The Pensions Administration Standards Association's Margaret Snowdon won the coveted Pensions Woman of the Year award. She tells Stephanie Baxter about lessons she has learned along the way.
What does winning the Pensions Woman of the Year award mean to you?
A huge amount to be honest. I was blown away by winning because the competition was very tough, so being chosen was very uplifting. The awards evening - it was an eye-opener as it was the first time we were able to see just how much female talent is coming through. I was so encouraged by the number of people who are doing such fantastic things, who happen to be women. It felt that women are really coming into their own, that there are lots of really strong women. It was an opportunity for people to get together and show that. We now need to make sure we capitalise on all of this and keep the flag flying. The more women we have showing they are making a difference, the more we'll have coming through.
Looking back over your career, what lessons have
you learned along the way?
Stick to your principles - if you do that you won't go far wrong. You can go wrong if you forget why you're doing things and where you're trying to get to. I'm lucky as I've worked within a number of different areas in pensions and I've built up skills and contacts. But one thing I've always stood for is good customer outcomes - and that was decades ago before it became a marketing thing. I truly believe what's good for customers is good for business, and I've stuck with that through everything I've tried to do. I've yet to find something that was good for businesses that wasn't good for customers. People tend to think profit is the answer to everything; it's not - profits come from doing the right thing.
The Women in Pensions Awards Winners Series
What's been your biggest achievement?
I'm really proud of the Pensions Administration Standards Association's (PASA's) codes of conduct. Between the incentive exercises and scams codes, we've saved thousands of people from losing their pensions, and as a side issue we've actually improved the way the industry behaves.
The codes are great examples of the power of the people in this industry and the fact that most people will be prepared to get together and work for a common purpose and deliver something that's good when there's so much bad press about pensions. Pooling together people from different parts of the industry and getting them to do something that delivers better results is great. But I'm also very proud of PASA because it has achieved a lot, and I'm proud of the people - both men and women - that I've mentored over the years.
What's the best way to collaborate to achieve results?
It's amazing how like-minded people in the industry are. When we talk about doing something that will help the public, there's a lot of people who want to be involved in that. They generally need someone to lead the charge, but to be honest, you often find the more you listen to what sounds like disparate views, when you talk it through you discover there are common views. It takes a bit of work but I feel I can pull out the commonality and focus on the things people can jointly support, and then work at the edges on the things that need to come in a bit and be a bit more in the middle. It's about sharing a common objective but being prepared to listen and negotiate, and end up with something everyone can support.
What challenges have you faced, and how have you dealt with them?
Persuading firms they need to spend more on administration and services; the truth is good admin doesn't cost any more than bad admin. The latest challenge is around technology and trying to persuade people it is well worth bringing into the industry because it will save money and reputations, and make work a lot easier.
One thing I've recently found a challenge was being turned down for a job I thought I'd be great at. They decided to appoint a grey-haired bloke. You could see it was because they felt more comfortable appointing somebody who was a bit like them and didn't want to be challenged. That was a challenge and you have to realise you don't win them all. You have to say ‘that one wasn't for me, they don't deserve me', and build yourself back from that.
One of the sad things is a lot of women (including me) end up going into non-executive roles rather than necessarily taking on the grey-haired blokes as board directors, and maybe women need a bit more courage and to stop thinking they won't get it. If you don't go for it, you certainly won't get it.
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