Anna Sofat: Wealth of opportunity
Dubbed “the voice of women’s wealth”, Anna Sofat, the pioneering founder of Addidi and now Associate Director at Progeny Wealth, has been helping women invest their money for decades.
Anna Sofat has blazed a trail through the world of finance. Known for improving women’s lives through a female-focused brand, her progressive labours have earned her a Financial Adviser of the Year award from Unbiased.co.uk, among other accolades. She continues to win hearts and minds while helping women, be they entrepreneurs, businesswomen or mothers (or all three, of course), live more fulfilled lives.
She is perhaps best known as the brain behind Addidi, the financial services boutique founded in 2006 to provide advice for “savvy, financially independent and entrepreneurially spirited” women. Refreshingly, Sofat (a former Labour councillor) doesn’t consider financial independence an end in itself. “In the west, people have wealth but they are not happy.” As she told Business Reporter, “For women, money is an enabler. It’s a station in their life journey rather than a destination.” As American science fiction writer Margaret Bonnano said, “Being rich is having money. Being wealthy is having time.” And for Sofat, just helping one person become happier and more balanced is a positive contribution.
Addidi means “older sister” in Hindi: “someone you can totally trust and rely on,” says the Indian-born founder. “In India, as a girl, you are not allowed to be whoever you want. In terms of personal freedom, I was far more restricted than my brother was. But all children need to be told that they can do whatever they want. That is all my dad ever said to us.”
Arriving in the UK aged 11, she later graduated from the LSE, before becoming Managing Director of Fiona Price & Partners – the first brand set up to provide financial advice for women by women. Sadly, that culture of female support was lost when the business she’d spent five years growing was sold. “That female-space market that had been created just disappeared, which was heartbreaking,” she says. As it turned out, it was just a dress rehearsal for Addidi, the business that approached finances differently because, well, women do: a philosophy she believes is based on a risk-focused approach to investing assets and smarter portfolios.
“We had created wealth and success for women, that had not translated into happy, well-balanced lives,” she told Director in 2014. “The only things they were compromising on were themselves. So my conclusion was to go back to focusing on women.”
Women and wealth
In the wake of the 2008 crash, and a drive to get more women on major boards, her firm aimed to enable women to leverage their wealth and talent to connect with business. And not before time: research shows gender-balanced boards are more successful, while it is forecast some 60% of the UK’s personal assets will be owned by women by 2025.
Addidi Business Angels (the first female business angel club) followed in 2008, while 2014’s Addidi Enterprise connected entrepreneurs, executives and mentors with start-ups and SMEs. “As more women started looking at that female-focused market, wanting to advise, contribute and be a part of it, and bring a different dimension to women in business, Addidi Enterprise became a natural extension,” she says. If there was a message that summed up Addidi Enterprise, it was “women do not have to do business as normal”.
Her experiences at Addidi Enterprise also told her women often struggled when seeking investment, relying more on peer support and telling their stories, rather than stressing imperatives. But she also sees women becoming more confident in their ability to set the agenda. “They recognise it is about relationships, people and synergy, not just measuring the financials,” she says. “We are seeing more openness, collaboration and engagement, and that has synergy with many female aspirations and approaches to business.”
She senses a growing compassion too. “Recent events in society have forced us to question ourselves and our privilege,” she says. “I long for a leader whose bold vision brings people together.” She quotes Dr Vince Molinaro, who argues in his book Accountable Leaders that “accountability ultimately differentiates great leaders from mediocre ones. Accountable leaders act like a water ripple in a pond. Their actions inspire others to step up.”
“Clarity of purpose can really get results,” she says, as does optimism: “When leaders are seen to be positive, it has such a knock-on effect.” Meanwhile, her own Are You In campaign aims to bring diversity to the financial sector, transforming it “into a profession we can all be proud of – an industry that is inclusive, transparent and improves the wellbeing of everyone”.
For Sofat, it means asking: “What can I do? The pandemic has shown how fragile we are, but it’s also revealed what is possible when we pull together. We need that strength of vision to truly become a global village rather than a fenced-off, angry world.”