Sonya joined Fiduciam just a week before lockdown on 16 March 2020 which has been a challenging and enjoyable experience for her.
Her role is currently monitoring Fiduciam’s loan portfolio in Europe and the UK, and to oversee non-performing loans and resolutions that are best for the company and the client.
Sonya has previously worked for a number of commercial lenders, some of which have a large global presence. She has over 12 years’ experience in many areas of finance.
What brought you into financial services?
My job within financial services came about when I was studying at University for my Law and Politics degree.I would work in the evenings doing data entry for loan originations and I was surrounded by case managers and underwriters. They would talk about their day and what they did, which sounded dynamic and fast paced. This made me interested in the sector at an age when you are still reflecting whether you have made the right career decision, in regard to your university degree choice.
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
There are many things that make a successful leader.However, a few main ones I feel are enthusiasm, approachability, thinking out of the box. Also, being flexible whilst maintaining an assertive approach when managing relationships with colleagues/clients and third parties.
What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?
Red tape and pre-existing rules. Many companies fear change and always prefer to go back to a default position of ‘we have always done things this way’ and ‘it’s too difficult to change now’ or ‘it’s not the right time to find a different approach’.
I am a person who always tries to find the quickest and most methodical solutions rather than just looking at a problem. Red tape is frustrating and leads to long delays often involving too many people to get something simple resolved.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?
Always ask questions, learn everything about how a company works and challenge anything you feel doesn’t sit comfortably with you, whilst being respectful to others.
What's your own personal mantra?
Expect nothing and appreciate everything.
What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?
Hahaa.. I’m still trying to find this! I’m that person who will check mails on a day off or join a conference call as well. I do find taking time out pre-Covid was easier, I would travel on holidays a few times a year and plan what I would do, where to eat and completely switch off. During lockdown working and living at home it is harder, but a good support system from friends, family and colleagues really helps.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Communication – It is important to have clear communication when working in a position of leadership. In every aspect with colleagues, clients and third parties, it avoids all elements of doubt and confusion. It’s also a great source of feedback, giving me a degree of self-awareness so I can improve, become more efficient and plan future personal development.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Talk to your current manager ask for career development help, be open to feedback and improve on the skills you need.
Taking on added responsibility and being accountable for your actions will show that you are capable to take on more work.Be honest when things may not always go the right way.
Talking to other women in leadership positions is very helpful as they can also point you in the right direction and offer advice.
What do you think is holding women back?
It is different person to person, in general I feel it may be family circumstances (time commitments), always wanting to be a ‘yes’ person, challenging ideas and bringing more to the table and wanting to be liked.
The last one is seldom achievable, when you are working you need to acknowledge that not everyone will like you or your ideas. The sooner you come to terms with that the easier your approach to move forwards will be.
Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?
There is definitely a glass ceiling in the industry, I have encountered this previously with regards to promotions and pay. Someone who is male and significantly less experienced can get recruited to a senior level with a significantly higher salary, compared to a female who has applied and is seeking to achieve a similar role. I think it’s part of the ‘old boys club’ attitude and ‘who knows who’, as opposed to let’s see how they do and then review to promotion.However this cannot be generalised and fortunately there are also those companies that do not have glass ceilings for women.
What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?
It’s great guidance as to what companies pledge and commit to do.It opens the whole debate internally to try and ensure they are doing the best they can to be aligned to the charter.
How do we encourage more women into financial services?
There are many ways to encourage more women into this sector, starting from school by encouraging girls into work experience and internships in financial services firms.
Discussions in forums with women perhaps returning to work or looking for a career change. Nowadays lots of people on LinkedIn put ‘looking for new opportunities’; it would be great to contact these women, or to reach out to women looking for a new job through mumsnet or similar sites.
Holding networking events to have discussions about the industry and invite charismatic key speakers.
The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?
As a starting point, organisations can conduct an analysis of salaries and bonuses for similar roles in the company and see the difference between male and female employees.
They can then look to match the salaries of the employees in similar levels.By doing this it will start the internal debate and identify what else is required.More female managers? More senior female hires? Along with ways to improve on the current management structure in general, its organisation and diversity.