Is the 9 to 5 working day driving the best outcomes?

ANZ female broker executive supports inclusive workplace

Is the 9 to 5 working day driving the best outcomes?

A people leader at one of the big four banks says there are three things that customers value from brokers and lenders, which don’t necessarily require them to conform to the 9am to 5pm working model.

Flexible working practices are one way that the industry can support diversity and inclusion, which is one of the themes of International Women’s Day.

For the mortgage and finance broking industry, International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the many inspiring female leaders and support ongoing efforts to attract and retain women. 

According to the MFAA Industry Intelligence Service Report (14th edition), the proportion of female brokers currently sits at just over one quarter of total numbers (25.5%), the lowest proportion observed. The MFAA 2022 Opportunities for Women report highlighted that whilst women are  joining the industry, they are not being retained.  

Having started her finance career as a management trainee at ABN AMRO, general manager ANZ retail broker Natalie Smith (pictured above) has worked in specialist lending across a range of industries and has over two decades of experience working in frontline sales and sales leadership.

After managing the head office for ANZ Commercial, Smith joined ANZ’s retail broker channel in 2022, giving her the opportunity to reconnect with brokers.

Talking to MPA on International Women’s Day, Smith said that there was increasingly a strong business case for diversity and inclusion, which acknowledged the unique skills, perspectives, and experiences that all genders (men, women, and non-binary), and gender-diverse individuals, bring to the industry.

Reflecting on what has empowered her as a female business leader, Smith said it was having the confidence to challenge traditional thinking around gendered responsibilities, flexible work arrangements and leadership roles.

“Through managing a sales team part-time for an extended period during my career, I’ve seen that customers value a strong understanding of their needs, quality service and timely delivery – not the  work arrangements of their broker or banker,” Smith said.

The importance of support

Although it is important for women to support other women, Smith said that she was also fortunate to have had strong male sponsors who have empowered her to grow and develop whilst working flexibly.

Smith referenced information within the 2022 MFAA Opportunities for Women report, which she said indicated that many female brokers were either unsure, or didn’t believe that there were enough sponsors for women in the industry.

“This highlights a need to advocate more actively for members of our teams, especially women, who are looking to progress their career,” Smith said.

Supporting flexible working

Findings from sources such as the MFAA Opportunities for Women report show that stereotypes, beliefs, or expectations around gender roles are factors that prevent women from entering or progressing in the industry, Smith said.

“We know that family and caring responsibilities are still largely viewed as women’s work and these perceptions can influence who is interviewed or selected for a role, how much they are paid and their prospects for promotion,” Smith said.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped to normalise flexible working practices, and the transition back to the office environment may prompt consideration of how to achieve a better work/life balance, she said.

Men have typically had less access to family-friendly policies (such as flexible working arrangements and paid parental leave), than women. 

ANZ supports men to access these types of arrangements, which Smith said also helped the bank’s female employees to participate in the workforce.

“If brokers or business leaders are considering flexible working arrangements in their own teams, I would encourage them to shift the conversation from ‘why’ to ‘why not’, so that together we can attract and retain talent in our industry, access diverse or untapped markets, and make better quality decisions more quickly,” Smith said.

In her experience, Smith said diverse teams had a breadth of thinking, skills, and experience, meaning they were able to deliver optimal customer outcomes.

“I believe we have that at ANZ and I’m proud to support greater diversity, equality and inclusion in the finance and broking industry,” Smith said.