Staying one step ahead
Tricia Chan, Hong Kong Sales Manager, and Lucy Brown, ETF & Hedge Fund Sales at MarketAxess talk to Lynn Strongin Dodds about navigating careers, Covid-19 and cultural nuances.
Why did you both move to MarketAxess from your previous roles? Was it in a similar position and field?
Tricia: I started off as a Summer intern at Credit Suisse and then joined the graduate programme in the technology department as a business analyst. I ended up rotating into the client connectivity team in the cash equities electronic and algorithmic trading area – that is where I first became passionate about electronic trading. After a couple of years, I decided I wanted to move to a client-facing role so I researched the different trading platforms on the market and MarketAxess was at the forefront of electronification, especially in the credit markets. I joined MarketAxess over five years ago in London to cover buyside clients.
Lucy: I started off as a trainee on the client market team at Société Générale and then moved to the emerging market and FX sales desk where I quickly became engaged by the hype and activity of the trading floor. I then joined the e-commerce FX sales desk, which was both my first permanent position and my first real touch point with electronic trading. Although it was a smaller part of the bank, it was evident that this part of the market was growing rapidly. I was interested in the position at MarketAxess because they were focusing on the electronification of the credit markets, which at the time I had not previously come across. Having now been at MarketAxess for three years it is exciting to see how much electronification in this space continues to grow.
What are your respective roles?
Tricia: I moved to Hong Kong a little over two years ago and now manage the Hong Kong sales team which covers Hong Kong and Chinese buyside clients such as asset managers, private banks and hedge funds. Electronic trading for credit is at a much more nascent stage here than in Europe, and behind asset classes such as FX and equities. My team is responsible for selling the MarketAxess platform to clients by explaining the benefits of electronic trading, such as greater efficiencies, cost effectiveness and liquidity, as well as the unique data that we have available to help clients with investment making decisions, price discovery and automated trading.
Lucy: I am part of a team that covers ETFs and hedge funds, and my role is somewhat similar to Tricia’s in that hedge funds tend to be the lesser electronified clientele, unlike for example, the asset managers who tend to trade a larger proportion electronically, across multiple asset classes. My role requires initial engagement with hedge funds explaining and outlining the benefits of credit electronic trading, and relationship management. As we move into year-end I am also going to be covering South Africa which is an exciting new challenge for me.
Was this the career you envisioned?
Tricia: I applied to universities in the US and UK and decided to go to London to study. I studied business and technology at University College London (UCL) and I originally thought that I would end up working for a technology company like Google. However, my father is in the finance industry, so I have always had an interest in finance, and at the same time the banks were proactively recruiting at UCL, so I decided to go down the technology route at a bank. I would say that I have naturally ended up in a career that combines both of my subjects of interest – finance and technology. I like that I am now in the forefront of technology innovation and disruption in the fixed income trading space.
Lucy: I would not say I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. I studied business and finance at university and I have always had a creative side, enjoying product design and drawing when growing up. At one point I was considering going into advertising, however, I got a call from SocGen to come in for an interview for a client marketing role, for which I thought I could combine both my finance and creative skills, and it evolved from there.
How has Covid-19 impacted your work life?
Tricia: It has been challenging to get in front and centre to see clients, especially in a newer market where we are trying to build up our presence. While virtual calls are great, you do lose the personal touch. However, I think communication has improved a lot within the company. Being based in Asia, I feel more connected to New York and London than ever before because we have had more video conferencing, team calls and email exchanges. Conversations that were previously had over the desk in New York and London are now written out in emails or other communication tools, so we in Asia can now also see and be part of the conversations. Hong Kong handled the virus well and most of us are now fully back in the office.
I do think that what happened this year will have a long-term impact and lead to a better work-life balance. For example, I think people now feel more comfortable using their lunch hour as their own time to go to the gym. I also think there will be more flexibility in terms of working from home because we are all set up with screens and the right technology to allow us to work effectively.
Lucy: As you know, London is in lockdown again, but even in the Summer the office was not fully open. It has personally been an adjustment for me because I always enjoyed the commute and the office environment. However, I will say the set-up and transition to working from home was seamless and we were able to do the same for our clients, enabling over 10,000 trading system users to connect to MarketAxess from home. One great positive was that for the first time we had a virtual, global mid-year sales meeting, previously these were done on a more regional basis. It definitely felt more beneficial to have all salespeople together.
The one slightly challenging element has been the inability to see clients in person. There are always benefits of face-to-face interaction, however, given the majority of the finance industry has worked from home, some for the first time ever, it has worked better than I could have imagined, thanks to technology and the all-important video calls.
As you are based in two different regions, what are the cultural nuances especially you Tricia as you have lived in London and now Hong Kong?
Tricia: The biggest difference between the two cities is the size of the office. In total, there are 20 people in Asia, 12 in Hong Kong and 8 in Singapore. In terms of the company culture in the two offices, I don’t think there is a major difference – MarketAxess’s culture runs strong in both regions. I would say MarketAxess employees are proud of what they do, passionate about the company, proactive and always think ‘client first’.
Lucy: London is a very multi-cultural city and this is reflected in our London office. I think that whenever there are different people from different backgrounds working together there will be great benefits. For example, broadening perspectives by learning from people’s different experiences and backgrounds, or being able to generate a wider pool of ideas.
What obstacles, if any, have you needed to overcome throughout your career? How are you involved in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) on a professional and personal level?
Tricia: When I first started out in my career, I would often shy away from talking about my accomplishments and abilities in fear that I might come across like I’m boasting, but I learnt over time that knowing how to communicate your strengths is important if you want to differentiate yourself. I also realised that while I had several good senior male mentors throughout my career, there were not as many women mentors available and I did wonder why that was the case.
I am part of the culture scrum at MarketAxess, which is made up of a group of employees from different backgrounds, departments, and regions. The culture scrum has launched several initiatives to ensure the firm remains a great and inclusive place to work. On the diversity and inclusion (D&I) side, we are working with an external partner, MindGym, to develop a D&I strategy, train employees and provide channels where employees can speak out. The company also recently signed up to the UN Women Empowerment Principles, a global framework designed to offer guidance on how to promote gender equality and women empowerment in the workplace.
Lucy: When I first stepped out onto a trading floor, I was definitely aware of the number of men versus women; I wouldn’t say it was an obstacle, but I was conscious initially of finding ways where I could blend in. Overall, however, it was a positive experience, and a role that I enjoyed.
Regarding my involvement in D&I initiatives, I am part of the social committee at MarketAxess and we are conscious to ensure that our events are open and inclusive, ensuring everyone feels involved and that they want to participate. We have also more recently been holding events where women can get together socially and for networking, in addition to partnering with 3rd party organisations such as ICMA Women’s Network and Markets Media’s Women in Finance Awards and a wide range of other initiatives.
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