Over the course of Davinia Tomlinson’s career in investment management, there was one piece of advice that she grew increasingly tired of hearing: “You need to learn to play the game.”
When she tells this story to a roomful of MBA students at Cass Business School’s London Symposium in May 2019, it is with an air of bemusement. “Who goes to work to play games?” she asks.
As a black woman in finance in the City of London in the early 2000s, she was already a unicorn, and she wanted to bring her different perspective to her work. However, comments like this one proved that this was not going to be easy in a corporate environment—and it wasn’t just her perspective as a worker that the finance sector was ignoring.
A market research study conducted last year discovered that men in the UK hold twice as much in investments as women, a whopping deficit that added up to a gender investment gap of over £15 billion ($19.5 billion).
Clearly, women were being left out of investing as both decisionmakers and as clients, and Davinia knew that she needed to act.
In 2018, she launched Rainchq: a financial services platform specifically for women, designed to help them take control of their financial futures by equipping them with the knowledge, education, and advice to motivate them to invest.
Since completing her EMBA at Cass Business School, Davinia has her sights set on promoting financial inclusion for women and counteracting what she calls a culture of “normalized innumeracy”.
Finding your tribe
From feeling overlooked in the world of City finance, to creating her own network of female ‘rainmakers’ through Rainchq, Davinia’s entrepreneurial journey has been driven by a passion for finding and creating community, and she says that the sense of belonging that she found at Cass Business School has helped her to succeed.
“Several people in my cohort were entrepreneurs, worked in finance or private equity, or were planning to embark on startup life themselves,” she recalls. “[I loved] having a tribe of people who were about to step our on the same path of life that I was.
“I was able to draw on the knowledge and experience of the people who had been before us, but also of people who were at exactly the same stage as me.”
Finding her ‘tribe’ at Cass Business School allowed Davinia to make her entrepreneurial ambitions a reality, and she believes that this notion of expanding community is at the heart of any great innovation.
Take Apple: twenty years ago, the reserve of graphic designers; today, their products are impossible to avoid, bringing global connectivity to the pockets of the masses.
But, as with any great innovation, it can be hard to bring more traditional minds into your vision. Particularly as a company exclusively targeting women, Rainchq has been met with derision from some detractors as being too ‘niche’ to succeed.
At this, Davinia has to laugh.
“It’s so funny that whenever you talk about something that is designed or built for women, that people dismiss it as ‘niche’!” she chuckles.
To her, it reflects the prevailing mainstream attitudes towards women in business—that their role is marginal, and that they do not need to be catered to. But by 2020, women are set to control two thirds of private wealth globally: their influence is to be underestimated at corporations’ own peril.
“I can only be myself”
As a pioneer in the space, Davinia is unfazed by the challenge of creating change.
“You have to step out on faith, even if everyone else thinks you’re the outlier, or that you’re crazy,” she shrugs. “It’s about bringing other people on the journey sometimes, rather than being swept along with the tide.
“I just couldn’t continue to live uncomfortably—I can only be myself.”
Davinia’s experience on the EMBA at Cass Business School has helped her do that, by taking her out of her stagnant environment and placing her in context with other dynamic thinkers who were also looking to make waves.
When she sums up the experience, it is perhaps no surprise that she puts it in terms of a long-term investment.
“To me, there was no better investment I could have made in myself at that point in my career, as I was about to make the biggest pivot of my professional life,” she says. “I was suddenly surrounded by people who had similar passions and were all pushing in the same direction.”
The result is a huge improvement in not only Davinia’s career satisfaction, but potentially in financial literacy among women at large.