Tiba Raja is the Executive Director of Market Financial Solutions an award winning independent bridging finance provider that deals with a range of bespoke bridging solutions that are fast and flexible for all their intermediaries and clients.
What brought you into financial services?
Having successfully completed my accountancy exams, securing a career within the financial services was the next logical step. Through widowhood and being a single mum early on in my life, this motivated me greatly to lead a career in the financial services. My ultimate goal was to apply my skills and expertise to successfully run my own business. This ambition was fulfilled by working collectively with Paresh to build Market Financial Solutions from the ground up. I’m proud to say that at MFS half our team are women, including senior leadership .
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
A successful leader, irrespective of gender, should be able to provide clear direction to employees, have a good sense of humour and be open minded in order to adapt to the ever-changing environment. Also, a leader should have plenty of contingency planning! I don’t think that there is a marked difference between good male and female leaders; rather each individual’s own leadership qualities should define them.
What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?
A career within financial services is naturally very competitive and tends to be quite aggressive. Sometimes people won’t take you seriously and even grossly underestimate your qualities and capabilities for the most superficial of reasons. There’s also the challenge of striking an effective work/life balance. Raising a family and trying to work full time in a demanding environment can be a challenge – it definitely stretches you to your limits!
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?
Get rid of your own self-doubt and insecurities! Don’t be a barrier to your own success. If you don’t believe that you can do something, no one else will either.
What's your own personal mantra?
‘Talk with flowers’ is a saying that I use. Basically, it means that you don’t have to be rude to get what you want in life, or to make your point heard.
What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?
I think the key is having distinct work-life boundaries. That means making time to do things outside of work, so that you always have something different to look forward to. I also think it’s incredibly important to make time to spend with the ones you love, those that respect you for who you are, not for what they want you to be.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
The ability to say no when you must and not feel bad about it. Being a woman, I have found that sometimes you can be automatically branded a ‘pushover’. I believe that if something does not feel right, you should have the confidence and ability to voice this and not worry what others may think. If you are a good leader, your colleagues will respect and understand your voice.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Believe in yourself and don’t change your character for the worse when things do not go your way, or when something or someone becomes difficult. Surround yourself with the right people to support you to overcome the challenges and be sure to speak out to be heard through the ’noise’.
What do you think is holding women back?
I think it is different for each sector, but sometimes old school management and institutions do not want to move forward with the times; barriers at entry level and stereotyping does not help either. An uneven playing field for women can certainly hold them back.
Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?
Many women have broken through that glass ceiling. Take Alison Rose, who became CEO at RBS as one of many examples. However, there are still obstacles which need to be addressed such as the gender pay gap, and providing fair openings based on skills rather than gender.
What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?
Too few women get to the top, especially in senior financial roles and this highlights that there are certain fundamentals that need to be changed. Many have the abilities but not the opportunities they so fairly deserve. Having a diverse range means that you can interact and engage with a more wide and diverse audience. This to me can only be more productive in the long term.
How do we encourage more women into financial services?
I think educating girls at a younger age and giving them encouragement and support produces the right mindset to say, “I can!” and not have any preconceived notions that it will not suit them because of their gender. It should be emphasised that gender is not a roadblock in pursuing your dream job, but in fact it is a driving factor to overcome the odds that face us. Informing younger women on the opportunities of a career in financial services will also enable them to take a greater interest.
The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?
Simply (or not so simply it seems) by taking action! For individuals not to feel like they need to fight at every step! One example that illustrates the issue perfectly is the BBC reporter Samira Ahmed, who won the employment tribunal she brought against the BBC in a dispute over equal pay. She was doing the same job as her male colleague. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to resort to take these types of actions.
I am optimistic about the future. It is good to see more and more women taking up senior roles. Hopefully organisations will naturally change their mindset as we all work collectively, and by doing so actively demonstrate that this very outdated cultural approach is disappearing!