European Women in Finance – Rebecca Healey – It’s not the destination but the journey

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Rebecca Healey talks to Lynn Strongin Dodds about Covid, Capital Markets and Career.

How do you see your role in the current crisis?
The initial question from market participants and regulators alike as the crisis hit was “what will this mean for markets”? We wrote a series of weekly reports outlining exactly the impact on liquidity formation and execution performance. But this is just the initial step. The real question is what will the long-term implications of the crisis be? The industry is already undergoing a major evolution not just due to MiFID II but also because of the need to embrace sustainability as a mainstream investment objective and the necessary digitalisation of the investment process to make this happen. We started writing on these topics back in 2019 highlighting the huge opportunities available to the industry as we embrace this change. Covid-19 is just the first landmark of this evolving journey.

What is the important data the industry needs?
First and foremost, the industry needs accurate data rather than hype and noise. We are still an industry in a considerable state of flux post the introduction of one of the largest pieces of financial legislation ever introduced and human beings are inherently resistant to change. In times of crisis, we revert to what has been done before but to do so now would be a mistake. There is a massive opportunity for the industry to fully digitalise and revolutionise the way individuals work, improving output and investment opportunities for the wider economy. We need to step up and embrace that change even if it does require upending the status quo.

How do you hope to shape the debate?
I have been in an incredibly fortunate position over the last decade in being able to work with some of the most knowledgeable and forward-thinking individuals in the industry who are willing to share their ideas, knowledge and experience. That has enabled me to provide a voice for the buy-side to air their views collectively and impartially and help the industry move towards meeting the needs of the 21st century.

How do you think the industry has coped?
Remarkably well. Six months ago, the concept of a trader being able to work remotely was considered impossible and a high-risk strategy. Today’s we’re seeing entire trading teams, even trading floors working remotely. The technology has held up, the individuals have adjusted and adapted and there will be huge positives emerging from this.

What do you think will be the long-term impact on the industry organizationally as well as culturally?
Work life balance will be at the forefront. Traders who assumed that working 12 hours a day away from their family was just part and parcel of what they had to do to succeed in the City are realising that they can work from home. For those with young children, this is a game-changer and will open the door to greater diversity on the trading desk which has historically struggled to attract female talent. Recent debates on whether or not to reduce market hours to alleviate the stress and the likelihood of burnout could to some extent be circumvented if traders are able to continue working from home – the UK hours may not exactly fit in with the school run but the increased level of flexibility will undoubtedly attract more women than having to commit to working 12 hours a day, 5 days a week away from their families – and that includes looking after elderly parents as well as young children.

Rebecca Healey, Global Head of Markets Strategy & Insight, Liquidnet

Secondly, will the City continue to look as it does?
With cost efficiencies front and centre of every CEO’s current considerations, is it necessary to have 5 floors of office space in the City or Mayfair? In the same way as traders are now able to work from home, the relocation of trading desks to BCP (Business Continuity Programme) sites in Slough offer attractive reductions in being able to run businesses more cost effectively.

On the career front, is the type of career you envisioned? If not. what had been the plan?
Not even remotely! My plan was to join the Foreign Office – which ironically, I was able to have a second stab at when I was living in the Middle East. To get to join the Foreign Office, I temped on City floors during the holidays to pay my way through university. My colleague was Russian, my boss was Lebanese – it was this cultural diversity and the characters on the trading floor that attracted me to the industry as well as being able to witness first-hand what impact markets have on the direct economy, influencing all our lives.

Who were your role models and the most influential people in your career on both the personal as well as professional and educational front?
Surprisingly some of the individuals who were most influential in my life were not always positive ones! Sitting next to one of the original ‘Flaming Ferraris’ provided the perfect case study for roles not to follow! The trading floor back in the early 1990s was split between those who just got on and made sure they did a good job regardless of the circumstances, and others consumed by ego who quickly burned themselves out. But it was also an era of tremendous opportunity. Right back in the early days of electronic trading when you had to watch eight screens simultaneously, I was lucky enough to hear a half hour pitch by Richard Balarkas which was a light bulb moment. I could see my job would soon be replaced by a machine so I switched to educating myself about electronic trading and its future impact on market structure – that was in 2002 and I haven’t looked back since.

Do you think mentors are important? What role do they play?
Having someone to guide you at crucial points in your career is vital. However, sometimes that is not always available but that doesn’t mean you give up. If you can’t climb the mountain, you can still find a way round it.

Did you have mentors and do you mentor?
Mentors for women on the trading floor back then were few and far between and it was tough to forge a path through. But I was the first electronic trader registered at Credit Suisse and the first trader to get flexible working for childcare (in 2004). Those achievements were not easy and to have had a mentor to discuss my progression would have been great at the time, but I still made it happen – where there is a will, there is always a way. However, it is not always the achievement but what you learn about yourself and others along the way; what you learn on the journey rather than at the destination. That is the single most important lesson I have learnt in my career – never stop learning, never stop evolving; that’s what ensures the difference between a job and a career. The second most important lesson is to make sure you work for a boss you like and respect. That is not always possible, but it makes a huge difference to your career progression when you do like your boss as that’s when you are able to learn to your maximum.

In terms of who I mentor, I hope my door has always been open to anyone who is looking to get a foothold in the industry but in my market structure role at Liquidnet, I have had the pleasure to work with two very talented young ladies – Charlotte Decuyper and Lara Jacobs.

How have things changed in terms of diversity and career progression since you started working? What further progress needs to be made? Do you think one day we will not need a Women in Finance award? Will they just be Finance Awards ?
My first experience of a “woman in a finance event” turned out to be a lesson in how to apply make-up properly! Probably very well intentioned, but soul-destroying at the time. Promoting the need for more women in finance was necessary at the time, but as with all concepts there is a natural evolution. Rather than this being male vs female, there is a need to adapt to a more diverse working culture that embraces all individuals, fostering a spirit of open discussion and evolution in financial services. How about “Improving the Finance Industry” Awards?

  • Rebecca Healey is Global Head of Markets Strategy & Insight at Liquidnet

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IF YOU’D LIKE TO NOMINATE REBECCA (OR ANYONE ELSE) FOR ONE OF THE EUROPEAN WOMEN IN FINANCE AWARDS PLEASE CLICK HERE

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