As well as being a TV presenter, quantum physicist and entrepreneur, Gemma Godfrey is revolutionising the financial services sector as the founder and CEO of Moo.la. Rob Shepherd finds out more about her path to success and how the company's administrative management team is helping to fulfil her corporate vision.
At first glance the similarities between quantum physics and the financial services sectors might not be apparent. What’s more, it’s not easy to find someone with enough skill and expertise in both disciplines to provide an informed comparison. However, one such person is Gemma Godfrey. She is currently redefining the landscape of personal finance by making it easier to understand, and opening up access to investment options that were previously out of reach for the majority of the population and corporate employees, as CEO of Moo.la.
Keep It Simple
‘The study of science is all about problem solving,’ she explains. ‘One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding those with a science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) background is that they are very limited in terms of what they can do with these skill sets. I think the reverse is true and that they can, in fact, open many doors into other areas.’
By her own admission, when she was an intern at Goldman Sachs she was in a minority as someone who wasn’t studying economics. She then went on to become a fund manager at GAM, chairman of the investment committee at Credo Capital and head of investment strategy at Brooks Macdonald, and firmly believes that her scientific background offered some distinct advantages.
‘I look at things in a different way,’ she says. ‘I’m able to forget preconceived notions about what is and isn’t possible, hone in on real world problems and devise methods to solve them in an almost mathematical way. Also, it’s about taking something that might at first appear really complicated and potentially alienating, and breaking it down into relatable terms, so that people can then engage with it. I call it the Mum Test – would my mother, who might be fiercely intelligent but knows little about the specific subject, be able to understand my analysis of it?’
While on the subject of her parents, Godfrey cites her father as the key influence on her career and adds, ‘He is my number one inspiration and was a successful entrepreneur within the financial services sector. He talked about his work with me from an early age and, just as importantly, instilled the belief that anything is possible with drive, determination, commitment and a good network of people.’
Making a Difference
Godfrey’s ability to make the seemingly complex financial world understandable to the layperson is one of the reasons why she has become a sought after media commentator. She has appeared on TV programmes ranging from BBC Breakfast, Sky News, Bloomberg, CNBC and Good Morning Britain, and has featured in The Times, Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, Reuters and CityAM.
Her ability to put the needs of the audience first, tell them what they want to know and deliver information in an engaging way that relates to their lives has received numerous plaudits. In fact, Sean Larsgard, founder of Prediction Point Trading has publically stated that ‘her expertise is unmatched in her field and her ability to articulate global solutions is priceless’.
When Godfrey’s inclusion on a poll conducted by the BBC to identify 100 women ‘striving to make the world a better place’ is mentioned there is a detectable sense of pride and modesty. Appearing alongside Tanni Grey-Thompson and Cherie Blair, it highlights the difference that she is trying to make in her industry.
Asked whether the stereotypical image of the financial sector being dominated by men is still the case, she replies, ‘The facts speak for themselves and men certainly outnumber women at the higher level. That said, gender stereotypes are being challenged and there is recognition that there is a need to create leadership teams that reflect the entire customer base. However, the speed of change is disappointing and more must be done. In the meantime, I hope that I’m setting a positive example that inspires other women and demonstrates that no door is ever closed.’
Shaking It Up
Godfrey’s values are all encapsulated within her latest financial technology enterprise. Moo.la has already been ranked in the top 10 of the FinTech50 and is a digital investment organisation that offers an innovative way to help individuals manage and grow their money. The company
helps them take control of their savings and investments, offering peace of mind as well as comfort in order to get started. Moo.la’s investment service and educational courses also enable companies to enhance staff financial wellbeing, as part of their employee benefits package.
Explaining the rationale behind Moo.la, Godfrey’s scientific approach is once again at the fore. She comments, ‘We have found a solution to a real problem that people have – the difficulty in accessing investment services, and the high costs of these services. We are challenging the financial landscape by making investing easier to understand, offering options that were previously out of reach and empowering people with the knowledge they need. Our mission is simple – we want to help people make the right decisions when investing, so that they can enhance their lifestyles.’
Interestingly, Godfrey’s entrepreneurial streak was not immediately apparent to her and for many years she felt that the most effective way to influence and affect positive change was to be part of a larger, more established machine. She states, ‘After a while I realised that there was a problem in the financial services industry and there was too much focus on pushing products instead of solving problems. This ethos is firmly entrenched and I knew that the only way that I could try and do something about it would be to start up my own company. Moo. la is nimble, fast and uses new technology to help the estimated five and a half million people in the UK with
money to invest get the information and help they need to do so, and help corporate clients look after their employees better.’
On The Inside
Godfrey’s enthusiasm, drive and belief in what Moo. la represents, and what it could achieve in the future, is hugely impressive. As a relatively small business she recognises the role that the team she is building will play in its success and, in particular, the important job management and administrative personnel have in helping to achieve her corporate objectives.
‘Getting the right people on board is vital to any business,’ she opines. ‘As a start up that operates in a very dynamic sector, we need to have a very flexible operation and many of our people work remotely. Therefore, we ensure that we can have constant communication via different platforms. We also empower our employees to use their initiative, get things done and meet the needs of our customers. This type of structure reduces the need for copious meetings and offers those at the sharp end of our organisation an opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. For me, the key to successful management involves empowering other people with the knowledge, access and authority to get things done!’
Her management team also has to understand, promote and communicate the company’s aims and objectives both internally and externally. This involves them having total belief in the Moo.la ethos, without losing the ability to be objective, take a step back and recognise where things could be improved by challenging what’s happening. It’s a fine line though and even though the company is all about simplicity, there is a lot of complexity behind the scenes. This means that the company’s administrative personnel have to be able to work on both micro and macro levels and understand all levels of the operation.
Business, technology, finance and regulatory knowledge is also considered vital and Godfrey therefore considers training and skills development to be part of the fabric of the company. Explaining her view on the subject, she says, ‘Knowledge is power and in my experience those that are equipped with the right information are more productive, feel more engaged and are happier in their work. This also impacts the bottom line, as investing in people leads to less staff turnover and greater consistency across a business. This obviously has benefits for customers too, as service levels can always be of a high standard.’
On The Inside
With Moo.la still in its infancy, these are busy but exciting times for Godfrey, as she works to change the way that financial investment services are accessed and delivered. However, it’s a challenge she is clearly relishing and concludes, ‘Witnessing something grow so quickly at such close quarters is absolutely fascinating and the buzz surrounding Moo.la gives us every indication that what we are doing is offering real value to individuals and companies. I want us to continually set new standards and redefine what is expected from this sector.’