As a teenager, Dawn Wood dreamed of being a professional dancer, but her vision of attending theatre school was crushed after she badly injured her knee. Now as a leader in the fintech sector, the mum-of-one reveals how not getting her dream job turned out to be the best thing that happened to her.
For as long as she can remember, Dawn Wood’s passion was to dance and her dream was to be a professional dancer.
But the hopes she had carried for most of her young life were cut short at the age of 17 when she injured her leg whilst performing a dance routine. After going from being at the peak of fitness, Dawn’s future had been turned from a dream into a nightmare and she had to look at other options.
“It was devastating because I’d danced since I was nine years old. I knew nothing else. I’d gone to theatre school in Manchester while I was at school during the week and I danced for a local dance school in Macclesfield at the weekend.
“My whole life was dancing, so when I dislocated my knee and damaged all the ligaments and tendons, I literally didn’t know what I’d do career-wise.”
After looking for courses, Dawn very quickly had to decide what path to take and embarked on a travel and tourism course at a local college.
She said: “I didn’t want to stay on and do A-levels and I decided that travel and tourism would at least move me forward.”
During her time at college however, by chance she also found a part-time customer service job at a secured loans broker which was in the building that her current employer, fintech leader Quint Group, occupies today.
Dawn said: “At the time, I remember thinking I’ll just do this for a bit, but I really enjoyed my time with the broker. Initially I wasn’t focused on the industry because maths is not my strongest subject and I think people think that to work in finance, you have to be strong with maths. You haven’t.
“You’ve just got to be willing to try and learn and understand, so I just loved the environment. It was very much a family-type business, very much like it is here now at Quint Group. It’s massively about the people.”
What Dawn took from her first step into the world of finance was that she was good at dealing with people and good at people management. She also realised that she had strong organisational skills.
She said: “I moved from telesales into underwriting secured loans and then into management. That’s where I’ve predominantly spent most of my career. I love people development.”
Today, Dawn is operations director of Monevo, part of Quint Group, and Europe’s largest marketplace and platform which helps personal loan lenders access more than £6bn GDP of consumer lending applications annually.
She reflects on how she has rebuilt her life with a successful career in finance.
She said: “I was brought up with a very good work ethic and that meant my brother went on to have his own business at the age of 18 and I was able to buy my first house when I was just 18.
“It’s how you approach things that make a difference in your life. If you say I’m not good at something, then you’re going to have challenges and barriers to overcome. I’ve always approached things with the view that if I don’t know something, I’m going to find it out and I’m going to work it out. I’ve had to work harder in some areas to get the same results.”
Now with 10 years’ service at Quint Group, Dawn admits it’s not easy being in the minority as a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated industry, but times are changing.
“Initially there was only myself in our senior leadership team, but now we have two more women in the team. I’m glad to see things are changing.
“I went to a conference a few weeks ago and it was noticeable that there were more females in the room and more female speakers too. There is still a huge gap between the number of men and women in the top layers of the sector, but I am seeing more women coming through, so that’s a positive step.”
So how does Dawn think we can close fintech’s gender gap and what would she say to other young women considering a career in the finance industry?
“I always say never accept that you can’t do something because if you really want to you can. Ok, so you might not do it to the same level as someone who finds it natural, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”
With the number of UK fintech firms set to double by 2030, how does Dawn think the next decade will pan out for Quint and the sector?
“If I look back a decade, it’s almost inconceivable that the business is what it is today. In numbers, we’ve grown from a team of two to 100.
“Consumers like to do things easily and that desire is going to continue to grow. I think Monevo is well placed because we are in an industry where we can keep pace with consumer demand.
“Some financial institutions will find this more challenging than others, but if you look back 10 years, I couldn’t even interact with my high street bank through my mobile in an app, but I can now. I can do more in my app than I could do 12 months ago. It’s just a different world.
“I think if you wrote down now what it would look like in 10 years, you’d be miles off because things move a lot quicker than we give them credit for. With the work that we are doing at the moment and with the success that we are having, I see us as being a fundamental part of the consumer finance sector in the UK.
“We always go looking for the next opportunity. We continue to keep pace with the markets and continue to grow and expand internationally as we have done so. Those offices will continue to grow and I’m sure we’ll grow into other territories too.
“The way our business operates is that we don’t need to double our staff numbers to double what we do, but that being said we will always recruit where we need to and we still have space in the building. We will probably outgrow the building we are in at some point, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!”
So, are we experiencing a revolution in the fintech sector?
“Most definitely. I think what is going on in the fintech sector is certainly revolutionary. If you roll back 10 years, you would have gone in and met your bank manager to discuss your finances, not picked up your mobile phone and done a search on a search engine.
“So yes, it’s revolutionary, but I don’t think this is the end. I think that this is only part of the journey, and at some point, I think getting a mortgage or buying a house, they are the types of things that will follow suit.
“The fact that when you buy a house, you still need to provide a physical signature; that’s going to have to change at some point to match the shift towards digitisation, to be an e-sign or thumb print or face recognition retina scan. Where does it end? Whilst there are so many opportunities, we’re only touching the surface of what we can achieve which is really exciting.”
Finally, Dawn’s words of wisdom for the next generation?
Dawn said: “For anyone at high school at the moment to not look at the finance sector would be crazy. I don’t think it matters if you’re good at maths or not. I wasn’t and it hasn’t held me back. You just have to have that attitude of I’m willing to invest in my future and bring myself up to speed in any knowledge that I’m lacking.”
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.