Wall Street wants more fe­male traders, but old per­cep­tions die hard

Financial Chronicle - - MISCELLANY - ANNA IRRERA

AS a bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent at Duke Uni­ver­sity, Priya Karani thought she did not have the right skills to break into the heav­ily male-dom­i­nated field of Wall Street trad­ing.

“I was never in­ter­ested in a ca­reer in trad­ing at a bank be­cause I didn’t know it was an op­tion,” Karani said.

A decade later, Karani is a di­rec­tor at Bar­clays PLC in New York where she trades health­care de­riv­a­tives and helps the bank’s ef­fort to at­tract more women to trad­ing by talk­ing to fe­male college stu­dents about her job.

De­spite such ef­forts Karani still rep­re­sents a small mi­nor­ity since few women ap­ply for jobs in trad­ing, de­terred by its decades-old rep­u­ta­tion as an “al­pha-male ter­ri­tory” and mis­con­cep­tions about skills it re­quires. “Trad­ing is a hard one to crack,” said Jon Re­gan, a head of global mar­kets for ex­ec­u­tive sea-rch firm Sh­effield Ha­worth. “I don’t think it has changed much, although firms are work­ing hard to im­prove their gen­der ra­tios.”

The firm, which works for many lead­ing in­vest­ment banks and con­ducts stud­ies on be­half of its clients, found women gen­er­ally ac­count for 12 to 15 per cent of trad­ing roles, he said.

There are no in­dus­try­wide data but the Fi­nan­cial In­dus­try Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity, which over­sees US bro­ker­ages, said women ac­counted for about 28 per cent of in­di­vid­u­als reg­is­tered with it at the end of 2017. Those num­bers in­clude not just traders, but also in­vest­ment ad­vis­ers.

Banks’ ef­forts to change that have in­ten­si­fied over the past year with the emer­gence of the #MeToo move­ment and grow­ing share­holder calls for dis­clo­sures on work­force di­ver­sity.

For ex­am­ple, Cit­i­group and Bank of Amer­ica re­leased in­for­ma­tion on di­ver­sity and gen­der pay gap for the first time this year in re­sponse to calls from an in­vest­ment ad­vi­sory firm. Ma­jor em­ploy­ers have also been obliged to re­port gen­der pay gap data for their Bri­tish oper­a­tions, which for banks showed women un­der­rep­re­sented in higher earn­ing roles. Bar­clays’ Sopho­more Spring­board pro­gram that Karani sup­ports is one of sev­eral ini­tia­tives banks have in­tro­duced re­cently to make trad­ing rooms more di­verse.

Cit­i­group Inc does college re­cruit­ment fo­cused on in­form­ing young women about trad­ing ca­reers and of­fers them in­ter­view coach­ing, while JPMor­gan Chase & Co has been run­ning an in­ter­nal pro­gram for the past two years called Women Who Trade, which of­fers net­work­ing for fe­male traders of all lev­els, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial re­cruits.

“We are do­ing a bet­ter job at en­sur­ing an­a­lyst classes have a bet­ter in­take (of women),” said Clau­dia Jury, global co-head of cur­ren­cies and emerg­ing mar­kets at JPMor­gan and a se­nior spon­sor for the pro­gram. The bank has hired around 30 women through the pro­gram since 2016, it said.

Gold­man Sachs Group Inc started its Trader Acad­emy in Lon­don last year, of­fer­ing eight months of men­tor­ing, net­work­ing and job shad­ow­ing for 16 fe­male college stu­dents. The bank plans to ex­pand the pro­gram to the Amer­i­cas this year and Asia soon af­ter.

Gold­man has said it wants women to even­tu­ally make up half of its over­all work­force, but ac­knowl­edges trad­ing is far from that goal. “Hav­ing women in par­tic­u­lar from a trad­ing per­spec­tive has al­ways been a chal­lenge for us,” said Ja­nine Glasen­berg, the bank’s head of grad­u­ate re­cruit­ing in Europe, the West Asia and Africa. Banks are so keen to im­prove their di­ver­sity ra­tios that one de­clined to make young fe­male traders avail­able for in­ter­views out of fear they might get poached by com­peti­tors.

Share­holder pres­sure aside, man­agers and some stud­ies say hir­ing more women sim­ply makes busi­ness sense.

David Hes­keth, chief ex­ec­u­tive of a Lon­don-based startup Trad­ingHub said trad­ing sim­u­la­tions the com­pany ran in 2014 and 2015 for hun­dreds of in­terns as part of banks’ re­cruit­ment pro­grams showed women made fewer trades and took fewer risks. They would also break the rules less than half as often as men. In all, hav­ing more women on a team could trans­late into sav­ings on bro­ker­age fees, loss pro­vi­sions and fines.

“That is kind of nuts, if you think some firms are get­ting fines in the hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars,” Hes­keth said.

Yet for­mer fe­male traders in­ter­viewed by Reuters de­scribe an in­dus­try, which has left be­hind dis­crim­i­na­tory at­ti­tudes com­mon only a decade ago, but where women re­main heav­ily out­num­bered and can some­times feel like out­siders in a “boys’ club.”

Simmy Grover, who worked as an eq­uity trader at Mor­gan Stan­ley in Lon­don be­tween 2006 and 2009, re­called how just over a decade ago one in­vest­ment bank was ready to of­fer her a job, but just could not imag­ine her on the trad­ing floor. “I re­mem­ber walk­ing into an in­ter­view and I was asked why I had ap­plied for trad­ing be­cause I was a woman and I should be ap­ply­ing to sales.”

Grover, now a re­searcher at the Uni­ver­sity College Lon­don, said she ended up work­ing as a trader else­where any­way. While she said she never felt marginal­ized on the job, she would some­times get over­looked by bro­kers host­ing so­cial events- typ­i­cally in­volv­ing watch­ing a soc­cer game and a trip to the pub.

Divya Kr­ish­nan, who was a trader be­tween 2009 and 2014 as part of Citi’s pro­gram for quan­ti­ta­tive an­a­lysts, said in her time the bank was al­ready try­ing to help young re­cruits, of­fer­ing net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and link­ing them up with ex­pe­ri­enced fe­male traders.

They told them, she re­calls, to be con­fi­dent and avoid apol­o­gis­ing too much, some­thing she said women tended to do.

While work­place cul­ture is slow to change, banks fo­cus their out­reach in col­leges on broad­en­ing a pool of po­ten­tial can­di­dates by dis­pelling the myth that only math wiz­ards or those with fi­nance de­grees can suc­ceed in trad­ing. “We spend a lot of the time en­cour­ag­ing women who have lib­eral arts back­grounds to look at this busi­ness,” said Amanda Magliaro, a manag­ing di­rec­tor and head of global struc­tured fi­nance dis­tri­bu­tion at Cit­i­group.

US author­ity said women ac­counted for about 28% of in­di­vid­u­als reg­is­tered with it at the end of 2017

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