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Why women make good leaders in financial services

Women working in banks, especially in senior or technology-focused roles, is something of a modern phenomenon. For the past decade, the challenge has been getting women in leadership roles, as well as closing the gender gap (in pay and representation).

Change is now underway. Women make up a majority of financial services industry employees, and a Deloitte report projects that the share of female executives will grow from 22 percent today to 31 percent by 2030.

By having a diversified team, these institutions can better reach and engage with each and every customer – increasing the ability to cross-sell products, boosting customer loyalty as well as growing customer acquisition and retention.

Good leadership is the ability to influence teams and achieve goals, which makes understanding the qualities of a good leader mission critical to a company’s overall success.

Why do women make good leaders in financial services? Here are a few of the reasons:

Flexibility: If the COVID-19 pandemic taught the financial services industry anything, it’s the need for more flexibility. From a leadership perspective, it’s important to give employees the time they need to manage their individual schedules.

This is not a new concept – women know that flexibility has always been needed. One study even suggests that the most common problems in the banking sector are “overloading and extreme burden of work, strictly time pressure of completion of tasks, more than 12 hours of work duration, long travel, fear of termination of job contract, etc.” So, it’s easy to see that this quality has only grown in importance and isn’t going to disappear after the pandemic because people will continue to have obligations, outside of work.

Certainty: Leaders should display a sense of certainty – it’s important to be an example for the rest of the team to feel confident as they work toward achieving the institutions goals. Although, “women were rated as more effective than their male colleagues in critical areas such as taking initiative, driving for results, bold leadership and building relationships,” women are often harder on themselves, suffering from the ‘confidence gap’ between men and women.

However, diversity and representation in leadership roles are helping to close this gap. As young women see ‘people like them’ in positions of power, they are more likely to pursue a career in this field and continue to influence change in banking and technology.

Adaptability: The pandemic has increased digital and tech adoption over the past year. To succeed, leaders will need to learn from these continual changes and adapt quickly to the needs of both their employees and customers. This means forming strategic partnerships, enhancing the customer experience, improving customer engagement and more. It takes a good listener and a watchful eye, both of which are positive traits in women, to anticipate trends and adapt accordingly.

Good leaders also step up to take on extra responsibility, and women have proved to be an example of adding that extra project to their to-do list, time and time again. Leaders should be first in line to ‘raise their hand’ and take on that extra project.

Empathy: Women are natural relationship builders, both with colleagues and with customers. This quality bodes well for a good leader as learning from challenges, seeking out wisdom from others, trying to understand employees and working alongside teams is the best way to overcome challenges, exceed customer’s (and employee’s) expectations as well as achieve innovation and improve ROI.

A good leader works alongside their teams to understand what they are thinking and how things are working – all of which allows leaders to learn what their teams need to succeed. This helps a good leader find the challenges and remove the obstacles – so their teams are happier and have the capacity to complete more projects in less time.

It’s critical to reflect on the need for women to influence financial services. Understanding the needs of all customers is an expectation in banking today, which makes it critical to have their representation at every level of any organization – from tellers to customer service representatives to branch managers to the technology department to senior executives and beyond.

Jill Homan is president of DeepTarget and Dede Wakefield is chief executive officer at Alogent.