International Women’s Day: Changing faces at the top
An increasing number of women are taking on global leadership roles in the clearing industry
Historically there has been a lack of women in financial leadership roles. But times are changing and there is no better illustration than within the clearing community.
Over the past five years, several women have been appointed to global leadership roles at some of the top firms in the business of brokering and clearing futures, options and swaps. These firms, known as futures commission merchants, or FCMs, in the US, provide asset managers, commodity producers and other market participants with access to the global derivatives markets. They also handle the trade processing and risk management functions that are essential in these markets.
These changes at the top are also being reflected in the composition of FIA’s board of directors. For many years the board consisted of just one or two women. Now, six leaders from the FCM community sit on the global board, along with women from other parts of the industry. What’s more, market data shows that these six women run FCMs that represent more than half of all customer-segregated funds held and reported to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
In recognition of International Women’s Day, MarketVoice spoke to these leaders – Alicia Crighton at Goldman Sachs, Federica Mazzucato at UBS, Mariam Rafi at Citi, Emma Richardson at JP Morgan, Sharon Shi at GH Financials and Emma West at Bank of America – who share their professional journeys and their advice to women looking to advance their careers in the industry.
Alicia Crighton, Goldman Sachs
"A year ago, four women were confirmed as new CFTC Commissioners, which is incredibly exciting. And there is greater diversity when you look at the leadership across the bank FCM community. FIA has benefitted from the transitions that firms are making and as leadership changes and succession plans come into play. Previously I was one of two women on the FIA board; now I am one of many and we have other minority groups represented as well," says Alicia Crighton, global co-head of futures and head of the OTC and prime clearing businesses at Goldman Sachs.
Federica Mazzucato, UBS
"There are challenges still in the industry and women are still a very big minority. On a lot of the committees and senior decision-making bodies I sit in, I am still the only woman running a business or having this type of responsibility. My generation will probably not reach a perfect equality, but we can be the conduits to make a huge step forward for future generations. I feel we bear a responsibility for other women to follow, to leave the industry in a much better shape than it was when we joined," says Federica Mazzucato, global head of execution and clearing services at UBS.
Mariam Rafi, Citi
"Nobody is going to be a better advocate for you than yourself. Women sometimes do their job and expect that good things will automatically follow because they're doing good work. Unfortunately, that isn't necessarily the case. People must know that you're doing good work, and that can't just be your manager. You need to know that people around the organization know you, that people externally know you, and that you're building a brand for yourself,” says Mariam Rafi, global head of futures, clearing and FX prime brokerage product at Citi.
Emma Richardson, JP Morgan
"Take every opportunity to learn, to network, to expand your own knowledge and the value that you can add to an organization. Push yourself out of your comfort zone to really develop yourself. It's on all of us to push ourselves to be able to keep on learning. Opportunities do present themselves and the more fungible and flexible you are, the more you will be considered for stretch opportunities,” says Emma Richardson, global head of the futures and derivatives clearing business at JP Morgan.
Sharon Shi, GH Financials
"I understand how difficult it can be for women to play multiple roles and try to keep the right balance between career life and personal life, which means that we really have to use our time more efficiently and smartly so that we have sufficient energy and bandwidth to achieve our career goals," says Sharon Shi, CEO of GH Financials. "Hard work, diligence and not being afraid to step out of your comfort zone are among the merits I would encourage my female peers in the industry to try to develop.”
Emma West, Bank of America
"Don’t leave anything to chance or hope, you need to be truly good at what you do. 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,” says Emma West, global head of futures and options, OTC clearing, FX prime brokerage and fixed income prime brokerage at Bank of America.