Introducing: Entrepreneur in Residence and Super Expert, Christina Hobbs
Christina is the CEO of Verve Super, Australia’s first ethical superannuation fund that is tailored for women, by women. Christina is an experienced Board Director in the superannuation industry and has worked as a humanitarian and financial inclusion expert for the United Nations for over a decade. She was a founding Board Director of the Global Women’s Project and is a published author on gender equality. Christina was the 2020 Women’s Agenda Emerging Corporate Leader of the year.
Christina recently joined us for Gem Nation Masterclass, How to Supercharge your Super and we are thrilled to work with Christina Hobbs again, this time as our newest Entrepreneur in Residence.
As you know, we love to champion women here at Freelancing Gems. What was the key driving force or inspiration for you and your partners to start your own company, championing women and super?
In 2018, Zoe, Alex, and I came together to build Verve Super because we knew that it was time to build the first Australian superannuation fund to be founded by women, led by women, and tailored for women. We felt an urgency to bring Verve Super to life because we were sick of the status quo: a 35% super gap between men and women, elderly Australian women retiring into poverty, and Big Banks and superfunds plagued by scandals. We wanted ethical, trustworthy, and supportive financial services for women. And we wanted the opportunity for women to control capital to invest in the more compassionate, sustainable, and healthy future we all want.
Verve was founded with the knowledge that it’s not enough for individual women to succeed, but rather we must work together to redefine what economic success looks like, to ensure it’s sustainable, inclusive, and equitable for all.
Today Verve is a flourishing community of thousands of women joined by men and non-binary folk who identify with our mission. And we are leading the way in Australia when it comes to investing with a gender lens.
Obviously you have worked in finance for a long time. What are some of the money lessons that you have learned both through your career, and more specifically, through starting Verve Super?
I feel really blessed that my mum instilled some pretty strong habits around saving and investing in me from a young age. I worked really hard my entire career – which started with a paper run when I was aged 12. I earned so little for so much hard work delivering papers that I never wanted to spend a cent of it. I now know that ultimately it’s about getting money to work for you and being able to squirrel away small amounts not just to save, but to invest.
When I was 14 my mum and I bought some Northern Territory Railway bonds together, in other words we leant the Northern Territory Government some money to help them build a railway line and after a set time period received our initial capital back plus interest. I think I made something like 7% a year over three years, but when you’re 17 and receive a couple of hundred dollars that you didn’t need to work hard for, it’s a really powerful lesson.
Today at Verve Super that’s what I love doing – finding win-win investments that we believe will deliver strong returns to our members while also supporting projects that deliver for women, our community and our planet. These days I’m looking at renewable energy, social housing and infrastructure bonds and we’re investing that money on behalf of thousands of our members. I also love sharing my knowledge and supporting women to learn how to invest.
We love discussing the latest apps and podcasts here in the FG office! What are your favourite tools (apps, books, podcasts etc) that you would recommend to anyone starting her own business?
I love listening to Australian podcast Lady-Brains – some really inspiring fellow women co-founders on there. Three podcasts out of the US that I really enjoy are Masters of Scale, How I built this and She Did it her way – all are focused on gleaming insights from some truly epic founders.
In terms of Books, when it comes to the business books I like reading I’m into practical books that give me something I can apply – I’m currently re-reading Atomic Habits which is a powerful guide to help you get the most out of your days.
I know that superannuation is always a hot topic amongst our members. What are your best tips for our female Freelancers and Sole Contractors in terms of contributing to, and managing their super?
I think the most important starting point is to have a plan and not to put super off and push it to the end of your to do list. Superannuation works because the money you save today can really grow in value over 30-40 years, so it’s important not to go too long without paying yourself super.
I’ve had a lot of discussions with women founders and small business owners who feel like their businesses are just making enough money for them to get by and my advice is always that if you are not able to save for super, and if you are not able to put money away for the future then your business is not yet viable. There are also potential certain tax advantages to saving money through your super – you can check out this longer article on the Verve website about things to think through to organise your super.
As the majority of our members are freelancers and sole traders, many work remotely or out of a home office, and can struggle separating work and home life. What percentage of your week do you work remotely, and how do you create an effective work/life balance?
Verve is a 100% remote office. However, we do offer all of our team the opportunity to work from the co-work space of their choice. For me it’s about creating rituals in my day that separate work from home.
I always start the day with a lemon and ginger tea and look through my diary, when I go into my office and sip on my tea and look at my diary it signals to my brain that I am now in work mode. I end the day in a similar way, by reviewing what I have achieved and planning the next day – that closes things off for me, and then I step back into home life.
I am not one to religiously check or respond to messages after hours and that is really important for my personal balance.
We LOVE to celebrate wins at Freelancing Gems! What has been your most satisfying moment in business to date?
I am really proud of the work we have recently done to change how we invest in Australian companies based on how highly they score on gender equality indicators.
We have always been a 100% ethical fund, only now we not only avoid investments in companies that are engaged in socially and environmentally destructive practices (like tobacco, gambling , weapons and fossil fuels), but we also pro-actively invest in companies that perform well on gender equality measures, as measured by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
On top of that we also seek investment opportunities that specifically support women – investing in microfinance projects that support women’s businesses in the Asia Pacific region is another real highlight for me.
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