She was very early into her new role as the General Manager of Retail Broker for ANZ when Simone Tilley first noticed a problem with the lack of representation of female brokers in the mortgage and finance industry.
“I had a pile of industry magazines on my desk, and as I flicked through them, it was apparent that there were virtually no women in the stories, but there were plenty of women on the back pages with a glass of champagne in hand,” she said.
“I personally found that both confronting and disappointing – symbolically, it felt like at the time, someone else had decided that women didn’t deserve to be there.”
As someone who thrives on problem-solving, Simone immediately started considering what she could do to improve the visibility and voice of female brokers, leading to the establishment of ANZ’s Doyenne program, now in its third year.
“Doyenne is a French feminine word meaning most prominently respected in a particular field and therefore the program was designed to build professional visibility for women in broking and to offer them the tools, the courage and self-belief to recognise the value in their own voices and expertise,” she said.
“The statistics show that men account for 86 per cent of all the direct quotes for all media sources. It prompted me to take action, and actively address this gap; provide support, tools and encouragement to prominent women already running established and respected businesses. Our idea was threading prominent female business brokers with the journalists, so they could build trust and rapport. The product of that has been a ripple effect of change”.
The creation of Doyenne and its subsequent positive impact on lifting women’s representation in the finance industry media, reflects Simone’s pragmatic approach to problem-solving, which she partly credits to her time in regional Victoria.
“Sometimes you are out on your own and you have to think pragmatically through an issue and just get it done. I’ve milked cows, I’ve driven headers, I’ve mustered cattle and I’ve drenched sheep – it’s given me courage, grit and determination,” she said.
Her father influenced her decision to study Agricultural Science at university, but it was work experience at Australian Wheat Board’s Treasury, and her time at Rural Finance Corporation that inspired Simone to complete a post graduate course in Price Risk Management for agricultural commodities, derivatives, futures and options.
“I started off as a graduate lending money to farmers and kept going from there,” she said.
Her career in banking has seen her work in a variety of roles across Rural Finance, as a Director of ANZ’s Institutional Bank rolling out their Global Agribusiness strategy, as Head of Business Banking for Victoria and Tasmania and now running ANZ’s Retail Broker business.
Simone credits her career success to her adaptability, persistence, determination and hard work but admits even she did the usual “female thing” when she was approached to take on ANZ’s Retail Broker business by questioning whether she had enough experience.
Her adaptability is reflected in her non-linear career path into broking which included a 3.5-year break from banking to run her family’s manufacturing business during which she built it up for a sale to a multinational and raised two young sons born less than two years apart.
Simone prides herself on being a values-led leader and believes that diversity needs to be led and permeated at all levels in an organisation. For leaders that means being able to have an open mindset to embrace different experiences and perspectives to drive creative curiosity in teams.
“It’s about conveying respect so that everyone can speak up and making them feel valued so they can come to work with a sense of pride,” she said.
“When people feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work, they feel a stronger level of acceptance and sense of pride and this can also be linked to stronger motivation and loyalty. It creates a platform for a speak-up culture so that everyone can speak up and bring their whole self without fear of reprisal.”
She has seen some positive changes around diversity and inclusion over the years but says the industry will need to continue to evolve to ensure it mimics the landscape of the diverse customer base it serves.
“I think leaders are more educated about the benefits, the importance of balance, and are more aware of unconscious bias,” she said.
And if she had one wish for the mortgage and finance industry around diversity and inclusion what would that be?
“The fact that we are not needing to talk about diversity because it is entrenched in everyone’s minds and for everyone to park unconscious bias and strip back appearances and think about what is the right fit for their organisation so we can strike the right balance and serve the Australian community well,” she concluded.