We welcomed future students of our Finance Master’s programmes to our Women in Finance dinner. Many inspiring guest speakers spoke to the young women to help launch them into successful careers in finance.
Dr Lara Cathcart Programme Director of MSc Finance and MSc Risk Management & Financial Engineering opened the evening with an inspiring welcome speech. She said:
We are committed to continue supporting women wishing to pursue a career in finance. However, the finance industry has to maintain this concerted effort to make the industry attractive to women and offer opportunities that provide a good work/life balance. The finance industry would benefit from diversity in the short term and the long term.
Inspiring guest speakers from Morgan Stanley, Barclays and Bank of America Merrill Lynch drew on their personal experiences to share the challenges and barriers they have encountered in the finance industry.
These speakers gave invaluable advice to the young finance hopefuls in the room and shared their top tips on how to succeed in the finance industry.
“A leader with a positive and can-do attitude almost certainly always win”
Tanit Curry is an ex-Managing Director at Morgan Stanley and a member of the MSc Finance Advisory Board. With over three decades of experience in the finance industry, Tanit has witnessed a significant decade of change.
When Tanit first entered the industry, her manager would make her buy him cigarettes. This in itself speaks volumes about the progress and change that we have made in the industry.
Drawing on her wealth of experience, she shared her advice with the MSc Finance prospects in the room on the soft skills needed to be successful in the finance industry. She listed emotional intelligence, good communication skills and the ability to navigate successfully in a workplace with many different types of personalities and cultures.
Tanit’s top tip for success in finance:
No one wants to work with someone who is negative, male or female. I would say a leader with a positive and can-do attitude almost certainly always win.
“Put yourself forward and advocate for yourself”
Sophia Aluko is not only the Director of Transition Service Management at Barclays, she’s also an alumna of the Imperial MBA. In her post-MBA career, she has worked for Barclays across multiple roles, including four years posted in South Africa.
From her career path, Sophia has learnt that it’s okay to take calculated risks, as long as these are opportunities that use your strengths and provide a chance to learn and grow. She told the women in the room, “Take calculated risks and be brave.” While moving out of your comfort zone is uncomfortable, it’s when you’re taking risks that you experience growth.
Sophia also discussed the importance of not just seeking mentors, but sponsors as well. Sponsors are people who are two to three levels above you and will advocate for you when you’re not in the room.
Sophia’s top tip for success in finance:
Put yourself forward and advocate for yourself. Those days when you’ve been told to put your head down and you will get tapped on the shoulder, that advice doesn’t work well anymore. All the opportunities I’ve had in the bank, I’ve gone out to look and ask for them.
“We are looking for are people who have more than just academic skills”
Kristine Rasmussen is the Vice President of Model Risk Management at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. With over ten years’ experience working in finance, Kristine discussed the challenges facing women in the industry.
She praised how the industry is creating supportive networks for women in finance and women in business. However, she also referred to times when she is still the only woman in a meeting with 16 other male partners.
Kristine told the women in the room that there will be times of self-doubt in their careers. However, she reassured the future Finance Master’s students that they will not be left alone to find their way through their career path.
Kristine’s top tip for success in finance:
What we are looking for are people who have more than just academic skills. Are you part of societies, sports clubs etc? If I’m interviewing you, what I am looking for is that you have done something in addition to reading the books. The books are great, but have you shown me other skills that you cannot read from a book? That’s what I’m looking for when I’m interviewing people.
“We need buy-in at a higher level”
Asia Underwood is the Vice President of Investment Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Gender equity is a key focus for Asia and she holds the role of Co-Chair of the Women’s Leadership Organisation in EMEA for the Bank.
She said that there is still a long way to go to eradicate the gender pay gap, but there is a huge business care for working towards this.
Asia discussed the many initiatives at Bank of America Merrill Lynch that support women. From mentoring walks to mobility panels, there’s something aimed at supporting women at all levels of the business.
Asia’s top tip for success in finance:
I’m so glad to see men in the room today, because involving men in this narrative is a key component to achieve gender equity in the finance industry. One element is making sure we recruit the right people and that we develop you in the right way. The second element is making sure that we’ve got buy-in at the organisation. There are men at the top, so we need that buy-in at a higher level across all areas.