Sangeeta Venkatesan has had more than her fair share of challenges...
Sangeeta Venkatesan has had more than her fair share of challenges. Growing up in regional India in the 80s, the prospect of higher education was far-fetched, and a female’s true worth was considered to be defined by marriage and child-rearing.
But the grit and resilience that she needed to rise above gender and cultural norms imbued her with a passion to help other women find their way. It inspired her to launch FairVine, a unique super fund that is pioneering a movement towards financial products that recognise and accommodate the unique life cycles of modern women.
Sangeeta has always been fiercely independent. Her qualifications in finance led her to working in several well-known financial firms around the world, such as KPMG in India, Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong and Singapore, Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers in London, and finally Commonwealth Bank in Sydney for a COO position.
In an industry still heavily dominated by men, Sangeeta concedes her path hasn’t always been easy. But she believes in leading by example, and her rapid career trajectory is a testament to her conviction that there are no limits to what women can achieve.
“I strongly believe that you need to be authentic. Circumstances may require you to adapt to different situations, but you don’t have to change yourself. Women have their own unique strengths and perspectives that can be incredibly valuable in a business context, and leveraging these can enable women to be successful on their own terms,” she says.
Sangeeta’s personal experiences of countering gender bias and stereotyping, coupled with her professional skills and qualifications in finance, have led her to her latest project: launching a new super fund for women called FairVine Super.
It’s an exciting development in Australian finance, which she says has been a long time coming.
“Superannuation has always been designed by men, for men. There’s never been a product that specifically caters for the typical ebbs and flows of a woman’s working life,” she says.
In the lead-up to launch, Sangeeta worked with the broader FairVine Super team to conduct extensive research among Australian women to understand their superannuation pain points and broader financial needs.
Off the back of that, the fund developed unique solutions that would help address some of those issues in simple, easy-to-understand ways. One such example is that it doesn’t charge members when they take maternity leave or career breaks to care for a parent or younger child.
Another key component is a focus on helping women to save. This is critical given the current gender pay gap still sits at 14 percent. As Sangeeta puts it, “women earn less and often outlive their partners, so they save less, and it’s doing them a massive disservice when it comes to retirement.”
FairVine Super enables women to make small but regular contributions to their superannuation using the fund’s unique set-and-forget TopUps, RoundUps and FairRewards features. The latter feature rewards members when they shop at almost 500 brands (including The Iconic, Lorna Jane, Menulog and Bed Bath N Table) with up to 15% cash back off their purchase deposited directly into their super.
“FairRewards is definitely one of my favourite features, and we’re constantly adding new brands to the portal,” says Sangeeta.
“The idea that you’re actually saving for your retirement while you’re shopping online is an incredible concept, and something we’ve received a lot of positive feedback on from our members. The best thing is that this contribution doesn’t come out of your own pocket – it is a rebate from the retailer that goes directly into your super.
Pioneering simple yet innovative features like these go to the heart of what we’re trying to achieve at FairVine Super. The industry has thrived on obfuscation for too long, and it’s no wonder that so many women have delegated the financial management of the household to their partners,” she says.
While there’s still a long road ahead before women in Australia achieve full financial equality, FairVine Super is helping to level the playing field. Sangeeta says she feels encouraged by a noticeable shift towards more women in the workforce.
“In the last 12 months, the key increase in the workforce has come from women. Greater participation in the workforce is essential for women to become financially independent. Women are also becoming savvier about their finances and controlling their own wealth,” she says.
For many women of her generation, taking care of the finances was very much considered a male domain. Now, she’s encouraged seeing more young women (including her own entrepreneurial daughter) considering their financial future, looking into investing and wealth management, and taking definitive control.
“Planning is crucial. Simple things like having a monthly budget and an annual goal with your savings, and making sure you’re involved in family matters, can make a big difference,” she says.
“Even if your contribution to the household isn’t monetary, you should know what’s going on. My daughter’s only ten, and I’m already involving her in financial discussions,” says Sangeeta.
“She sees me being actively involved and learns that this is how it should be: women participating in the household’s finances as equals. Gender stereotypes are perpetuated in the home just as much as they are in the workplace, and it’s important that we’re showing the right example to the next generation. Talking about money should be a part of daily life.”
Ultimately, that’s why Sangeeta believes FairVine Super, which gives more women agency in their financial independence and freedom, is a game-changer.
“No one else is doing what we’re doing. We’re not just paying lip service to the issue of the gender super gap – we’re providing real solutions that everyday people can take advantage of.
Advocating for fundamental change is important, absolutely, but it’s also crucial to offer financial solutions that help people in the here-and-now.”
This story first appeared on Women's Agenda. You can see the story in its entirety here: https://womensagenda.com.au/partner-content/why-global-finance-leader-sangeeta-venkatesan-is-on-a-personal-mission-to-help-women-achieve-financial-freedom/