Halla Tomasdottir, co-founder of Audur Capital financial services, has been instrumental in rebuilding Iceland’s economy since its collapse in 2008. Her passion is releasing the incredible economic potential of women’s ways of doing business. She speaks here with Women Of Green about balance, responsible profit, and the power of ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’.
What are the “feminine values” that you hope to bring to the financial industry?
We founded Audur because we believed certain things were missing from the financial industry. These are: independence, risk awareness, straight talking, emotional capital and profits with principle. As the financial industry has been governed by men for so long we claim that the missing parts are of feminine nature.
How can we create a society-wide definition of ‘profit’ that includes social and environmental benefits as well as monetary ones?
In our opinion profit has traditionally been defined in very narrow terms, being only monetary. We believe such a definition is not sustainable. We reject the either/or definition that it is EITHER about making money OR philanthrophy. We should give up on the tyranny of the either – or — and embrace the beauty of both/and- start doing business that is good, in all senses of the word. It is the only sustainable future. We call it profit with principles.
You’ve spoken about how a lack of diversity in financial services leads to disastrous results. Is widespread diversity a reasonable hope in an industry focused primarily on profit?
Focusing primarily on profit is in our opinion the very reason the industry failed. Diversity is not just about doing what is fair. It’s about doing what is right, both for business and society. The reason we need diversity is because diversity brings critical thinking, and critical thinking leads to better decision making, which leads to better results. Diversity actually improves the bottom line. But diversity brings even more, it can prevent tunnel vision and ‘group-think’ which usually leads to disasters. This is why diversity will always result in better long term outcome.
Have you been better received by the male-dominated firms since the recent economic collapse? Are people looking to you as a role model?
Yes and no. After the collapse more people realize what we are talking about, and see the importance of doing things in a more balanced and sensible manner. We can sense that many companies are getting a wake-up call and doing their best to try and improve and move towards the way we have been doing business. We are quite happy to have such an impact. At the same time there are people that do not want to let go of the traditional way of doing things and are not too happy about us.
Through what avenues can we encourage big business to shift their values to a more feminine model? Who is going to get this work done and how?
I think companies are already feeling the pressure of consumers that are demanding more responsible behavior of companies. Eventually companies will have to respond to market demands. But pioneer companies like ours will be essential in this development, giving customers an ethical choice. Once the traditional companies sense that they are losing customers they will have no choice but to change.
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘green’? What value does this word carry in contemporary conversation?
Green is to me something sensible. It implies that you care, and want to do something to ensure a prosperous future.
Halla Tomasdottir is the co-founder and chairman of Audur Capital, an Investment firm focused on putting feminine values into finance. Halla was previously the Managing Director of the Iceland Chamber of Commerce. She was a key member of the foundation of Reykjavik University as a founder and director for executive education and women entrepreneurship as well as an assistant professor and board member. Halla spent 10 years in the USA where she started her career first with M&M/Mars and later she joined Pepsi Cola’s HR team. Halla has been a teacher and consultant for students and companies of all ages. Her main interests are in the areas of Organizational Behavior and Entrepreneurship.
Halla holds a Bachelors degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Human Resource Management and an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird. She is a sought after speaker for international conferences and events. She was a speaker at the first annual TEDWomen conference in Washington D.C., USA.
Halla is deeply interested in business, the economy and all aspects of our society. She enjoys few things more than a good conversation in great company. She is a family person, who is proud of all three of her children, Tomas (9) and Audur Ina (7) and her company Audur Capital (3).