Exclusive interview: Ladies talk finance! Female inspirations and role models in the financial world

LeapRate exclusive… We continue our female-inspired series with some first-hand experience. LeapRate has recently discussed with a few ladies from the financial sector the importance of female role models and their presence in the financial world.

June Felix

June Felix

While being on the gender diversity topic, here’s what IG’s CEO June Felix has to say about it:

I believe without any doubt whatsoever that equality, fairness, meritocracy, openness and diversity of thought are the most important qualities that any organisation can have.

At IG we know that to win in rapidly-changing global markets, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion are immaterial. Diversity of thought is not only the right thing to do – it makes sound commercial sense too.

IG now has a total of four women on its board, which already represents 36% of the total.

women in finance

We cannot publish this article without having Natallia Hunik in it. She is a Chief Revenue Officer at Advanced Markets. Being a recognised industry leader in the development of international business and creating and leading high performing FX sales teams, she has more than 8 years’ experience in the financial field.

Natallia Hunik

Prior to joining Advanced Markets and Fortex team, Natallia served in executive leadership role as Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing at Boston Technologies.

LR: Natallia, please name at least one inspiring female trader who has been a role model for you, and why.

Natallia: I am a little ashamed of myself, but I did have to think twice before I could come up with a few prominent female names in the financial world (as the names that first come to mind are mogul investors like Soros, Jim Simons, Ray Dalio etc). This clearly unveils a bigger issue, one that has to do with a lack of diversity in this male-dominated industry. It is hardly surprising though, as there are only 20 women Fortune 500 CEOs, so we find ourselves with a glaring numbers problem.

However, probably just like many of my industry colleagues, there are many amazing women in the industry whom I admire, follow and look up to. One of these women is Kathy Lien, who is now an internationally-published author and Managing Director of BK Asset Management.

I have been following Kathy from when I first started in the FX business, and was eager to learn about the exciting world of FX. Back then I found Daily FX to be an excellent resource and really enjoyed Kathy and Boris’ research and market commentary.

Later on, the Daily FX portal that Kathy created, and ran for many years, was sold to IG Index for a whopping $40 million!

Kathy remains very active on Twitter providing her commentary and market insights to the wider audience. As an expert in global currencies, Kathy is often quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg, Marketwatch, Associated Press, and other leading news publications. She also appears regularly on CNBC and Sky Business. Kathy is definitely a powerful FX influencer and a role model for female leaders in FX to follow.

LR: What can we learn from women in the financial world?

Natallia: It’s no secret that women are dramatically under-represented in the FX world and are often stigmatized due to preconceived notions that society has about the roles women “should” play. If you look at any panel discussions at FX conferences, women are clearly in the minority, if present at all. The only panels where women are omnipresent are marketing-related ones, further promoting an idea that women are only good for “certain types” of jobs.

The linchpin of this issue is a common belief in a woman’s natural fitness for family, and a man’s for work. But women are resilient, and these obstacles that society creates only helps make them stronger. Most of my female colleagues are overachievers, they work harder than most people to accomplish their goals. They work towards breaking the glass ceiling every day, inch by inch.

LR: Why is it important to have female role models in the financial world?

Natallia: Research in the field has demonstrated that women’s leadership development is hampered when they don’t see leaders who share their gender. When the leader type is very narrowly defined, it only reinforces stereotypes about who the “real leaders” are. That is why it’s important for women in the industry to share their success stories, take credit for their accomplishments and become mentors and role models for their fellow colleagues. These relationships provide career, and emotional, support and role modelling that helps women advance, learn, and grow.

Certainly, there are high-profile FX women leaders out there who would make excellent role models. The FX industry needs to be keeping up with the diversity, and more female success stories will give other women an opportunity to see a broad and diverse range of role models.

Lily Koh

Lily Koh

Lily Koh has been trading into her fifth year now. She is a STIR trader at Goldman Sachs and a fixed income and rates specialist, as well as a Cambridge graduate.

We asked Lily the same questions, starting with the name of an inspiring female trader.

Lily: Beth Hammack, who is the current global treasurer of Goldman Sachs.

I work on the STIR/Repo trading desk. Beth was the head of Global Repo Trading before I joined GS – hence there’s a sense of connectivity and encouragement where the skillset built on my desk can pave the way to something greater in financial markets. Beth has spent 27 years at Goldman Sachs and progressed from being a junior trader to leading numerous significant risk committees which is quite an admirable feat.

Beth is also a role model for me with respect to her academic background and outside interests – we both have quantitative degrees academically and are supportive of quantitative/technical initiatives; she’s on the board of Math for America whilst I am trying to be more involved in ‘Championing Women in STEM’ initiative on top being part of ‘Traders who Code’ within GS. I also look up to a senior leader who finds time in her very busy schedule to support other female-led initiatives in the firm.

LR: What can we learn from women in the financial world?

Lily: Our CEO David Solomon, has been very vocal publicly on increasing diversity amongst senior ranks in the bank. Goldman continues to increase the focus at all levels on key female initiatives, including the ‘Women Take the Trading Floor’ panel which we hosted late last year in London. We had a good mix of prominent internal and external female figures on the panel. The common themes and takeaways from my observations of these successful women are as follows:

  1. Be confident to speak up and bring a different perspective to the table. This is applicable in roundtable discussions as well as decision-making for risk.
  2. The industry needs diversity of skillset and perspective, this allows more effective checks and balances within any team. Accept that you’re different and leverage your natural strengths.

LR: Why is it important to have female role models in the financial world?

Lily: The gender gap on pay and recruitment has been a critical agenda for many corporations. The fact that it continues to be a pressing issue tells you that successful women who climb to senior ranks can sometimes face unique challenges and adversity. Having female role models can help reduce this problem in the future, as can other initiatives such as the GG 10,000 Women program.

It goes hand in hand with a Latin phrase: ‘Ad astra per aspera’. The key is not to be exactly like your role models but rather to identify the common denominators you have with these role models – learn from what they’ve done and adapt to your new modern-day challenges in the financial world. This serves as a motivation and a constant reminder that if they could do it, you could do it too and do it your way.

Lydia Idem

Lydia Idem

Lydia Idem, herself has been a female inspiration to many, considering the amount of followers in her social channels.

She is an investment advisor who has been an investor and trader for 24 years. Lydia has been a special guest on Yahoo! Finance and TD Ameritrade Network; featured in FORBES Magazine and CNNMoney; and co-author/contributor to The StockTwits Edge and Trading: The Best of The Best.

In 2014, she launched FM Capital Group LLC, a registered investment advisory firm with a mission to empower more people to become smart, impactful investors. Lydia was recently named #22 of the Twitter Accounts Investors Need to Follow and #3 of the Top 10 Women To Follow In Finance. In 2019, she joined Bay Street Capital Holdings as Sr Investment Advisor:

My role models in the industry? For me, it’s been @telaholcomb. She trades stocks and options while I trade forex. But her business is impeccable and she has helped so many people. When I transitioned from trading my own account to working with others, her business model helped inform the good and right way to do it.

Knowing that cryptocurrency is here to stay, we asked Crypto Wendy O who her female role models and inspirations are – she replied that it’s Lisa Edwards, because she has been trading professionally for many years and is always willing to help others.

Crypto Wendy O

Crypto Wendy O

Wendy became interested in cryptocurrency & blockchain technology in 2017. She has been in crypto full time since the summer of 2018 & focuses on providing transparent marketing & media solutions for blockchain companies globally, along with hosting face to face meetups and educating the community.

LR: What can we learn from women in the financial world, Wendy?

Wendy: I think when we are talking about professions gender is meaningless to an extent, yes in other aspects of life it is important to recognize gender. But when we are talking about trading, gender is not important. However, if you are in marketing and need to find a way to reach a female audience for a product you want to sell, then yes, we should focus on gender

According to Wendy, with the current state of the world having a female presence is important because we are not yet at the stage of equality. Females are needed to push the future generations to get excited about improving their quality of life. This cannot be done without role models. As a mother I strive to be the best I can for my daughter and others interested in joining the financial revolution: Bitcoin.

We reached out to Claudia Gonzalez too – she is a Financial Advisor at Kovar Wealth Management. Her female inspiration is Yanely Espinal, also known as Miss Be Helpful. Here’s what she says:

Claudia Gonzalez

Claudia Gonzalez

Yanely Espinal has not only inspired me to trade but to use my voice to educate. She got herself out of debt, started investing, and is using her experience to help many others in similar situations. I aspire to make a difference just like she has done in other people’s lives.

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