On 30 August, KvinnoKapital hosted a live lunch panel discussion around D&I in Asset Management and what it takes to become a female investor in the industry.
Supported by Fundrella and Swedish House of Finance, Aline Reichenberg Gustafsson moderated an inspirational discussion with four fantastic women: Cecilia Cilla Dahlstedt Mygård, Pia Haak, Cecilia Thomasson Blomquist and Katarina Ahlstedt.
The room was packed with both new and old members, including the founder of KvinnoKapital Julia Axelsson. The energy was amazing with all of us finally being able to meet in real life again!
After a short introduction about Kvinnokapital by Hanna Edstroem and a few words from Fundrella founder and CEO Wava Bodin, Aline kicked off the panel with a short introduction of each of the panellists, inviting them to fill in details not found in LinkedIn. Sport was a common theme. Panelists shared the joys of hours and years spent supporting their children’s baskeball or ice hockey careers as well as their attempts at carving out time to practice sport for themselves. “As a result, we have all earned a black belt in organisational structure and time management”, as one of the panellists concluded.
We know that many young women today are hesitant to enter and stay in the asset management industry, so hearing the panellists’ transitions and understanding what made them stay was very inspiring.
From the buy-side to the sell-side and back
Cilla, started on the buy-side at a treasury department, which proved to be an excellent place to learn to trade. She then entered the sell-side at a large bond desk and spent more than 20 years there while raising three kids (of which a pair of twins!) together with her husband. Both decided to cut working hours and juggle the kids, as Cilla faced the inflexible working hours dictated by the trading floor. Life was like a washing machine at that time, Cilla remembered. A reorganisation and a wish to go back to buy-side triggered Cilla to leave for a small firm with a more flexible schedule. Cilla emphasised the importance of networking which offered her several openings, before she decided to join her current firm, which was founded by a friend and ex-colleague. She now focuses on Green bonds, which add an exciting new dimension of sustainability to her buy-side experience.
Choose a good boss and embrace change
Pia, who has worked in several top management positions over the years, stated that although things have not always been easy, she is happy about the journey she has made; the struggle has helped her to be where she is today. One of Pia’s most crucial insights is that, while you may choose a top company and an exciting department to work at, and become part of a great team, the person who you reporting to holds the keys to your advancement. Second, the industry is undergoing constant change and not the least in the banking sector, and this change is to be embraced, Pia advises. Do not take things too personally and never stay in a place where you feel sad and down.
Listen to yourself
Cecilia shared her experiences from working both in Sweden and in Germany. There are more differences between the countries than you might think. After she planned to start work again after being on maternity leave in Germany, all her German friends made it clear – “no way you can have small kids and work in financial industry”. While she did find a job in Germany, Cecilia laughs at the question she spent the longest time discussing at the interview: “How will your husband react if you take on this work?”
Cecilia subsequently moved back to Sweden, but it was harder to come back than she had expected. Cecilia had grown as a person and was looking for another kind of challenge. She finally started at a large pension fund where she stayed for many years before switching over to her current position. Her advice to us is to dare to follow your own path, your own beliefs when things are tough and have the courage to follow your ambitions.
Dare to reinvent yourself
Katarina also mentioned courage when sharing her experience. She experienced that her professional knowledge became irrelevant, obsolete, when the industry went from fundamental research to quant methods. For Katarina, this was almost a blessing that prompted her to try other things. After a year off, spent taking theatre classes, learning photography, studying leadership and coaching, she realised she likes the financial industry after all and jumped back into it. When knowledge gets irrelevant, Katarina has learned, you should broaden your scope and reinvent yourself. Be open to new things but stay true to yourself. You own your destiny.
Investing is fun!
The 30 minutes discussion passed quickly and ended with Julia Axelsson asking the panel for any final advice on how to ignite the Passion for the financial markets in younger women?
The panel concluded that as the asset management industry puts more emphasis on sustainability more young women may find a career in finance relevant. We all need to share the message that there are ways to support sustainability in all asset classes and that it is FUN to be an investor!