Alex McWilliams, broker support supervisor at Simply, talks to Leasing Life about finding her feet in the industry
During a gala ceremony in November 2019 in Barcelona, Alex McWilliams was awarded Young Professional of the Year by Leasing Life. We asked her about her career journey so far.
Q: When you graduated with your BA in Business in 2017, did you already have the world of brokering and asset finance in your sights?
A: Like most students and recent graduates I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I started working. I initially thought I wanted to pursue a career in the media and ended up doing a PR internship in London as an introduction.
It was great experience but made me realise that it perhaps wasn’t for me. Whilst I was trying to figure out what I really wanted to do, I decided to temp, which allowed me to work in various office settings and experience different cultures in short bursts and that definitely gave me a good idea of what sort of company I didn’t want to be in.
A job in the finance industry was always in the back of my mind during this time and it felt like the right time to give it a go when I was introduced to Simply. Something just clicked – it is a great working environment which gave me the confidence to develop a career in asset finance.
Q: Could you describe your weekly work routine at Simply for us, what’s involved?
A: When you work in a fast-paced environment, in one of the fastest-growing businesses in the industry, something changes every day. There are always new challenges and successes which is why I enjoy it so much.
Since I started my current role, I have moved away from focusing on solely processing business and now spend more time with other departments to work on process improvement, all centred around making the customer journey as smooth as possible.
I also spend a lot of time working on initiatives with the aim to strengthen our relationships with our broker partners. As well as my day-to-day role, I am very involved with The Leasing Foundation NextGeneration initiative which encourages integration and diversity within the industry.
Q: Is there a piece of fintech that would revolutionise the way you do your job?
A: Open banking – we recently had our first scenario in which a customer gave us permission to access their banking data. Within minutes we were able to obtain the statements – plus a dashboard with categorised data and analytics – to review before agreeing a finance package.
This allowed us to massively reduce some of the difficulties customers can experience whilst gathering the information required for a finance application, such as requesting or having to print off bank statements.
This is particularly important for us, as it enables us to quickly identify and gather any missing information that is required for a proposal to be accepted. It improves the customer journey and speeds up our decisions, which is our main focus. In addition, it reduces any ‘back and forth’ that might occur thus enhancing the broker relationship.
Q: What are some of the big challenges in your role at Simply?
A: One of the biggest challenges – which is also one of the reasons I enjoy my role – is the need to stay agile, accept fast-paced change and have the ability to keep up. The business has essentially built a system from scratch which we all need to work with in order to maintain the quality of service that we promised our customers and partners from the start of our relationship.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Throw yourself in the deep end even if it scares you. I’ve learnt lessons and a lot about myself through challenging and taking myself out of my comfort zone – at the end of the day, what have I got to lose?
Q: Since joining Simply, have you found many other young women in asset finance? What advice would you have for young people coming into the industry?
A: The lack of young women in asset finance is not something I experience on a day-to-day basis as I work with many impressive women at Simply and it is at the forefront of the company’s values to ensure diversity as well as encourage progression and opportunity for young people.
However, I have definitely been in a couple of rooms in the past where I have felt like I am one of very few women and probably one of the youngest, which needs to change. Part of the reason for this is that young people do not necessarily know about the asset finance industry or the opportunities that are out there.
The advice I would give to young people is that they should not be put off by the lack of diversity but to use this as an opportunity to push their ideas and creativity and ultimately change the stereotype of the asset finance industry, plus encourage others to do the same.
Alex McWilliams, broker support supervisor at Simply.