Inspirational Woman: Gina Miller | Founder, Miller Philanthropy

gina millerMy name is Gina Miller and I am originally from South America which gives me a very strong matriarchal outlook. In terms of work and interests, I have always been drawn to male dominated industries and adrenaline filled pursuits. Initially I wanted to be a criminal barrister but when I tried to apply for training in 1988, I was told ‘the Criminal Bar was not the place for a woman’. In disgust, I decided to take a year out and discovered a whole new world of business and, in particular, the car industry.

This is where I stayed until 1992, when I started one of the first specialist financial services marketing agencies in the UK, working with advisers, consultants, life companies, asset managers, hedge funds, family offices and press.

In 2006 I had a career break and two more children. Then in 2009 I co-founded SCM Private as an antidote to the Financial Crisis and the anti-consumer epidemic that had infected the investment industry and the wider City. SCM now has three lifestyle orientated investment challenger brands, including one that is ‘Ladies First’ – MoneyShe.com

What inspired you to start a business?

The short answer is that I am a driven misfit who finds it difficult to work within the constraints of corporate life.

A more in-depth serious answer is that, as a country, we are heading towards a pensioner black-hole, with a 50% rise in the number of over-65s and a doubling in over-85s by 2030, yet there are very few honest debates or industry reforms. The pension and investment business is the only industry that has not evolved to its new environment and I believe this status quo needs to be challenged. There are two undeniable facts that keep me awake at night and meant I simply had to start SCM – firstly, no government or political party will have the funds to look after the greying of our population and the fragility costs of this growing sector of our society and secondly, if savers just sit in cash, they will never have the returns they need to care for themselves, so it is an imperative that this vital industry is fit for purpose.

I also started a True and Fair Campaign in 2012 that has been calling for 100% transparency in pensions and investments, a Code of Ethics and significantly increased consumer protection. To date I have managed to get text included in two EU directives and have fed into one other; all three directives will come into force between 2017– 2019.

As an ardent believer in conscious capitalism and philanthropy, all my business ventures have operated a profit for purpose model, where a significant percentage of profits and resources support small dynamic community charities doing transformational work with the most vulnerable in society, primarily in the UK.

In 2009 I founded Miller Philanthropy which delivers my strident advocacy of smarter giving and a more strategic business-like approach to charity and the third sector.   The Foundation also offers a free charity sourcing service to other philanthropists, donors and corporates, who may be time poor but want to give in a smart efficient and transparent manner.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

The greatest challenge is knowing when to switch off. I still haven’t mastered the art of saying ‘No’ either.

The greatest reward is the flexibility it gives me to spend time with my children and weave them into my working life, as well as allowing me to engage in my philanthropy as part of my working day, rather than something I do after hours or at the weekends.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures

I have witnessed many women in their 50s and 60s who are in mourning for the life they thought they were going to have. It is good to have goals but it is also important to be flexible – life changes, challenges change, responsibilities change.

In terms of successes, they should be for you and no one else. There will always be someone younger, more beautiful, richer, more successful, taller etc – really define your own parameters for success and enjoy it when you achieve it – do not apologise! A golden rule is to never judge success solely in term of money.

I know many people say that failures can be more important than successes; I think women tend to dwell on failure and beat themselves up more than men do. We should examine our failures, discuss them with people we trust that will not gloat, then move on.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

Not in my present business, but in the past it has been raising capital and investment. There is still a myth that women who run companies are higher risk and will not take business as seriously as men – peer to peer and crowd funding platforms are helping to change this but the major lenders and investors still have a long way to go.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

There are women I admire and trust that have guided me and been there especially in my darkest times, especially when I was in an abusive relationship, but I have not experienced what you would call formal mentoring or coaching; it has been more sharing, listening and guiding.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Being a women in business can be a very lonely place – networks offer you a place to learn, connect, collaborate and even commiserate.   But beware, it can be tiresome and tedious if you don’t choose your network carefully. You can end up giving but receiving very little in return.

What does the future hold for you?

As I said before, I’m an adrenaline junkie but also a petrol head. If I compare my career to a grand prix, I’ve only completed half the laps. There is much more I want to do in terms of moving the dial on the appallingly low number of women who are looking after their long term financial health, by encouraging better behaviour, ethics and culture within the City, improving consumer campaigning and engaging more people in smart giving and philanthropy.

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