Tanya Toumadj is the chief executive of affordability and criteria platform, Mortgage Broker Tools (MBT). She has worked for the company since May last year.
Have you always wanted to work in the finance sector? (if not, what job did you picture yourself doing?)
I was initially interested in how financial products felt complex and opaque to the consumer but yet have a real financial and emotional impact on their lives and, over time, this has developed into a passion. Now it’s also coupled with an interest in how technology can be leveraged to educate and simplify these products and processes.
I’ve worked across banks and fintechs, for insurance and credit cards companies, and now in mortgages with MBT.
While most of my career has been in the finance sector, I believe there is a lot to learn from other sectors and I get a lot of energy from expanding my knowledge and experience, which led me to do an MBA at INSEAD University and work for a global consulting company for a few years.
Have you ever found it quite hard to fit in as a woman?
Yes. I found it hardest earlier in my career. The disproportionate number of women in the workplace meant I didn’t see many women role models to inspire and guide me.
Instead, I saw, and tried to fit into, what is described as the boys club. On top of fitting in as a minority in the industry, early on in my career I was also still discovering what my main skills and strengths were. Now I feel a lot more comfortable and place a very large emphasis on inclusive environments.
Have you noticed a change in the number of women in the field since you’ve worked in it?
Yes. It is great to see more and more women, and not just the number of women but an increase in the variety of roles, flexible hours and seniority of positions. And it is a journey we are still on.
Which women in the finance sector inspire you most?
For me, it is less about an individual woman but instead the types of women that inspire me.
The inspirational traits I look for is that they are unashamed women who have excelled at whatever it is they put their mind to, they pull others up with them, and they are open about the journey they have been on, including the struggles.
Would you encourage other women to join the finance sector? What would you say to them about it?
I will always encourage women to join a sector they feel excited about, regardless of what that sector is.
I think it is a super exciting time to join the finance sector, there is a lot of tech disruption and, going back to my passion for consumer retail products, don’t forget the real financial and emotional impact this sector can have on everyday lives. I cannot over emphasise the importance of working with like-minded individuals and companies.
The camaraderie and close knit community that evolves as a consequence makes daily work so enjoyable, and we have that in abundance at MBT and wider in the mortgage market.
What improvements regarding gender equality would you like to see in the finance sector?
More women and diversity in all types of roles and seniority, across all companies. Of course, there is a focus on gender equality given it is International Women’s Day but these improvements need to be made across racial and ethnic equality as well.
Was there any particular person who encouraged you to pursue your role?
I am very grateful to have had lots of people who have encouraged me over my career – some of whom might not even be that aware of it. The thing they all have in common is not having a restricted view on my potential.
They have helped me with my personal and professional development, and asked the right questions that I have needed to answer myself. They are my “crew” and I’m very thankful to them.
What skills or qualities do you believe you bring to the role?
I bring a determined energy and passion to deliver on our company’s mission in a focused and data driven way. I am open to all ideas and possibilities to produce the best outcome but always base myself in what the data shows and what our customer is saying, so we continue to build solutions that will move the mortgage market forward.
How does your role fit or benefit your lifestyle?
My partner and I are very family orientated, and with family across different countries the ability to travel, and flexibility in hours, are important to us both – although travel seems like a distant memory now.
Having more control over where and when to focus my time has really helped. Everyone is different, I remember a mentor telling me once “If you don’t know, or ask for what works for you, then how can you expect anyone to guess?”
What are your hobbies?
I get a lot of energy out of being active, whether that is group exercise classes or long hikes – I started training for a triathlon, but to be honest I’m not 100 per cent confident they will go ahead this year so being a bit more lax about my training right now.
And a glass of red wine with my friends never goes a miss.
What is a life lesson or piece of advice that helped to shape who you are today?
You are never alone. Ask for help and the majority of people will want to help.
How do you apply that to your working life?
Very simply I’m not afraid to ask for help. In my role now, that ranges from me asking my team to ideate on the spot to get to a better combined answer quicker, to seeking advice from my mentors and the board on specific topics.
On the flip side, it also means I am always willing to help others and I make sure to create the time to be that support or sounding board.