiF charter.

How do we encourage more women into financial services?

Managers, especially women, should set the right example and get rid of big egos and bullies. Women should guide and assist each other in this process. Promoting a healthy team that communicates well creates a sustainable company where employees want to stay, where they can grow and develop further.

The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?

Changing the culture from within to shift the focus to the employees’ actual contribution rather than to who’s most visible and has the loudest voice. This shift needs to come from management and managers who lead by example. I believe having strict and clear policies also helps express the company’s values clearly to their employees.

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