Head of EMEA Market Structure & Strategy, Liquidnet
Tell us about your career journey?
My original career plan was to join the Foreign Office but I needed to work during the summer to pay for my degree. Temping for the emerging markets desk on the trading floor provided the diversity of culture and language that interested me. Once qualifying as a trader, I realised that the role of the trader was quickly evolving and becoming much more reliant on advanced technology and automation; so I switched direction to work on selling trading technology rather than trading myself. Moving to the Middle East threw up the next challenge as there was no real electronic trading to speak of at the time, so I switched tack again to write financial services briefing notes for ministers and business leaders for UKTI in Bahrain. Returning to London enabled me to combine the different skill sets from the various careers I had had to date by focusing the role technology continues to play in the evolution of financial services and its impact on market structure.
How have things changed over the past ten years in terms of diversity and career progression and what does the industry need to focus on?
After my first son was born, I decided to work part-time; it took considerable time and effort to convince my then manager of my continued commitment to my career despite working a four-day week. While some employers today are getting better at understanding that the most committed employees are those who work for companies who offer the right work/life balance – there is still some way to go.
The financial services industry has evolved over the last decade with the introduction of technology and the skillsets required have changed as a result. Managing this change requires individuals who are capable of challenging the status quo, who think and behave differently to the traditional alpha male and can act in a more collaborative and communicative manner to move the industry forward. The industry today needs to broaden its approach and focus not only on better opportunities for working mothers, but also for all individuals irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or age.
What lessons have been learnt and how can managers drive change and retain people?
Putting the theory into practice is where it gets tricky, but technology can be a huge enabler in driving change in financial services. The way we communicate and share data also facilitates greater collaborative contributions from a wider group, including those who work part-time or from home – all of which leads to a more diverse workforce capable of greater creative thought. As careers in the future will either be augmented by machines or by those who inform and teach machines, this matters. Increased use of data and analytics improves speed and efficiency in day-to-day roles, freeing an individual’s time for tasks requiring deeper thought. This not only provides opportunity for individual career development but can lead to changes in direction for the firm and the industry overall. As the global financial services industry continues to evolve, the faster a firm can embrace the benefits of technology and deep learning in the digital age, the more successful it will be at driving change and retaining their employees in the process.