Melissa Christy can boast one of the most interesting career trajectories in Australian broking. She’s done the Big Four, she’s done working abroad and she’s done the rounds of mid-size banks, before catching the fintech bug and finding her place at neobank 86 400, where she is now Lending Product Lead.
Ms Christy has done it all over the course of twenty years within the Aussie broking industry, which makes her the perfect person to ask about the role of women in our sector this International Women’s Day.
“I’ve been in financial services for over 20 years now, and brokers were only really starting to emerge when I began my career,” she said. “My career has largely been in banking and, in the late 1990s, I had role models that were my first boss and my first manager, who were both women and were both very supportive of me. I guess they were my role models in what I could achieve in my career.”
2020 was a year like no other for everyone, let alone for the mortgage broking industry. But, according to Christy, it wasn’t all terrible. As the mother of a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old, the lockdown and the enforced working from home has opened up opportunities going forwards.
“It makes life so much easier to be able to work from home, and I suppose that’s the one good thing that’s come out of the pandemic,” she said. “Flexibility is now the norm. For me, I work from home generally about two to three days a week and the ability to drop my kids off at school or take them to their after-school activities were just things that I could not do before. So for me, it’s easier to juggle my home life now because I have that flexibility.”
“The downside is that your computer is always on, so you can hear it buzzing away at 9 o’clock at night so you don’t switch off like you do when you actually leave the office. But it does mean that most of the time, you can get more done because you’re so focussed and you don’t have the distractions at work. Work/life balance has been amazing.”
Flexibility is one of the key factors to helping women in the broking industry, said Christy, but it isn’t just women who benefit from a more manageable work culture. “Flexibility is so important, and I don’t think it’s just women,” she said. “It’s everyone, particularly those who have children. There are appointments that you need to take your kids to, there are extracurricular activities.”
“Flexibility is the key thing to support women. In the broking industry, I think that women want to be treated the same way that men do. And then they find their own support groups within the industry, I know female BDMs get together. I would say that most women don’t want to be treated any differently to their male colleagues, but flexibility for everyone is everything.”
“I think there’s plenty of events on in this industry – I don’t know if I know about the blokes getting together after an event in the pub because I’ve probably never been invited. But I know that females in this industry have their own support groups, get-togethers and lunches, so while it is a very male-dominated industry and financial services in general always have been, I think that is changing. Even in the last ten to twenty years, there’s more females and there’s plenty of opportunity.”