Erika Bianco, Senior Marketing & Communications Manager, EMEA & APAC at MarketAxess and Camille McKelvey, Head of Post Trade STP Business Development at MarketAxess talk to Lynn Strongin Dodds about careers, opportunities and diversity.
What are your roles at MarketAxess?
Erika Bianco [EB]: I lead marketing and communications for APAC and EMEA, working closely with the Head of International Marketing. My role consists of developing and executing suitable marketing campaigns and activities to help drive business for core products as well as build the MarketAxess brand across the international business. I’m also the project lead for international D&I (diversity and inclusion) initiatives and I sit on the MarketAxess ESG (environment, social and governance) committee, which is in charge of developing and executing a global ESG strategy for the firm. Camille McKelvey [CM]: My job has multiple strands to it. I am responsible for helping drive post-trade efficiency and automation across the repo and cash markets for our buy and sellside clients. I also look at new and innovative ways to address clients’ workflow challenges, as well as building out our global repo business. We already have a strong presence in Europe and the UK, and we are now growing market share in the US. We have a very flat structure at MarketAxess, and it’s great to have exposure to senior levels of management across the company.
I also spend a lot of time supporting my team whether it is on training and development or ensuring that the lines of communication are always open. This has been particularly important during the pandemic and there has been a greater focus across management on employee wellbeing and mental health.
What’s your background and career progression?
EB: I was born in a small town in Puglia, in the south of Italy, which was a beautiful place to grow up. However, I always had a spirit of independence and my parents saw that right away. Since I was 11, they started sending me abroad to summer camps where I could learn and improve my English. I studied Business Communications at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan which allowed me to spend half a year of my three year BA in Copenhagen, Berlin and Seoul, while also working in fashion and hospitality to finance my studies. Studying in Asia really left its mark. It was the first time I had visited and lived in the region, and it was one of the best experiences of my life – so much so, that today I specialise in Asian markets and twelve years on I’ve just relocated to Singapore.
Studying abroad was very important to me and I knew it would help me if I wanted to pursue an international career. In fact, having international experiences from a young age, later helped me get into business school in London. I applied to do a Masters in Entrepreneurial Management at Regents University (which at the time was European Business School) in London. Living in London had always been a life goal for me. I started planning for it way in advance. I started my first office job in Milan in Marketing and Public Relations at the New Zealand Consulate, which I knew was a good stepping stone to realise my London dream of living in an international environment.
In London in 2011, I did my Masters while working for a start-up, and after graduating I worked at DataArt, an American-Russian software development company. Later I worked at different creative and content marketing agencies covering diverse portfolios of technology and financial technology clients across Europe and the US. Then in 2017 I joined Bloomberg as Senior Marketing Manager for EMEA where I was the marketing lead for the sellside and the electronic trading businesses, including China. I joined MarketAxess in my current role in January 2020 which gave me the opportunity to further specialise in the Asian markets and work in a more entrepreneurial environment.
CM: A job in the City was not on my radar screen. Languages were my passion and I studied Russian and French at University College London. The traditional path would be to either join M16 or the diplomatic service or become a teacher. I did not have a grand plan though and my first job was with Barclays in fixed income operations before moving to Morgan Stanley as director, fixed income and equity trade support and financing operations, where I was asked to be manager of the repo trade support team. I was there during the financial crisis which meant that part of the job involved raising cash to support the business. It was a challenging time for everyone, but I learned an awful lot.
I then moved to Citi where I was quickly promoted from vice president to senior vice president and helped automate manual repo functions. It is here that I met the MarketAxess team because they provided Citi’s bond matching platform. They offered me the role of product manager for the matching platform. At the time – the beginning of 2014 – not many people moved from the sellside to a vendor. That is not the case today. It was a real jump for me, but I could see the landscape of cost reduction and headcount at the sellside, and I wanted to be involved in something that had more of a start-up feel, so I decided to take the leap. I wanted to do something new and exciting, and I have not looked back.
In general, how much has being a woman had an impact on your professional life? Do you mentor, and how do you help progress D&I professionally and personally?
EB: Although I never experienced discrimination as a woman, I did feel I had to work harder to prove myself and to progress in my career – especially in Italy, which still tends to be quite a male-dominated culture, although it’s changing gradually. I do mentor young students outside of work and I’m currently studying at the Coaching Academy in the UK to qualify as a Life Coach, with the idea to specialise in women’s confidence and holistic wellbeing. I do already coach as part of my assignment and so far, I have been mainly focused on women. I made this decision during Covid, when I did a bit of a re-assessment about what I’m really passionate about and want to dedicate my energy to.
My current role at MarketAxess also gives me the opportunity to make a difference in this space by leading some of the international D&I efforts and now also founding and co-leading the first MarketAxess Women’s Network together with two power women like Camille and Kat Sweeney, our new Head of Index and ETF Solutions.
CM: I remember when I first started, I was told to lower my voice because I would not be taken seriously, but I now realise it is much better to keep my own voice. Eight years ago, I became much more involved in D&I when I joined the steering committee of the International Capital Markets Association’s (ICMA) newly formed International Women’s Network (IWN). The IWN is aimed at professional women in the debt capital markets in the intermediate stages of their career – the ‘pipeline’ into management. The IWN welcomes all women (and men), at all levels, in furtherance of its stated goals. In doing so, it provides access to a geographically broad but ideologically focused network, grounded firmly within a meaningful industry structure, which supports and aligns with the objectives of ICMA members who wish to retain and promote women in their businesses.
Today I sit on the international steering committee, representing the UK, and the network now has over 3,000 members. I also use all of the experience gained as a female in the City to mentor more junior women. I truly believe that women need to be allies to other women, and in doing so assist their career progression.
Do you think things have changed and how does MarketAxess promote D&I?
EB: I think Covid has helped to level the playing field more because everyone was working from home. People realised that flexible working is here to stay and that it actually helps the work-life balance. I also feel we have more male champions than we did in the past who are focused on supporting and helping women get to high levels of management. The company has different initiatives including a Diversity and Inclusion sub-scrum led by HR, The Women’s Empowerment Principle Committee and the ESG committee, all made of a voluntary group of employees working together to champion and maintain a diverse and inclusive workplace. It’s fantastic to see so much passion among both women and men to continue to make MarketAxess a fantastic place to work. It’s motivating and inspiring and I’m very pleased to be part of this journey.
CM: Yes, I think things are changing. When I first started working 20 years ago, D&I was not really talked about but today it is high on the agenda. Also, at the time I was often the only female voice in the room and that is not the case anymore.
I understand the two of you together are about to launch the 1st MarketAxess Women’s Network. Can you please provide more details.
CM/EB: Yes, the two of us along with Kat Sweeney in New York, are working to set up the first MarketAxess internal women’s network. As with the IWN, we want to give people the opportunity to create a supporting network, develop skills to progress in their careers and tackle unconscious bias as well as provide a safe place to discuss potentially more delicate, women-specific topics that can truly help us continue making MarketAxess an open and diverse place to work. Last year we also 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), which shows our commitment to building great, diverse teams and we hope the network can continue to support these efforts and bring women within the company together even more.
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