Diversity in the industry, by Martese Carton, Head of Intermediary Distribution
Martese Carton joined us as Head of Intermediary Distribution at Leeds Building Society in 2016. With Responsible Business Week taking place from the 24th April, which aims to inspire businesses to make positive changes in society, we sat down with Martese to discuss her role, the current situation for women in the financial sector and the importance of diversity in the industry as a whole.
How long have you been working with Leeds Building Society?
I’ve been here for six months now. I love Leeds, it’s a great city to work in. There’s lots of regeneration going on and it’s got a great buzz to it. Of course, I’m delighted to have secured my position - Leeds Building Society is in a really exciting phase. We believe we’re making great strides in the Intermediary market in both the products and the service we offer our brokers and
their customers. There are always things we could do better, and I’m taking that challenge very seriously.
How long have you been in the mortgage industry?
Twenty years now in total! My first role was with Mortgage Express where I started in the retention team, moved to the broker telephony team, then taking on the role of Underwriting Manager before going on to become a Business Development Manager. My last role was at NatWest Intermediary Solutions as a Senior Corporate Account Manager where I helped develop and grow long term strategic partnerships with mortgage distributors and networks. So yes, I’ve been in the industry for a good amount of time!
Briefly, what does your role involve?
My role is essentially about helping to set the direction and strategy of the intermediary team. We’ve recently increased the size of our business development team to give as many brokers as possible a dedicated contact and a more enhanced personal service. We work to ensure we’re always offering the right products and services to customers and intermediaries and service is a particular area of focus for us this year.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
As I’ve only been here for six months, a lot of my time has been spent getting to know the internal teams, business processes and building relations. I’ve also been focused on the objectives and strategic goals of my team and looking at where we need to do things differently. My priority is to make sure we’re working efficiently for brokers. Leeds Building Society has grown substantially over the past few years but I also think it’s important that we don’t try and be all things to all people. It’s now important that we recognise where our strengths are so we can better serve our customers. The next six months will see my role shift slightly in that I will spend more of my time externally to ensure the changes we are making really do benefit the market.
Responsible Business Week takes place this month, which raises some important questions about diversity in this industry. Do you think the financial services industry is male dominated and how do you get around that?
I don’t think it’s necessarily about domination. For me, it’s more about parity and helping people, whether male or female, realise their ambitions – which is the whole essence of Responsible Business Week. It shouldn’t be seen as one dominating the other but instead it’s about making sure everyone has a fair shot and is able to get as far as their talents take them. To do this, we need to make sure we’re open to all ages, genders, sexualities and ethnicities by implementing and adhering to rigorous diversity policies. Professional development schemes and mentoring programmes are equally key in giving people the confidence to move forward in their careers and that is something we believe strongly in at Leeds Building Society.
During your career, have you noticed a shift in the number of women in the industry?
There’s been a shift but it’s been a slow one. I think we need to be bolder about implementing change, or it will be years before we get that much-needed parity in the industry. Yes, there are more females in senior positions nowadays, but there certainly aren’t as many as there should be. This is a problem that’s not limited to financial services though. Out of the top 100 FTSE companies, there are only seven1 female CEOs. Since I started in the industry twenty years ago, I have noticed a change in the number of women working in the industry but we need to emphasise diversity in the workplace, more than simply trying to attract one gender over another.
Do you think there are, or have you ever come across, any misconceptions about the financial services industry?
Traditionally financial services are thought of as a man’s world and not something women could or should do as a career. But I think that many industries suffer from misconceptions. I recently watched the film Hidden Figures about the team of African-American women who played a key role in NASA during the organisation’s first mission to the moon. I thought it did a really great job of challenging the stereotype that all scientists should be white men. History tends not to remember the role played by minorities and yet this film showed how this team of women played a pivotal role to put the first man on the moon! Isn’t it all about believing in yourself and having the confidence to go into any work environment as a minority, regardless of gender, ethnicity or whatever it may be?
Do you think more needs to be done to attract more young people into the industry?
In short, yes. Not many people grow up dreaming about working in financial services, but actually our sector offers some fantastic opportunities. Do we need to start getting into schools and universities to showcase what is on offer and attract new young talent with fresh ideas? While some broker firms and networks are doing great work in this area, do we need to do more around apprenticeships? When I finished school at age 16, my first job was with Barclays Bank, which back then was seen as a credible and respectable alternative to going to university. (Granted it was quite a long time ago now!). We’ve taken on a number of apprentices over the last few years across a variety of roles, which has provided a solid platform for young people to progress within the industry. It’s something we’re looking to do more of simply to help encourage more talent into financial services.
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