Doing a better job than the boy’s club

Angela Ashton, a founder and director of Evergreen Consultants and winner of the Investment Professional of the Year category in the Women in Financial Services Awards 2018, said she wasn’t sure how to feel following her nomination and that it felt “a bit surreal”.

“I feel like I just keep turning up, work lots, put everything else in my life second and do the best job I can for all of our clients every day,” she says.

“Being recognised for that is both extraordinarily humbling and somewhat gratifying at the same time.”

Among her proudest achievements in her career as an investment professional, Ashton names setting up Evergreen alongside co-founder Brett Baker as a career highlight.

“It’s been more successful than we had ever imagined. There are still some tough times – we are still a start-up in many ways – but recognition that what we do is valued by our clients makes me very proud of what we have built,” she says.

Ashton also reflects upon what inspired her to take up a career in financial services, tracing it back to relaxed Sunday morning rituals.

“Strangely, I was an avid reader of those columns in the Sunday paper where financial planners answer questions from the public. So much so that when I was at uni, I went to a free seminar run by a financial planner and pounced on him at the end of the seminar to give me some time to show me what he did,” she explains.

“So, I spent an hour in his office in the Brisbane CBD. My fate was sealed. I didn’t become a planner – I concentrated on the investment side.

“But I have always been drawn to the retail side of the industry. I think the one-on-one relationships that planners have with clients, making their individual lives better, makes doing a role like mine much more fulfilling than working in, say, a super fund, where the client or member is much more generalised and abstract.”

Discussing the biggest hurdle that she has had to overcome as a woman in the financial services industry, Ashton puts it down to being “short, direct, loud and Italian”.

“That is probably my biggest hurdle … Sexism still happens very regularly. I can’t tell you the number of meetings I still have where I ask a portfolio manager questions and he (invariably he’s a he) answers my male colleagues. Or someone rings Brett instead of me on an investment-related issue (that’s the part of the business I look after). That happens at least weekly,” she says.

“The boys club – lunch on Fridays, races on Saturdays – is still very strong and where a lot of deals get done. I’m still not invited to those events.

“You just have to be better than the men who attend those sessions to win the business.”

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