Accessability Links

Advice from the top: a Q&A with Nives Feely, award winning Finance Director at Sellick Partnership

Posted by
25 Jul 2016
Advice from the top: a Q&A with Nives Feely, award winning Finance Director at Sellick Partnership Nives Feely, Finance Director at Sellick Partnership has broken through the finance sector’s ‘glass ceiling’ and achieved what most in the profession aspire to in her 15 year career to date. Fresh after winning Wealth and Business Magazine’s “Business Elite UK FD of the Year 2016” she explains her journey up the ladder of success, and gives her honest opinion about the challenges faced by women in an industry often monopolised by men.

How does being named “FD of the Year” by Wealth and Finance Magazine feel to you?

It is a great honour. I love finance, and I really enjoy my job, and to be rewarded for doing it is a great feeling. I often see reports of people winning awards, usually men living in London working for FTSE100 companies, so for a woman working in a medium sized recruitment agency in Manchester to win is fantastic, and I hope will help open doors for others to follow.

How important are awards like this in the finance sector?

They are incredibly important. Finance can all too often be forgotten about at glamorous awards events across the country, and is very much behind the scenes in business and often forgotten. But few people realise that finance is actually very interesting, no two days are the same, and Sellick Partnership wouldn’t be able to run as successfully as it does without myself and my team. The finance department in any organisation plays a crucial role, and it is awards like these that showcase the hard work we all do.

Tell us about your finance background.

I've been working in in-house finance for 15 years. Prior to that, I worked in corporate banking. It's one of those roles that you can just enter into at graduate level, and then you find it piques your interest, encouraging you to get more involved in the strategic side. You get to see a company from the inside, rather than just a small portion of it – you see everything. That's why I stayed within the sector and wanted to continue my career in finance.

What does your typical working day involve?

There is no standard day. You need to be flexible and switch your time to where it's needed most within the business. It depends on what the company strategy is and how the company is performing. This can change depending on the time of year, but usually I could be doing anything from budgeting and forecasting to strategic planning, setting objectives or managing cash flow. I am also involved in a lot of training and development, legal compliance and risk registers. The further you go up on the ladder in finance, the more varied your days become.

What experience/character traits makes a good Finance Director?

To be successful as a Finance Director (FD) you need to have excellent technical knowledge but also be very commercially focused. The first is a given, but being commercially focussed is where you will add value. An FD needs to be analytical and have the ability to communicate ideas and strategies at all levels, often to those not working in finance.

Have you faced any challenges as a woman in what is usually perceived as a male-dominated industry?

I initially started my career working in banking as a junior, and the majority of managers and assistant managers were male – I don't think I ever met a female in a senior position, but that may have just been this particular bank.

I think I've been lucky in previous roles because there have been opportunities for me to look into different parts of the business or work on different projects, which is important in order to gain experience and confidence – two of the main issues for women in this sector in my opinion. You need that confidence in order to progress, without it I can understand that people would be reluctant to take the next step or to push themselves forward for a role.

Why do you think that the finance industry needs women?

Women are inherently quite level-headed. We do bring something slightly different to the table. People often say that women can juggle five things at once, and you need to be able to do that within finance, particularly the more senior you become. You have to deal with a number of different departments from finance itself to HR, Legal, IT, along with everything else that falls within the finance department’s remit.

You've also got to ensure that the company stays in line with the strategy, that the Board is intact and that you're meeting the expectations of stakeholders, so keeping a clear head, and communicating efficiently is also essential.

How would you describe the current state of play for women who are looking to get into finance? Have you seen any improvement during your career?

While at entry level there seems to be an equal number of women in finance roles, it is when you get further up that it becomes a completely different field. At entry, it is probably an equal men to women split, but the further up the ladder you go, then you start getting to 70/30, or 80/20. I co-chair the APSCo (The Association of Professional Staffing Companies) FD forum, which is made up of all the FDs that are in APSCo, and have done a number of presentations for different organisations. I often find I am in a room of FDs where the majority are male.

What is your favourite thing about working in finance?

Probably the variety, and the day-to-day challenges it brings. Each day is different – you are constantly challenged and there is always something new, especially within recruitment. The industry moves so quickly that you are never standing still. You are never sitting at your desk thinking "Oh, it's only 10:30am, and it feels like it should be 4:00pm”, the day just flies by – and I really enjoy that.

Least favourite?

I wouldn’t say I have a least favourite part of the job. All jobs have pressures and elements less enjoyable, but the good points and the thrill beat these hands down.

What would be your message to women looking for a career in finance?

Strong female leaders should be encouraged to go out and speak to young people entering the workforce through apprenticeships or at colleges, so people understand that you can have a good work-life balance. You can have your career, but also your family and your home life, and it is not a one-or-the-other choice. If businesses, universities and schools could push that, and do more from a mentoring point of view, it will create confidence and encourage people to promote themselves and succeed in their career.

Top career tip?

You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.

Where will you display your trophy?

It will take pride of place in the finance office, and hopefully spur the whole team on to win more in the future.

View all our blog posts in our Women in Finance series:

1. Women in finance: the state of play today

2. Breaking the glass ceiling: five prominent women in finance
3. Changing careers and education - what’s holding women back in the finance sector?
4. Women in finance: Analysis of our 'Gender Diversity in Business' survey
To find out more about the awards Sellick Partnership have won please visit our awards and accreditations section. Awards & accreditations

Add new comment
Back to Top