Emma West was appointed global head of futures and options, OTC clearing, FX prime brokerage and fixed income prime brokerage at Bank of America in January this year. She previously ran Bank of America’s European business for futures and options and OTC clearing.
West started her career in the industry at Credit Suisse First Boston. Initially, she began on the operations side of the business before moving to the front office in sales.
“That's when I built my knowledge of the futures markets,” West says. “It was an excellent experience. Looking back it was a totally different time. Parts of futures trading were still operating under open outcry and much of the work was paper-based and manual. It proved an invaluable learning opportunity and I gained a real understanding of the business.”
West then went to work at Fimat, moving to Goldman Sachs before arriving at Merrill Lynch in 2007.
“Bank of America and Merrill combined a short while after I joined, and I saw the build-out of the OTC clearing business from scratch,” she says.
West joined Merrill Lynch as a director for the futures business in sales and was involved in the development of the OTC clearing business that began two years later in 2009. She was then promoted to head the sales and marketing team in 2011 and was appointed head of the futures and options and OTC clearing business in Europe in 2018.
As West progressed into positions of greater seniority, she continued to pave the way for others, including women and those from under-represented backgrounds.
West also dedicated time to mentoring, partnering with organisations such as Think Forward to provide long-term coaching to young people from deprived areas to help prepare them for the world of work. She also actively encouraged her team to take part in mentoring and volunteering.
“I do feel a sense of responsibility,” she says. “It’s a given that you have to perform well at work, but for me, these other areas of what we do are important too. When you show your commitment, it can help encourage others to take part.”
What advice would West give to women looking to advance their careers to senior-level positions?
“For me, it has always been about working diligently. Be curious – ask questions, put your hand up to be part of projects and to learn. Be committed. It takes time to learn your craft, and consistency and commitment are key,” she says.
“Also be thorough, don’t leave anything to chance or hope, you need to be truly good at what you do. Above this, I also think it is important to be able to express what your ambitions are, map out where you would like to be, have conversations with your manager about what you would like to achieve, and do not underestimate the power of a strong network. I always suggest people invest time in nurturing their connections and work to actively collaborate.”