The asset finance industry in the UK is currently facing a raft of challenges which includes the adoption of new technology, the need for new finance products and a radical refocus on customer experience.
Furthermore, it is increasingly apparent that the future of the sector will also depend on creating a more inclusive working environment, made up of a mix of individuals from many different backgrounds.
In response to this diversity challenge, Ylva Oertengren, chief operating officer at Simply, organised an event called ‘The Network’ in London which was attended by more than 30 senior female executives from a range of high-profile asset finance and alternative lending firms.
Its aim was to change the profile of the finance industry by boosting and celebrating differences.
Stressing the importance of trying to make sure that the people who work within the industry are representative of wider society because of the benefits this brings, Oertengren said: “It’s no secret that there is a strong link between increased diversity and innovation. The more perspectives you have on how a business operates, the more likely you are to innovate and come up with new ideas. If you only recruit people with a similar viewpoint as yourself, you end up overlooking much of the other talent that’s available.
“There’s also a lot of research out there demonstrating the correlation between diversity and corporate performance. So, you can track how companies perform and identify the impact diversity has on the bottom line.”
However, there is still much work to be done to attract different mindsets in order to change the culture in an organisation.
Oertengren added: “There’s no reason why we all can’t be successful. At the end of the day, it is down to every single one of us to break down the barriers and provide opportunities for others.
“The important thing to remember is that we serve customers and that our customer base varies greatly. So, for us to be able to successfully support them, we need to have perspectives from a wider range of employees.”
Starting her career in the asset finance industry in 2004, Oertengren worked for vendor finance company DLL in a variety of roles in legal and compliance across Europe and Asia Pacific, held the role of deputy country manager Korea and manager of new business development Asia, before relocating to the UK to head up business support functions.
In 2013, she joined Close Brothers Asset Finance as chief operating officer. She co-founded Simply in 2017, one of the fastest growing asset finance providers in the UK.
She said: “I have worked in the asset finance industry in many different countries and divisions and there have been times where I have had to overcome bias-related obstacles myself. I have been incredibly lucky to have support from colleagues and people around me, who gave me a little extra strength to combat these challenges.
“More often than not, women and minorities experience being the odd one out. One important point from the evening is that it doesn’t have to be that way.”
She encouraged attendees to invite other female colleagues, particularly those who are just starting out in their careers in the industry, adding: “If we can show the next generation that there is a strong network for them to tap into and support them when they take another step in their careers, then it’s all been worth it.”
For details on the next event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.