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Women Leading The Finance Industry: Joanna Streames of Great Oakley Northants On The 5 Things You Should Do To Increase Your Financial Literacy

An Interview With Tyler Gallagher

Teach the parents to teach the young to save young. Let’s go back to teaching our children how to save in a money bank. I used to love my pink and white china pig as a child! It starts with parents.

As a part of our series about “Women Leading The Finance Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joanna Streames.

50 year-old financial services expert, Joanna Streames from Great Oakley Northants, is not your archetypal besuited number-cruncher but a mission focused entrepreneur putting the fire back into insurance! Passionate about putting what she knows best into practice so that her clients can protect their world, Joanna has been described as “bold, blunt and brilliant” and “a financial wonder woman” by those who have benefited from her expertise and straight-talking advice. Working with everyone from company directors to families of every kind, Founder and Director of Velvet Mortgage and Insure Services, Joanna, is on a mission to help families leave a legacy and protect what they’ve worked so hard for.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?

I come from a hard-working, working-class family, my parents separated when I was young and when my mother died I was just 19 years old, I found myself nominated as guardian to my 12-year-old sister and we struggled financially because there wasn’t enough provision in place. The Will was a mess and the various legal firms involved took a large cut of any inheritance leaving us penniless. This simple fact is, I don’t ever want anyone to face what we did. The trauma of losing a parent, followed by the stress of not being able to make ends meet was the most horrendous experience and it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t matter what you’re bringing in, with some sound financial planning, you and your loved ones can be secure, without breaking the bank. I now have three incredible girls of my own and I want to create a legacy for them that outlasts me and enables them to stand on their own two feet. With a little financial education, hard work and some informed money choices my girls will never have to worry, and that’s the kind of security I want to be able to provide for my clients.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I’ve always known I had an entrepreneurial streak, and after working in everything from estate agencies, to law firms… so, I applied for Lord Sugar’s hit reality BBC TV show, The Apprentice, in 2010, reaching the final round of auditions.

I wasn’t successful in the final outcome but it gave me the self belief I needed at the time to spread my wings and change track. I fell in love with financial services and looking back, it feels like that whole series of events happened for a reason. I ended up discovering my calling… all because I’d applied for a TV show!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My company, Velvet, was launched in 2019 and the whole ride has been a whirlwind. I absolutely love doing what I do and helping families across the UK to make the best decisions for their future ever since.

I’ve got plans to coach and mentor other advisers, to incorporate the ethics of our trade as well as providing the very best in services and products.

Hot on the tails of a website launch and with all my business coming through referrals, I want to break ground for other female entrepreneurs and multiply my passion for financial security so that we can continue to support thousands more clients in the long run.

I am launching an influencer scheme whereby we can train people to introduce their contacts to get them properly protected. With proper training on why it’s important and this will then create incomes for them. Spreading the word and demystifying this industry, by having real people helping to get the message out there.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Most people are baffled by the world of finance, not to mention their own. I’ve met hundreds of people who spend more on insuring their pets than they do their own lives, properties and assets. Our company is straight-talking and accessible for everyone.

My own personal story and experience, has led to this business being my calling — I care and have empathy and that makes me stand out — as I’m more human in my approach. We actually prepare the trusts for our clients protecting their money paid out from taxation and we physically pay for a Will for our clients as well, as not enough people have them — this took thousands away from myself and my sister when our mum died. With a proper Will we would have had extra money to get by instead of it going in legal fees. We have a deal with a Will Writing firm who we pay a set monthly fee to so they provide our clients with a Will paid for by us — I think this shows how much we care.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

Individuals just need to be themselves, not the image they think they need to be.

Women need to know they can be successful in roles in finance and that it is changing from being a man’s world. The grey hair and grey suits need to be diluted with strong women in pink and red!

Companies need to appeal to both sexes — recruit sensibly and consciously not just for the sake of it but women have always been great with finances so let them in and let’s change the culture — it starts from the top — set good examples. Behind every good man is a good woman, that’s the old saying, so it’s always been us women, we just need to come out from behind and step in front now, pushing on.

Society needs to think outside the lines — we have women’s football now that even men love watching — who’d have thought…….its all going on these days! I believe it needs to start in nurseries, educators should be taught how to treat children in school and offer other ideas than the girls being hairdressers and the boys being policemen, electricians, pilots. — Stop giving pink to girls and blue to boys!

Have role models in to give talks in educational environments showing the typical blue and pink jobs mixed up. Someone like me talking about how exciting a career in finance is. A woman pilot saying how brilliant and rewarding flying a plane is! A guy explaining the excitement and success of him being a hairdresser!

I’m a huge believer in mindset; I would love to see this being taught in school along with financial studies from reception year. I think it would make a profound difference for the future.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

Individuals!

  • We have to keep pursuing those top jobs and not be put off by false expectations, adverse reactions or previous experiences.
  • We have to encourage our daughters to become financially astute and educate them.
  • We have to see ourselves as significant to the global financially economy. After all, in the words of Beyoncé… who runs the world…?!

Companies

  • Fairer and more flexible working is always going to be constructive.
  • Actively pursuing women in recruiting campaigns is a must.
  • Remunerating women fairly is just and right.

Society

  • Despite financial capability and adequacy being part of the UK national curriculum, since 2011, it’s still not prevalent enough — common sense on these matters should be taught in schools in the same way home economics has been taught historically.
  • I think children and society in general should be taught how to create financial resilience from things going wrong in their life (how to insure for this) and for pensions to give continued financial resilience in retirement.
  • UK citizens and beyond, are very blasé about ensuring they are safe in the event of sickness for example, more people insure their pet over their livelihood! There is a definitely a naive ignorance out there.
  • Attitudes are changing but we still need to champion our women within the financial arena.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

  • As parents, single, together or otherwise… we have a responsibility to educate our own kids and then provide them with the opportunities to put that new knowledge into practice.
  • Financial literacy must be added to the curriculums in school, and by option, in a more advanced way in colleges and universities. Financial basics from reception year, things like…what is a bank account, how to save money etc… leading up to pensions and what they are and what they do. What insurance and mortgages are etc… These can all start to be mentioned in simplistic terms at a really young age. It will help kids grow up to be less scared adults of financial advice.
  • Planning; how to plan, when to plan — to do it daily!

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

1. Teach the parents to teach the young to save young. Let’s go back to teaching our children how to save in a money bank. I used to love my pink and white china pig as a child! It starts with parents.

2. Don’t waste to keep up with the instant society we live in! New outfits for every occasion! Think of the savings to the planet and your pocket if we left this horrible trend in the past. Not just clothes but with food, furniture and all manner of things.

3. Teach budgeting before secondary / high school. It all needs to be made into early formed habits so people don’t suddenly taken on unsustainable debt as young adults. We teach so many essentials from so young but we have left financial literacy, mindset and other important things out of the priorities.

4. Teach insurance and money making skills. Not necessarily just paid policies though I’m bound to say this is an important part but self insurance. by overpaying debts if you can, working to make more now, pensions, investments. Make yourself financially resilient to deal with life events.

5. . Financial stress is a big factor in wellbeing so if we have the tools from a young age surely things would improve all round. Raise awareness on this.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I don’t really have one person who has helped me massively, you know. I have kind of scraped my way through life really. I would, however, credit my networking organization massively with changing the way I think and introducing me to such a variety of people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I picked up tidbits along the way! It gave me the idea and courage to go solo. I didn’t know you could hot desk or have a virtual administrator; I remember being blown away! All these things were picked up in BNI conversations and gave me the know how much quicker than I maybe would have done alone!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life comes when you simply refuse to give up, with goals so strong that obstacles failure and loss only act as motivation.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

PUT policies IN TRUST so your family get every single penny! Why don’t people know about this! Let’s reduce the taxman’s windfall and get people to know they can safeguard this. AND MAKE A WILL!! People don’t realise the financial implications of not making a Will. This can potentially leaving a messy estate for a solicitor to have to sort out which will cost money, probably a lot of money, and this can take more money from your family. These two things really are key and is the belts and braces of protecting yourself which people definitely don’t realize. Paying the premium and setting up a policy is the first half but it shouldn’t stop there. Putting your policies in Trust and organizing a Will really make the difference.

Thank you for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success.

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