Katrina Williamson, independent financial adviser and mortgage adviser at Financial Advice Centre is based at the firm’s Bromsgrove office and has worked there for six months.
She has 16 years’ experience as a financial adviser, with previous roles at Incisive Wealth Management, Prudential and HGR Insurance Brokers.
Have you always wanted to work in the finance sector? (if not, what job did you picture yourself doing?)
I fell into this industry. Financial services certainly wasn’t a sector that was focused on attracting women into roles when I was starting out my professional career.
But saying that, I love what I do, speaking to all different kinds of people and being able to help them achieve their financial goals. I am qualified to write mortgages, but this is just a small piece of the picture. We take a holistic perspective and my focus is on looking at client’s whole life financial objectives and helping them achieve these.
Now, I don’t know what I would do as an alternative.
How did you get into the industry?
I initially started in re-insurance in an administrative support role then fell into financial services by working at Prudential. I then progressed into doing all my exams and qualifications, working closely with independent financial advisers, and I have become a qualified financial adviser.
Have you ever found it quite hard to fit in as a woman?
Absolutely. There are still many older male financial advisers in the industry who disregard female advisers. I am proof that you have to work twice as hard as a woman to prove yourself within the industry.
Anecdotally, I have learned not to wear a black suit and white shirt to a seminar as I have been asked where to find the tea and coffee on more than one occasion.
Have you noticed a change in the number of women in the field since you’ve worked in it?
Yes, there are a few more female financial advisers and mortgage advisers now, but it is still a very male–dominated industry.
The support side of the industry is more female–dominated and absolutely crucial for an adviser’s success.
What improvements regarding gender equality would you like to see in the finance sector?
There seems to be more women coming through, but the majority are still men. Women like myself, should be taking the lead in recruitment and representing their businesses in the media to ensure we are visible role models.
Would you encourage other women to join the finance sector? What would you say to them about it?
Financial services is a challenge to enter because of the qualifications needed, compliance requirements and regulation, so is not for the faint hearted.
But on a personal level, and looking beyond those nuts and bolts, it can be extremely financially and personally rewarding.
What skills or qualities do you believe you bring to the role?
I’m very approachable, honest, trustworthy and hard working, and I focus on attention to detail and being very personable.
To be a competent adviser, the devil is in the detail but to be an exceptional adviser you need to be able to look beyond the detail, see the bigger picture and join the dots for people.
This is what I think I am good at – like many women I am used to juggling many things.
I find there is a specific niche for women. Many vulnerable clients or those experiencing emotional upheaval, such as divorce or bereavement, do not wish to deal with a male adviser and feel that they can trust a female adviser more.
For instance, when we receive a death claim, the whole family need support and look to their financial adviser for emotional support too. The relationship that I build with my clients usually goes beyond the financial aspect, they look to me for guidance and support in other areas too.
This level of trust is important to build long–term relationships, which continue for future generations too.
How does your role fit or benefit your lifestyle?
We have all learned throughout the pandemic that flexibility and adaptability is key to success. I have seen that many of my clients have become more open to doing appointments and conducting conversations virtually.
That said, it is very easy to be ‘on’ all the time, especially for me as this is not just a job, or a part-time career. I find myself being available to speak to clients in the evenings and at weekends, and answering emails too.
What are your hobbies?
Skiing, shooting, travelling, cooking, riding my motorbike and walking the dog.
Which women in general inspire you the most?
A woman that inspires me – not from a professional point of view, but personally – was my best friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. It was very aggressive but it was caught early.
She underwent lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then a full hysterectomy all before she was 40. Her husband nearly died during all this and her daughter’s friend committed suicide at age 14 due to bullying. She is the strongest person I know, no complaining, just got on with it and has lived to tell the tale.
She has taught me that no matter what life throws at you to stay positive and there is someone always worse off than you. Be grateful for what you have, not what you haven’t got, for what you can do, not what you can’t.
Life is beautiful and shouldn’t be wasted and I tell all my clients that if you have the money, your health and you want to do something, do it while you can. Make the time to fulfil your dreams and your goals.
Women are much stronger than many realise. I personally admire women who are not afraid to be heard, who stand up for what they believe in and those who have turned their lives around after hitting rock bottom.
What is a life lesson or piece of advice that helped to shape who you are today?
Be honest to yourself and be happy with who you are, have a good sense of humour and keep things simple. Also, be open and honest with others and if you have made a mistake, own up and put it right.
Another piece of advice I take is if you don’t know the answer, don’t make it up, say you don’t know and find out. And lastly, keep your promises – if you say you are going to do something, do it.
How do you apply that to your working life?
In our business we believe in leading by example and doing the right thing.
I believe, if I am honest, genuine and happy in myself, this makes me approachable and a good example to others. Clients trust me with their personal details and their finances, so I need to be a strong example of someone they feel they can trust.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I am happy in my role as an adviser. There is enough change, challenge and variety to keep life interesting for some time to come.