Independent Consultant and former Deputy Global Head of Trading and Securities Financing at AXA IM
Tell us about your career journey?
I started my career in technology, progressing from developer to product development and ultimately management. I had always focused on finance as an industry, but came into the financial services sector as part of the integration team working on the Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust merger in 1999. This assignment also thrust me into the securities financing arena.
Was this the field you had intended to go into?
I’m not sure I had set my sights on any particular sector or career path. However, I had always wanted to be part of something where I could add value, deliver and work with amazing people. We are at work for such a large part our lives that we should do our best to make it worthwhile, and for the most part enjoyable. For me though, the most fulfilling aspect is being part of a great team.
How have things changed in terms of diversity and career progression and what does the industry need to focus on today?
I think the situation is regressing not progressing. The financial crisis caused difficulties for the general population and our industry was targeted as being unethical. At the time, it seemed to me that far more women left, or were asked to leave their positions. Maybe the heightened tension of that working environment, coupled with coping with the normal challenges of our careers became too much. Possibly the low numbers of women in the industry to start with meant that any reduction would have a disproportionately large impact.
To counter this the ‘female allocation/quota’ drive began. Lessons on how to progress your career were then promoted, but often to the detriment of our belief that our own ability was enough to succeed.
I often hear that being female puts you at the top of the selection list for promotion and for interviews, but I’m not sure that’s true, and to be honest it shouldn’t be.
Success as a woman was, and still is, hard, and it wasn’t helped by the ramifications of the financial crisis which changed the way we worked. The scrutiny we were under and the reduction of the workforce removed a lot of the team spirit and morale we had once enjoyed, and as managers we needed to focus on this along with the control, transparency and ethical practice. However, this impacted both men and women equally.
What lessons have been learnt and how can senior managers, and in particular middle managers, drive change and retain people?
Balance and understanding. If everyone in management thinks the same way, then we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. Managers need to understand that diversity can provide competitive advantage, and is not just a box-ticking or quota-filling exercise. Change is inevitable, and I believe essential, however it needs to be managed with balance and understanding. I am convinced that a more considerate and nurturing environment will help prevent the talent leakage that unconsidered change encourages.
Irrespective of their sex, background or beliefs, colleagues need to feel that they are trusted by, and in return can believe in, their company.