The UAE is setting the right precedents by encouraging women’s employment in critical finance roles and facilitating an environment where they can feel secure personally and financially, said Neelam Verma, vice-president and head of investments, The Continental Group.
Verma — a certified wealth manager from the American Academy of Financial Management, and ICWM from CISI UK — is a seasoned finance and banking professional with over 20 years of experience across investments, private banking and wealth management, corporate and commercial banking, real estate finance, retail banking and Islamic banking across India and the UAE.
She is an advanced strategic management expert from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad; and holds an MBA in Finance from New Hampshire University, US, and a mini-MBA from Harvard Business School.
Verma said: “As long as women exist, financial literacy and women empowerment will remain a work in progress. They must be empowered to manage their own finances and make financial decisions. Financial literacy must be seeded during early childhood, in schools and in households. Women must be trusted to manage income and expenses, make budgets, etc. This will further propel them to learn more and expand their financial literacy, enabling them to effectively select insurance products, loans, credit cards, and more.”
Verma opines that the future for women in finance in the UAE is promising as there is a culture of empowerment in the broader business ecosystem. The culture in question is particularly pronounced in finance, where the upper echelons have women in sizable numbers. Such leadership roles are integral in blazing a trail for younger women to follow. In addition, the UAE’s progressive financial sector complements women’s aspirations. The latest reforms in Labour Laws, stipulating equal pay for equal work, are a good case in point.
“Today, many are choosing finance as a specialisation. So, at every opportunity, I try to educate them on savings, investments, and legacy planning — something I feel isn’t spoken about enough. Unlike in the 90s when there were just a handful of women in finance, today they are not only in greater numbers but also earning higher. They must be encouraged to channel their accumulated wealth in the right direction and grow them,” she said.
Striking a work-life balance
A good work-life balance has prerequisites, says Verma, who follows her own formula of Purpose, passion, and planning (PPP). “The clarity of purpose will ensure that you do not get carried away in the humdrum of day-to-day life and stay the course. The passion will continually enable you to focus, persevere, and develop the required skillset. Planning will help you in effective time management. This PPP approach has empowered me to balance work, family and social life while sparing time for my hobbies, such as cooking and exploring new cuisines,” she said.
Verma strongly feels that pandemic underscored the need for financial literacy among women. Many have realised that a lack of financial literacy adds to the trauma in the event of an unfortunate incident involving the spouse.
“We need to build on this newfound awareness, encouraging the financial education of girls in schools and households. Women must warm up to the idea of having equal agency in domestic financial affairs, such as joint investments, new purchases, etc. They must understand that they are inherently multi-taskers, capable of effectively balancing maternal obligations and finances. Awareness begets initiation, which, in turn, can steer them towards endless possibilities,” concluded Verma.