Christina Hobbs is a woman with purpose. She’s worked as a humanitarian and financial inclusion expert for the United Nations for over a decade, in conflict affected regions such as Syria and Iraq. She’s also a former Deloitte Management Consultant and experienced board member in the superannuation industry.
We first spoke to Christina in episode two of Money Power Freedom podcast, Super Game Plan. She explained to listeners how working in war-torn regions helped her to understand that so many Australians were unwittingly funding war, pollution and unethical supply chains through their superannuation funds.
This realisation led to the creation of Verve Super, co-founded with Alex Andrews and Zoe Lamont. (We’re told that economist Richard Denniss’ keynote at Breakthrough 2019 on the three big lies that hold women back also played some small part.)
Verve is Australia’s first ethical superannuation fund specifically designed by women, for women, and it’s a welcome disruptor in the industry.
Since superannuation was introduced in the early 90s, successive national governments have made little progress on retirement equality for women: Australian women today are still retiring with roughly 40% less super than their male counterparts. On top of that, women over 55 years of age are the fastest growing group experiencing homelessness.
We spoke to Christina about how Verve plans shake up the superannuation system for women:
VWT: Why are you so passionate about women’s economic security?
Christina: There’s no security, without economic security. There’s no space to pursue dreams, no ability to live safely and independently, and no opportunity to achieve potential. Women face significant structural challenges in building financial security over their lifetime, and that’s why it’s so important that we support each other and fight for fairer economic policies. But to me, economic equality is about so much more than security alone, it’s more than equal pay and bank balances.
When I dream of a world where economic power is truly shared amongst diverse people, and where women have achieved equality, I imagine a world with a completely transformed economy, with investments in assets and infrastructure which help build a better world, and with a flourishing, sustainable, inclusive society.
What truly excites me, is thinking of what the world will be likely when women control equal financial wealth, when we wake up to the true economic power we have, and use it to shape our economic systems for the better.
What is the most important thing women need to know about money?
Money is power. Understand it. Own it. Grow it. Use it to build the life and the world you want.
In recent decades women have made great progress in reclaiming financial power, as workers, and consumers, we now hold great sway. The next frontier is how we build wealth, how we invest, how our capital is deployed, to shape the companies and industries of the future. But this is a space that women are still made to feel unwelcome.
Most of the world’s money, and how it is used, is still controlled by men. In Australia men make up 93% of the leaders in the finance sector. Imagine what we could do with that money if we truly owned it, and directed it into investments that are building a better world for women, our communities and our planet. Australian women hold over $1 trillion in super. That’s already a lot of power.
Verve is about levelling the playing field for women financially, and it’s also about making space for women in climate activism. Tell us about that.
Solving the climate crisis is no longer an environmental challenge, nor a scientific challenge, not even a technical challenge. It’s a political one.
We know from history that great successful, social movements only need around 5% of the population to really rally and become activists in order to be successful. Women are already playing a powerful role in building those communities. But to solve the challenge we all need to step up.
Many people consider the youth climate activist Greta Thunberg modest, as she continually rejects awards and deflects praise. But if you listen to her carefully, her real message is that she doesn’t want to be recognised as exceptional, because in order to win, it will require everyone who cares about the issue to start becoming leaders. She wants us to join her and start leading our own families, networks and communities to strive for action. That’s a powerful message. It’s one that we’ve listened to at Verve, which is why we strive to be climate leaders in superannuation by not investing in any fossil fuel companies.
Verve and VWT have been mutual fans for some time, and recently became partner organisations. What does this partnership mean for you?
As long time supporters and admirers of the team at the Victorian Women’s Trust, we were thrilled when Mary Crooks AO joined our fund as a member. And now, linking with a powerful feminist organisation like VWT, that means that we can put our heads together and combine our skills and communities to solve some of the big challenges of our time when it comes to women, money and power.
Women supporting women is at the heart of everything we are about, and to be able to do this at an organisation level is incredibly powerful as well.