Banks

International Women's Day 2021

Women in Trade 2021 – Banks

Neha Noronha, ANZ Bank
Sally Robinson, ANZ Bank
Puja Kumar, Bank of America
Valeria Sica, Citi
Elif Kuman Saran, Garanti BBVA
Neha Saxena, IndusInd Bank
Poppie Simmonds, Lloyds Banking Group
Alicia Garcia Herrero, Natixis
Elitza Kavrakova, Raiffeisen Bank International

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Neha Noronha, ANZ

Why did you choose a career in this sector?

Interestingly the sector chose me! I started in the ANZ Management Trainee program as a risk specialist and that’s where I spent the initial years of my career. But like most roles in my career, my move into trade finance was a combination of putting myself out there, a mentor/friend that championed me, and serendipity! I initially moved into trade finance in a business management role, which was a great segue into, and provided a wide angled view of the business of Trade Finance. I have subsequently worked in Trade Product Management and am currently in the exciting world of Trade Distribution. During my early days in Trade I was quite daunted with all the jargon as Trade Finance is an area filled with specialists, however my early learning was facilitated by supportive senior trade professionals at ANZ. The reason I love the field today is because it is probably one of the most tangible parts of institutional banking.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in trade and insurance?

To women starting out their careers in trade finance or looking to move into the area I would advise them not to not be afraid to ask questions and clarify things and to not be daunted by the terminology. Also it is important to remember, whilst it is an area of technical expertise, it is at its core a very intuitive and commercial field. Through trade finance instruments we try to mitigate the risks associated with the import and export of goods. Lastly it is important to put yourself and your aspirations out there, the industry is full of skilled professionals who hold a wealth of knowledge and are happy to share it.

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Sally Robinson, ANZ Bank

What things do you like most about your job?

I manage ANZ’s Guarantee and SBLC product architecture globally. This covers structuring Guarantee transactions for ANZ’s customers in our home markets and international business.  I enjoy the diversity of the transactions themselves, and working with my expert colleagues in each market to help craft a solution for our customers.  I also manage the product architecture end-to-end, which means thinking about channels, risk management, operations, sales strategies, customer experience and portfolio management.  The number of queries and emails in my inbox is diverse, so I’m always working on something different. 

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in trade?

My best piece of advice is don’t be afraid to learn, as you’ll grow.  Trade can be dominated by industry jargon and that does put some people off.  It’s a bit like learning a language. While it’s confronting at first, once you start to unpick and decode that language everything becomes clearer.  Trade is also full of industry experts who like nothing more than to share their expertise, and importantly teach others.  With a growth mindset, what starts as learning becomes knowledge and very quickly expertise. This is definitely the case if you throw yourself into something like product management, where eventually you’ll know every aspect of your product, or most importantly, a way to find the answer. 

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Puja Kumar, Bank of America

How do we attract more women into careers within the trade?

Give women the opportunity to grow to top positions- allow them to shine! There are a lot of women in trade finance, especially so in the junior and mid career levels, but many do not reach the top. It is therefore important to create equal opportunities for women, giving them a chance to overcome challenges, build their careers and reach the senior levels.

Over and above equal opportunities, a good network is important. A network that provides role models and inspires women to drive success in their own careers. This is especially important for the juniors so that they see that others have thrived and they can achieve the same success as well.

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

You need a dream, a goal and passion! And go all out in achieving it – visualise that dream every day and you will see yourselves carving a path to achieve it. Women tend to shy away from senior positions because they lack the confidence or believe others may be better than them. So I say, push yourself, believe in the skills and capabilities that you bring to the table. No one can take that away from you.

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Valeria Sica, Citi

What can women entrepreneurs do themselves to prepare their businesses better to obtain the financing they need?

In any business, organization and transparency are key. A well-defined strategy with the right structure and execution plan are the backbone for a successful company. It is important to have a good understanding of the potential risks in all areas of the company and contingency plans to mitigate those potential risks. The best approach would be to partner with a financial advisor to analyse the capital needs and work together to develop a strategy to obtain the financing needed for the company. Capital investments and short-term working capital needs should be considered for the medium and long term. As you work with different sources to finance your business you will learn the processes and key factors related to each business component. By working with a financial advisor this may streamline the overall process and reduce the effort and time required to have a compelling case and a productive output.

How can we bring more qualified and professional women in to leading trade negotiations?

We should start by nurturing and encouraging young female professionals to develop their careers in this space. The trade business remains an opportunity area for more female leadership. In my twenty-nine years’ career in the trade business I have encountered several brilliant female professionals, but we are always the few within a male dominated environment. I believe that international organizations like the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are critical to drive this agenda to identify and promote senior women into Trade negotiations. Trade is a complex business and women typically tend to have good attention to detail, in my mind it is a perfect match. Having more women playing a key role in trade negotiations will drive a more balanced approach, representing multiple perspectives and leading to improved outcomes.

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Trust yourself and give it time. Sometimes it is difficult to see the longer term because we learn the possibilities as we move forward. I admire those individuals who know from an early age what their career is going to look like, that wasn’t me. When I am not clear what I want, or what is right for me at a particular moment, I think about what I don’t want and work my way back to what makes sense for me. I always think about the options in front of me, analyse pros and cons and make my decision to move forward. When I look back, I always respect those decisions because I know they were taken with the best information I had at the time.

Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong, you are the only one that knows what is best for you. Most importantly, make sure that you enjoy what you are doing because that is going to bring out the best of you. Careers are for the long run, don’t be impatient, give yourself time to build it right – remember, the stronger the foundation, the higher you can go, don’t rush to failure.

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Elif Kuman Saran, Garanti BBVA

Is now an exciting time to be in trade finance? Why?

I think it is now extremely important and exciting to be in trade finance. Currently, the way we are doing business -not only the business even the way we are living – is changing. Likewise, the traditional way of financing trade is also evolving. New technologies disrupted the paper and operations-based trade finance and now focus is on paperless and more effective processes.  More importantly now, there is awareness and focus on environmental and social impacts, and we see more and more sector players acting. The important takeaway for us is, seeing this disruption as an opportunity to redesign our processes accordingly. Even if it will be a challenge at first, I believe in turn it will bring more sustainable products and services in the field

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in trade?

As a professional, I would say be a continuous learner. It is important for every discipline, but it is especially important for trade and trade-related areas which are evolving very quickly. To keep up the pace we need to update ourselves continuously. Even if it can be hard to see short-term direct benefits do not be demotivated and focus on long-term effects of it.

As a woman and a mother, I would remind that we are experts on multitasking, but we are not superheroes nor have superpowers. Do not be discouraged by one-off instances. It is just ok if you feel that you failed or if you feel that you are far away from your goals, do not give up, take your time, and when you feel ready turn back to play.

Article by Elif, for TFG: Removing Barriers and Empowering Women in Trade

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Neha Saxena, IndusInd Bank

Is now an exciting time to be in trade? Why?

There has never been a better time than now! Trade has been recognised as a critical tool for economic development. The global trade finance gap is estimated to be around $1.5 trillion and is expected to have widened with to COVID-19 pandemic. Impediments like trade sanctions and financial restrictions undermine global corporation and growth. As we steer our way to economic recovery, companies are looking for innovative solutions to manage their balance sheet and support their channel partners in a cost effective manner. Exciting trends in Trade Finance are emerging such as digitisation, sustainable trade finance, export of services, among others. This field is hankering for new talent and creative ideas. The time is ripe for creating more jobs, increasing women’s participation in workforce and improving their socio-economic welfare.  

How do we attract more women into careers into an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men?

There is a compelling need to address the wide gender gap and boost the female workforce in the economy. Policymakers need to play an active role in up-skilling and incentivising the participation of woman in the trade finance sector. Furthermore, organisations need to create a strong merit-based culture, where there is no place for gender inequality and zero tolerance to sexual harassment at workplace. Men need to be more accepting of a woman climbing up the corporate ladder. We, as a society, need to create an ecosystem where a woman feels empowered to take up a career of her choice and grow in her professional life, without any guilt.

Article, written by Neha for TFG: Disruption in Global Supply Chain: Can Emerging Economies Play a Bigger Role?

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Poppie Simmonds, Lloyds Banking Group

Is now an exciting time to be in trade finance? Why?

Absolutely! As my degree is in Computer Science, I naturally find technology extremely interesting, and therefore it is great to witness the intersection between technology and Trade Finance develop, something that was long overdue, but it really feels now that we’re at a key turning point. For me, the technologies used do not necessarily have to be overly complex, we just need to consider how we can apply them to Trade, using them in new ways to solve problems. For example, I wrote an article last year on how public key cryptography works, which isn’t a new technology at all, but it’s about how we can apply this to the Trade Finance space to enable new technological developments.

What’s the most important piece of advice from you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in trade?

Trade finance has come a long way, and we are now seeing a shift where more people at the start of their career are getting into the sector and thriving. Three years ago I hadn’t even heard of a Letter of Credit, so I’d say stop worrying about how good someone else is at their job and comparing yourself to them thinking you don’t have enough experience to start a career in Trade. No one is born knowing everything! They too had their own learning journey. If they could get to where they are, there is no reason why you can’t either. Stay focused on your own development and make the most of the resources and mentors out there to help you.  

Read Poppie’s latest contribution for Trade Finance Talks: The “key” to digital trade finance: Public Key Cryptography explained

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Alicia Garcia Herrero, Natixis

Why did you choose a career in this sector?

As a young individual, I was always very interested about global issues and, in particular, why some countries had managed to develop more successfully than others. Economics was a natural choice to address this question and similar ones. I started my career at an international organisation, the International Monetary Fund, where I was able to explore in real time why certain countries were progressing more than others in economic terms.  While learning from reality, I kept on studying towards obtaining my PhD in economics as I felt there were so many things I still needed to learn. The funny thing is that I have the very same feeling today, working for a bank as economist but also in think tanks and teaching at university. So many things we still need to discover as to how countries and individuals can do better economically and such an important question still today.

Challenges are what make us who we are. At the beginning of my career, most of the challenges were related to my lack of experience and how others perceived me. Overtime becomes his or her own challenge and I would argue this is especially true for women. This is because we need to come to terms with the reality that we need to split our aspirations and energy between two very important but distinct objectives: career and family. Some women even have three as they need – or want – to take care of elderly family members. Such self-imposed challenges are the hardest but, once overcome, also the most rewarding.

Watch our video interview with Alicia: Natixis Chief Economist Insights – How well are Asian markets faring?

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Elitza Kavrakova, Raiffeisen Bank International AG

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Believe in yourself and your intuition, only you know what is good for you (and not the others!). Do not be afraid, you are stronger than you sometimes believe. Stay authentic and network.

In order to make a career, you need to want it; and you need to be aware that there will always be challenges along the way. What matters, is how you deal with those challenges. Of course, I faced challenges, being the first female salesperson in the team (I had meetings where I was asked if I really was the representative of the bank), and in addition, always had to juggle being a manager with being a mother. On the other hand, I am happy that I had and have line managers (male and female) who very much stood behind me and supported my learning and development, as well as having a great team. For me, the female to female support is another essential factor in order to encourage and have more women in leadership positions.

TFG spoke to Elitza Kavrakova, Head of Institutional Clients East, and Martina Zimmerl at Raiffeisen Bank International on trade finance in CEE

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