The #buysidewomen campaign was launched at the 7th annual Alpha Trader Forum Global Summit in London on the 6th and 7th February 2019. This initiative was spearheaded by Anita Karppi, MD, whose career in the financial markets has spanned over 20 years. It is evident that the ratio of buy-side women to men is very low in buy-side trading positions and Anita’s belief is that more women need to apply for roles to be more equally represented within the trading community. With initiatives such as State Street Global Advisors’ #Fearless Girl campaign, there was no better platform for Anita to launch The Buy-side women campaign.
Over the 2-day summit, which was attended by 160 global heads and senior equities, fixed income and FX buy-side traders, Anita was joined by ladies who currently run buy-side trading desks at their firms within these asset classes. The afternoon session on both days headlined ‘A head trader’s perspective – organising the trading desk and managing staff careers’ was led by an all ladies panel which was a huge success. The first day kicked off with Anita being joined by Eden Simmer, head of global trading at PIMCO, Cathy Gibson, head of trading at Royal London Asset Management and Vernita Exum, head of equities (Europe) at Vanguard. Day 2 saw Louise Drummond, deputy global head of execution at Aberdeen Investments and Sharon Ruffles, head of fixed income trading at State Street Global Advisors taking centre stage.
Discussion over both days resulted in frank and open dialogue as each of the panellists shared their personal experiences of how they organise their desks, cope with the challenges of managing a team and how to get a work life balance. The panellists engaged with the audience which stimulated further topics of discussion ranging from paternity leave for fathers to suggestions of childcare at work for traders and coping with ‘burn out’. The closed- door environment allowed the audience to open up, respond and ask the panel questions on topics that have previously been viewed as taboo.
The discussion also allowed for the audience to air views, with some responding that the initiative might be perceived as a “feminist campaign”.
The initiative, is however about introducing and encouraging more women to apply for buy-side trading roles – rather than an employer choosing a candidate because they are a woman.
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Why are there so few women in buy-side trading?
There were a lot of thought-provoking comments that came from the 2-day discussion on this topic and with the limited time, we only scratched the surface. To drill down to understanding why and more importantly, what can be done to improve the gender balance for the future, it is clear that the focus should be on the next generation of young women.
Our panellists agreed that their firms tend to hire from the same pools of universities, which in itself, are already heavily male dominated. Unless firms make a conscious effort to change their recruitment profile, the majority of the next generation of buy-side traders will already be pre-determined to be men. Group discussion at the global summit suggested that firms would benefit from broadening their search criteria for new recruits and looking beyond the usual maths and science degree courses.
The perception of the banking and finance job market may not be inspiring and positive after the financial crisis of 2007/2008. With media reports on heavy sanctions for investment firms, cinematic movies and televised programmes depicting trading and the financial world as corrupt and more often than not, fictional characters based on male- dominated roles, this does not help the cause. Interestingly, it was mentioned at the global summit group discussion that some people perceive employment in the trading world as ‘working for the devil’.
The next generation of women considering high-flying careers in the financial world should not be deterred or discriminated by the fact that at some point, they may need to take a break from work to raise a family, as nature intended. Our panellists, many of whom have had children, are living proof that it is possible to have both a family and career, with one head trader working 4 days a week.
The debate unveiled that a few buy-side firms have already established staff to cover those taking parental leave and holidays and as the #buysidewomen campaign gets stronger, we hope there will be a shift in attitudes to accommodate for greater diversity.
The all-star women panel agreed that women should be empowered to apply for trading jobs and jobs should be rewarded to the right candidate, regardless of gender.
The challenges in diversity, however, are not limited to gender. This is the first of an on-going series of Buy-side Initiatives by the Buy-side Trading Community (BTC) operated by K&KGC.
For more details and to get involved, become a member of the BTC or to find out more, contact Anita Karppi on firstname.lastname@example.org