Meet the former investment banker helping women get ahead in the investment game

Funding | Interview

You are like a bulldog! Can’t win with you“, she was once told at the end of a meeting. “I took it as a compliment,” she confesses. It was not the first time she had been called similar adjectives. “‘Bulldog? So what’, I thought, ‘being a sharp-tongued and no-nonsense fighter is perfectly compatible with feeling smart and feminine’.”

Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer of property investment platform Blend Network and investor in female-founded startups, believes women need to be more vocal about their financial ambitions and make it a rule to always negotiate. Roxana talks to Business Leader on why it is important that women talk about money, making money and investing money, and why she believes peer-to-per lending with fixed returns, low volatility and a social impact is an investment product that appeals particularly to women.

WHAT IS THE GENDER INVESTMENT GAP?

Compared to men, women are less likely to talk about money, both making money and investing money – men will argue that women more than make up for it when they talk about spending money, but that requires a different set of skills altogether.

According to a recent YouGov survey, over half of women have never held an investment product compared to 37% of men. The disparity is further concerning because as the study shows, in principle women are open and keen to investing with nearly one in two agreeing that investing money is a good idea. Yet while 45% of men say that they would feel confident investing some of their money, the figure among women is just 28%.

WHAT IS KEEPING WOMEN FROM INVESTING?

I believe that lack of knowledge and confidence is key; in this study, twice as many men as women said they believe they have a good knowledge of investments and the stock exchange. In other words, men are more confident in their own knowledge of investments and investment products. Furthermore, women find it harder to talk about money and investing. The study shows that while 43% of men say they would know how to find suitable investment products if they wanted to invest, the same is true of only 27% of women.

WHY IS IT SO VITAL TO TACKLE THE GENDER INVESTMENT GAP?

Because as women, the gender investment gap is a huge barrier to achieving our financial freedom. I recently read a story about a woman trapped in poverty by her super-rich husband as she was given so little financial independence, she couldn’t even buy herself a cup of coffee. Sadly, I have seen too many examples in which women are held vulnerable due to their lack of financial freedom, whether inside a relationship or outside.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE AND HOW YOU STARTED INVESTING.

I’m sure you all have heard Virginia Wolf’s ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own’. My grandmother used to say something very similar to me. You see, my grandmother was a role model who thought me to ‘always be your own woman and financially independent’. She didn’t have it easy. She was forced into a marriage at 14, had her first child at 15, lost her husband at 16, was then forced into a terrible second marriage at 18. And then… she rebelled. At the age of 21, she divorced at a time when women getting a divorce wasn’t even a thing.

She was left with four very young children to care for by herself and went on to become a successful dentist, invested her savings smartly and by her 40s she was already a wealthy self-made woman when the term ‘self-made woman’ didn’t even exist. She was amazing. She was the most classy, elegant and eloquent woman I know. Yet she also was the most feisty, feminist and independent woman I know. She taught me that you can be both a lady and a bulldog in the boardroom.

HOW CAN WE TACLE THE GENDER INVESTMENT GAP?

This is a complex issue that requires complex solutions, yet there are some small actions that we can all individually and collectively take in order to get a step closer to closing the investment gap. I strongly believe that creating supportive networks, educating ourselves, celebrating success and female role models, embracing the difference and starting small are crucial steps in this journey. We should not pursue this change alone but should network to find or create supportive communities in which we feel free to share information, advice and experience, a community we can trust with money questions and concerns.

But above all, we need to embrace the difference and celebrate our success as women investors. A woman’s more risk-averse nature should be embraced and not shunned upon. As women, our investment priorities are different, not inferior. Strategies that offer fixed-return, low volatility and investing in property-secured products can be used to mitigate risk and if we understand that our individuality is an asset, it will help encourage us to invest. For example, I strongly believe that peer-to-per lending with fixed returns, low volatility and a social impact is an investment product that appeals particularly to women.

It is also important for us to see and celebrate other successful women investors. Their positive stories will encourage us to pursue our financial independence non-apologetically and also to take action and see what we can achieve by investing.

WHAT ARE YOUR ADVICES TO WOMEN WHO WANT TO BE FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT?

I believe as women we need to be more vocal about our financial ambitions and make it a rule to always negotiate. I always say, ‘you don’t ask, you don’t get’, so ask for what you want and even crave it passionately. Be ok with being called ambitious (or bulldog, for that matter…), start investing, even if it’s a small amount, and make it a rule to always negotiate.

WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT BLEND NETWORK?

I work at the intersection of finance, technology and social responsibility, connecting experienced property developers who are building affordable homes – many of whom are women – with people who want to invest. At the heart of everything I do is supporting those who find themselves disconnected from traditional funding channels, women in particular.

Our investors come from all walks of life, some are high net worth investors who invests tens of thousands of Pounds, some are private investors who invest £1,000. Yet, they all share a passion for making a difference by co-investing in projects that help developers to build more affordable homes. It also doesn’t hurt that they are offered between 8-12% return on their investments. I strongly believe that it’s all about doing well while doing good. So do our investors.

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