Tracey Bailey is the head of transformation at Together. She is responsible for the delivery of tactical and strategic improvements to the Together lending experience, for both brokers and borrowers, from application through to completion. Tracey is leading the specialist lender through an ever-changing time of modernisation to improve and enhance processes using her extensive experience as former head of lending.
Tracey is also sponsoring executive for WISE (Women In Specialist lending), managing the establishment and activity of the new networking group for females in the specialist finance sector.
What brought you in to financial services?
I left school after my A Levels, at age 18, and started working in admin for Royal Life Holdings’ new Compliance team in Liverpool. My plan was to go to university after a year but, with the pace of growth in governance at that time in financial services, over the next 3 years the function grew rapidly and by the time I was 21 I was leading a compliance monitoring team.
I knew I had found my thing and never went to university. I knew I wanted to further my career in financial services and over the next few years had a number of roles in the mortgage industry including team and branch management for mainstream mortgage providers.
In 1998 I joined the specialist mortgage sector with Together, as head of underwriting.
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
All leaders, whether male or female, need a range of skills to be successful at what they do. Personally, I believe you need a combination of integrity, adaptability, collaboration and the ability to understand and take risks. Women leaders need all of that plus additional confidence and the ability to project themselves forward.
I think women also tend to be better at emotional empathy and, because of this, make great leaders because of the ability to sense in the moment how others are reacting.
What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?
I have worked for a lot of men, and very few women. I think that has been a big barrier as I struggled to find a strong female role model in my early career. The financial services sector has changed and there are more women now, but still the senior roles in the main are held by men.
Having children can also be perceived as a barrier for women progressing. Many women now delay having their first child until they feel they have progressed enough.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business right now, what would it be?
You have to ask for the role that you want and not wait to be offered it because there will always be someone else who is prepared to ask.
What’s your own personal mantra?
Never ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself.
What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?
I think it is important to recognise that achieving a perfect work-life balance can be very difficult at times. Your health and your family should be your priority and making time for each other is crucial to stay connected to those who mean the most. I think the key is giving yourself a reward of time that isn’t linked to work.
My ‘escape’ is to get away on holiday or for a short break every few months. This helps me recharge, refocus and make sure my children are getting what they need from us when life is at its most demanding.
What’s the one key leadership lesson you have learned along the way?
It is imperative that you lead through uncertainty. Never underestimate how much colleagues are looking at you to lead through times of difficulty even if you don’t have all the answers yourself.
I think emotional support is as important as directional advice.
I am writing this in the middle of the Covid-19 emergency and I don’t think there has ever been a more uncertain time in this generation with everything changing so rapidly. It has been so important as a leader to remain upbeat and positive even if, like everyone else, I don’t have all the answers to hand.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Don’t be afraid to take a side step in your career if it means broadening your skill set. Career enhancement is not only made by climbing in status, but is also about developing yourself so that when the next step up becomes available you are in a position to be able to go for it.
What do you think is holding women back?
Companies sometimes fail to foster women’s career growth early on, meaning they are often left underdeveloped. Women should be clear on their career goals and not be afraid to push forward in them but, instead, I often see them waiting be asked as they fear dismissal for asking for what they want.
Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?
Although beginning to crack, I do believe that there is. Put simply, financial services does not have enough female executive leaders and it is not all due to lack of skill or capability.
What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance charter?
It is a great initiative and is gaining momentum with more firms having signed it. There is still work to do in ensuring those firms which haven’t signed up recognise that the charter intends to create a more gender equal environment, which is both good for the economy and positive customer outcomes.
How do we encourage more women in financial services?
This has to be a combined effort. Promoting possible career paths while they are still in education is a key to attracting more millennial women.The financial services industry should work together to promote the relevant subjects to encourage young women to study them. Of course it goes without saying that we need more women leaders in the higher executive positions so that when they look at the possibilities of the career tree it isn’t just men in the top boughs.
The gender gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?
Organisations should be making their pay processes transparent. A lot of women simply don’t know that it is within their right to ask for their salary to be bench-marked against a male colleague doing exactly the same job if they suspect there is a gap. Introducing gender anonymous applications and structured interviews into the process is also helpful as this can create an equal platform for skills to be assessed. In addition, if the salary is negotiable then this should be clear as it is proven that women are far less likely to negotiate on salary. Women need to be more assertive with regards to their overall remuneration package.