Megan O’Hara is Co-Chair of our newly formed Belfast branch, she talks about her plans for the branch, the importance of mentoring and her own career path.
Megan is a founding member of the WIBF Belfast branch, launched in 2020 and acts as Co-Chair along with Clare McFarlane. As a member of WIBF, Megan saw the strong potential of a WIBF branch in Belfast and set about to make it happen!
Megan has progressed her career within the financial services industry in Belfast over a number of years, and is qualified as a solicitor specialising in commercial law. Megan is currently employed by Citi, in Belfast, as part of their in-house legal team.
1. How long have you been involved with WIBF and how did you find out about us?
I’ve been a member of WIBF for around three years.
I first heard about it through my employer who has supported WIBF in various ways. I attended the annual awards ceremony a few years ago and was so impressed by the organisation, the inspirational individuals nominated for the awards and those speaking at the event, that I decided I had to get involved!
As there was no Belfast branch at that time, I originally joined the London branch so I could attend events while I was on trips to London. The ability to access these events virtually over the last year has been great.
Given my own experiences with WIBF, I thought it would be fantastic to provide the same opportunities to others in Belfast, so I got in touch with WIBF about starting up a branch and now I am a proud member of WIBF Belfast!
2. What plans do you have for the Belfast Branch?
It is very exciting to start off a branch in Belfast, as we have an established financial services industry but also one that is growing significantly. We are aiming to provide opportunities for women in Northern Ireland at all stages of their career, whether they are just starting out, near retirement or somewhere in the middle.
Personally, a key reason for wanting to set up WIBF Belfast was the fantastic mentoring scheme which WIBF offers. This is something which we are prioritising within the WIBF Belfast Board. This will be a relatively unique opportunity for mentors and mentees from different organisations to work together on achieving the career goals of the mentee- something which we believe will be highly valuable to all participants.
In addition to this, we will be running topical events and training sessions for our members or guests. We will aim to focus on supporting attendees in their current working environment along with their career and personal development aspirations.
Given current circumstances, there will be an opportunity to virtually attend events of all branches for the time being. However, we are do plan on, and look forward to, meeting people in person at events in the future.
3. Can you tell us a bit about your own career progression?
After graduating Newcastle University with a Law degree I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. So I went travelling, worked abroad and completed volunteer work for around eight months. This was a fantastic experience, particularly for my personal development.
I then returned to Belfast and worked briefly at a law firm before joining the legal department of a global bank. This is when I realised that I was passionate about a career in law but also developed my interest in financial services, particularly around regulation and regulatory implementation.
This drove me to qualify as a solicitor specialising in commercial law. I have since progressed my career within financial services, taking on more responsibility and levels of seniority.
4. You are a strong advocate of the importance of mentoring and soft skills training, what inspired this in you?
My own experiences and also those of others have inspired my passion in this regard.
I have been fortunate to have had some fantastic mentors throughout my career but also some fantastic mentees. I believe that a mentor can get as much value as a mentee out of a mentoring scheme. Given my own experiences, I believe mentoring schemes are a way to help people unlock potential that they often don’t realise they have.
In terms of soft skills training, I believe developing these can be key to an individual’s confidence and also their career progression. The current working environment has brought further challenges in this regard, such as how to have an impact in virtual meetings. Having the resource and opportunity to continually develop soft skills I believe can be invaluable to people’s careers.
5. Financial services, particularly FinTech is growing in Northern Ireland, why do you think that is?
When I started working in financial services in Northern Ireland, it was starting to grow. However, since then the industry has expanded significantly and it is exciting to be part of.
I believe Northern Ireland has built a strong reputation in financial services and therefore has led to more opportunities here. Careers in financial services have always been an option in Northern Ireland however, the diversity of those careers has increased in recent years.
Additionally, the developments in technology and the ability to work with colleagues all over the world has allowed different roles such as those in FinTech to be created here in Northern Ireland.
6. If you could change one thing in the Financial Services industry tomorrow what would it be?
I think people have misconceptions about careers in financial services and often think that the range of roles and careers is somewhat limited. However, this is far from the reality. There are people with a broad range of career backgrounds working in many different roles. This is a misconception that I would like to change, to further open doors and encourage people looking to join the industry.