Entrepreneur Tamara Gillan is on a mission – and it involves going back to school. Not literally of course, but the founder of the WealthiHer network – which has spent the last three years championing women and driving positive change in the finance industry – is right now campaigning for financial literacy to be added to the curriculum. ‘The digitisation of money has accelerated through COVID. If you don’t physically touch it, how do you understand its tangible value?’ reasons Tamara, whose seven-year-old son sparked the idea when he began asking about her career while eating breakfast in her home office during lockdown. ‘It’s important that we transform the financial futures of our children, and that we start young. There’s shocking research from the 2019 Young Persons Money Index that only 8 percent said they learned the most about money skills in school’.
Sharing Tamara’s passion for financial education in schools is Sandra Dailidyte, a client advisor in wealth management at Brown Shipley who works with Future Asset to run money workshops for 14- to 16-year-old girls in Scotland. ‘When I ask the girls if they know anyone who works in finance, the answer is often no. My aim is not to leave the room expecting that everyone will be a wealth manager but to open the door so they can explore further,’ explains Sandra, who was brought up in Lithuania by her mother who taught her to dream big, study hard and always remain financially independent. ‘One of the top questions the girls always ask is how much maths is involved in my day job: it’s half about relationships and understanding people; half simplifying the analytics. For the world to be more equal, people with privilege have a responsibility to bridge that gap and pass knowledge on.’
This is precisely where WealthiHer comes in. ‘As a network, we want to equip women with the right knowledge and skills to grow their wealth and ensure they get the opportunities they never had before. And it starts by better understanding their needs so that we can better serve them,’ she says. ‘We have in our network some amazingly successful women founders and they advise a broader next generation of female entrepreneurs.’
‘With regards to wealth management, we want to make it fit for the future so that the industry understands the needs of women; we do that through education and insight,’ continues Tamara. In practical terms this means looking at plugging the big economic holes, from the pension gap (‘it was improving but the pandemic has caused retraction,’ she says) to funding for female founders. ‘According to the Harvard Business Review, 2020 saw a substantial drop in venture capital funding for women-led start-ups; so much of it is about networking and we weren’t able to meet face to face because of the pandemic,’ she says. ‘If we closed the entrepreneurial gender gap, it could boost UK GDP by £250m and by $2.5tn (£1.8tn) to $5tn globally, according to the Boston Consulting Group.’
Then there’s the male-female investment divide. ‘We don’t invest in the same way as men and miss out on long term prosperity through pensions,’ says Tamara. ‘We also know that for women, investing is emotional. It’s really important that investments are centrally aligned to their goals and give them the freedom to care for themselves and their children. Often for men, being wealthy is a goal in and of its own.’ Sustainability too is a priority for women,
with 89 percent of those surveyed by WealthiHer’s Changing faces of women’s wealth 2020 report saying that they would prefer to make investments with businesses that have responsible environmental and social policies.
When it comes to investments, one of the main issues is our own cultural perceptions. ‘Often when I’m talking to a couple, the woman says to me that it will be her husband coming to the meetings. I always explain that it’s important for both of them to understand these matters – it's her money too. I am quite insistent that women come to these conversations and I try to make it fun,’ says Sandra, who also mentors girls in university through the organisation GAIN. This rhetoric is familiar to Tamara too. ‘I got married very late, had assets, didn’t protect them and then got divorced,’ she recalls. ‘Culturally I didn’t want to undermine our life; often women think, I’ll leave that to my husband, it’s his role – those are the barriers we create.’ Now, part of WealthiHer’s multi-dimensional approach to financial education is about bringing taboo subjects – such as talking about money in a relationship – out in the open.
Similarly, Anne Halvorsen, who works in the key and institutional clients’ division at Merck Finck, looks after many female clients who have previously never managed their own finances. ‘Some women are well informed and interested in sustainable finance but it also happens again and again that others come to me who suddenly have to deal with financial investments due to a death or a divorce. It’s completely new to them; it gives me great pleasure to explain these topics to them and to take away the fear of complexity,’ says Anne, who started the ForHer initiative with colleagues last year to advise women on financial acquisitions. ‘Our goal is to be the platform for women who want to network with others and learn more about financial issues.’ She is also a member of the rapidly growing German Futurewoman network, where everyone involved has a strong connection to sustainability.
The WealthiHer network began when entrepreneurial inclusion and diversity leader Lauren von Stackelberg challenged Tamara to bring financial competitors together as a group of change-agents, to shine the spotlight on issues around female wealth. She smashed it: WealthiHer launched with the support of 12 heavyweight financial partners. ‘It shows the power of collaboration in empowering women to understand how their wealth is essential to the growth of markets, and the growth of positive change. Our overall goal is to change the face of the wealth management industry for future generations of women – for the benefit of everyone.’
Growing up in New Zealand, Tamara always knew she would follow in her father’s footsteps and become an entrepreneur (his numerous businesses included property, a winery and a cherry orchard) while also being influenced by her mum who came from a line of strong women. ‘My goal was to have my own business by the time I was 30 – and I did. I came to London and set up my first marketing agency where clients included P&G and Superdrug, but I crashed and burnt after three years when the money ran out,’ she recalls. ‘Learning to fail is a painful lesson but a valuable one. When that happens you either cry in a ditch or rise again.’
Tamara did the latter. In 2009, she launched Cherry London marketing agency, which has been responsible for some of Europe’s most high-profile collaborations, including Visa’s London 2012 Olympics campaign and building O2 Priority’s loyalty and media revenue. The secret to success, she says, is to back your own convictions and to recognise what you don’t know, so you can bring people in to cover those areas. ‘The ability to be a leader takes a different form of energy: it can be relentlessly lonely so it’s important to refuel and nurture your vision and creativity. That has been particularly important during the pandemic.’
While WealthiHer continues to host real-life events in the UK that connect and educate women, it also has a global outlook and, in the year ahead, is partnering with organisations such as Girl Up (which focuses on advancing girls’ skills and opportunities) and raising money for the Hunger Project. ‘If you put money in developing markets like Africa, you can raise up whole communities,’ says Tamara, who sees International Women’s Day as a way of marking the network’s intentions for the next 12 months. ‘We are inching ever forwards with a big rallying cry across our collaborators that we are going to get on and make change. All we wish to do is drive equality so that women are enabled in the best possible way. It is absolutely vital that we work with male allies on this – it’s not a female conversation, it’s an everybody conversation.’
To this end, at Brown Shipley on International Women’s Day, Sandra is moderating a panel on breaking the bias. ‘We’ll be discussing what it means internally for us, why it’s important for the organisation and how we can challenge our own mindset,’ she says. For Anne, breaking the bias means the financial industry re-thinking the lack of women in the boardroom. ‘It’s important to have a mixed team: with a broader range of skills, there is so much more productivity and creativity.’ Tamara agrees: ‘if we can bring the industry together to make change collectively, we can have an impact. The good news is that we’re making traction. Together we’re stronger, and I believe we’ve got this.’
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