Creating change & challenging norms: Why Kala Sreedharan joined Mojo

Why Mojo and why now, Kala?

Because this is absolutely a key time for the mortgage industry and Mojo will be a key player in it.

Open banking’s about to take off. It’ll be a huge change for lenders and brokers and far better for customers; no more chasing old statements, downloading or scanning. Mortgage applications will be turned around much quicker with open banking.

And that’s just the start, by ripping up the old rulebook, lenders will be far more open to new innovations and ways of accepting information. It’s going to mean companies like Mojo, who are already using tech to improve the industry, will create a new benchmark for mortgage experience.

You rarely get an opportunity to shape a trillion-pound industry, but that’s what happening at Mojo.

As someone whose career began back in the days of brick and mortar retail – remember those?! – it’s a hugely exciting time to be working in the financial services industry.

Tech’s the exciting thing then is it?

Everyone at Mojo recognises it’s their job to facilitate customers’ needs. That’s the starting point. Not how do things currently work, but how do customers want it to work.

That can-do attitude has led to easier access expert mortgage advisers, a full, personalised comparison of the market in 15 mins and custom-built tech that allows customers to manage their applications on the go.

But all those tech innovations are only half the story. The importance of person-to-person human mortgage advice can never be overlooked. Mojo keeps the human element front and centre and that really attracted me.

A few months ago, when I was looking at going back to work after maternity leave, I was seriously considering dialling it back with a less pressured role. Ultimately, the impatient workaholic in me was swayed by the Mojo opportunity and won out.

I was keen to join the company at this exciting juncture, both due to its own growth and its emergence as a tech leader in the industry. I’ve experienced a driven, committed team who passionately believe in Mojo’s mission to create a better mortgage experience. Yes, I know that every company says the same thing, but as someone who is looking both at what’s been achieved already and the pipeline with a fresh pair of eyes, it’s absolutely true.

Any examples?

There’s just such a focus on delivering a better mortgage experience for customers. The flexible, trust-based environment really encourages people to do strive to be better and create more. The tech innovations are really driven by the needs of customers and colleagues, which is very refreshing. It makes for a team who feel valued, listened to and inspired to speak up if they think there’s something we can do better.

How do you find working in financial services?

My career actually began in retail management where I quickly learnt some important lessons about dealing with people. I then moved into mortgage broking about 7 years ago and fell in love with the industry. As a broker for Alexander Hall, I grew and led their first ever stand-alone protection sales team, then at Habito I headed their Mortgage Operations Team during a period of intense growth.

It’s not always been easy being both senior and female in the finance and tech industries. They’re traditionally male dominated and there are endless examples of women being treated differently, whether it’s at the recruitment stage or when in meetings or making presentations. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a successful woman being negatively referred to as a ‘strong personality’.

Does the industry do enough to combat unfair treatment?

It needs to be acknowledged first of all. Finally, some research is highlighting it – and not just in financial services, across the FTSE 100. I think there was a report recently that noted the CEO of a blue-chip company is more likely to be called Steve than be a woman. I’m pretty sure that’s not representative of the general population! It’s so refreshing to find a Senior Leadership Team with a 50/50 split at Mojo.

Having led large teams at different levels of the finance and tech industries, it’d also be encouraging to see more training to avoid gender bias. Sometimes, I don’t even think people are aware they’re doing it.

We also need to stop writing job ads with unconscious biases that put women off from applying. The statistics here are clear – men will apply for jobs where they meet just 60% of the criteria while women apply when they meet 100% – so stuffing job ads with unnecessary requirements, for example, is a sure-fire way to cause gender balances to stagnate. As a hiring manager, I’m always proud to have left teams with a significantly better gender balance than when I started.

How’s the work-life balance?

On a personal level, I have two little ones and my husband is lucky enough to be able to work from home, so we were already considering moving out of London when I started to consider the role at Mojo. And now, just a few months later, I’m part of the amazing team at Mojo and I live close enough to drop in for lunch with my husband and kids every day – the best of both worlds.

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