Insights from female leaders in investment management

As the Lancaster University Investment and Finance Society navigates the complexities of the financial sector, we consistently seek new ways to identify intersectionalities and explore these in depth. Our newest effort to this end is the development of our Women in Finance initiative, which aims to explore the roles, expectations and experiences of women within the industry, and how these have evolved over time.

At our launch event, Harvard alumna Natasha Briginsky and LSE alumna Naomi Haynes spoke about their experiences of breaking into and thriving in their financial careers.

Natasha shared unique insights into her move to America from the former Soviet Union, and her experience of assimilating into the capitalistic ecosystem. She explained her journey through Blackstone, JP Morgan and The Capital Group as she built a successful multi-decade career, engaging in both buy and sell-side operations while actively experiencing the transformation of  the industry at large.

Naomi spoke about her multifaceted experience progressing from the trading floor to an executive office, an asset management division and eventually an independent entrepreneurial venture. She highlighted the unique challenges of being a minority in the workplace, and the value in repositioning inherent differences as unique enablers of excellence. She made a strong case for networking as a valuable tool in this regard, pointing to the widespread success of the Women’s Network she developed and championed through her 14-year career at Fidelity International.

In addition to sharing their personal experiences, the speakers walked us through some basics of the financial services value chain, including types and structures of banks, and some of their functions, including securities trading, IPOs, Mergers &Acquisitions advisory, restructuring services and the management of assets such as private equity, venture capital, real estate and investment funds. They emphasised the importance of dedicating time and effort to researching these options, identifying the right fit for us and iteratively adapting this to reflect our evolving skills, contexts and interests.

They also shared the following best practices:

  1. Prepare. Create a five-year plan and ensure you pursue the right ventures and resources to successfully see it through.
  2. Read every day. Make use of university subscriptions and develop the discipline to engage with resources like the Financial Times on a regular basis.
  3. Network. Discuss new financial insights with your peers and reach out to more experienced professionals for deeper discussions and advice. Leverage avenues such as workshops, events and professional networking sites.
  4. Specialise. An advanced academic degree (such as an MBA or CFA) will enable not only deep professional expertise but also significant flexibility in your financial career.
  5. Experiment. Create a virtual paper portfolio. Pick some stocks that you think might do well and track them over the course of a financial period. Use platforms such as Yahoo or Google Finance, and industry specific newsletters, to enable this process. This will help you explore the language and mindset of investors, and develop you into a better candidate for your desired financial role.
  6. Be passionate. Pursue work that truly stimulates your mind and purpose. Actively seek a healthy work-life balance to ensure a sustainable sense of fulfilment.

It was refreshing to see female superstars take the stage and recount their paths to professional success. We were particularly touched by their warmth and patience with breaking down complex concepts into simple but powerful ideas that resonated with everyone. We are grateful for the incredible value that this event brought to our members and are excited to connect with more powerful women who can augment the underlying narrative.

Sharu G. Iyer, Chair: Women In Finance Initiative, LUIFS