CAREER INSIGHT: Tanya Tracey, CEO GAIN (Girls Are INvestors)
In this career insight episode, I am joined by Tanya Tracey who is the CEO of Girls Are Investors (GAIN), which is a charity that seeks to address the lack of diversity in investment management through partnerships with schools and universities.
In this career insight episode, we were joined by Tanya Tracey who is the CEO of Girls Are Investors (GAIN), which is a charity that seeks to address the lack of diversity in investment management through partnerships with schools and universities. She has over twenty years of experience in investment banking, investor relations, and diversity and inclusion, having worked at J.P. Morgan, Nomura, and the CFA Institute.
We spoke about her career journey, working in a male-oriented environment, imposter syndrome, misconceptions about working in finance, and the importance of having role models.
Here are some key areas we discussed.
Can you share a little bit of insight into your background in terms of your childhood, where you grew up and how you began your career?
Yeah, so I grew up in Oxfordshire, went to school in Oxford, and I was not a math/science person at all, so finance was never really on my radar. I did A levels in English History in German. I was very much on the art side and I went on to study German at UCL. And really the first inkling I had that finance was where I wanted to be was when Six Form and I did an Insight da about 20 of us and had a tour around the city. We went in into the trading centre and the whole thing just blew me away and knew that this is where I want to be, but I thought, how on earth am I going to get here? Because I'm not doing anything related to finance anyway.
So I finished university and then didn't go through the graduate program or anything like that, but I managed to sort of a few months after I graduated, sort of get in by the back door, if you like, and I got in a desk assistant position on the syndicate desk in the equities department. So I was in global markets and from there and I was literally running roadshows. So when you do an initial public offering or you do a secondary offering, the company goes around and meets all the investors around the world and that is what I organized. I often accompanied the companies as well, sat in on their investor meetings and did everything.
So it was a lovely first job and it led to other things like investor relations advisory and then corporate broking and was there for quite a long time. I had three children while I was there but after my third, I decided that I needed to stop for a bit because I because having three kids under 5 was exhausting. So I did.
I stopped for a bit and then had a few years off before I came back and I started working at Nomura, a Japanese Bank, doing a very similar thing. And then I was there until they closed their European equities business and decided to focus on the Japanese and Asian sides. After which went to CFA and got very interested in diversity and inclusion. I guess because of my personal experience as a woman in a very male-dominated environment. But also I was developing an interest in it because I had two daughters and they were coming up at that point of teenage years. I was seeing some of the challenges that they were facing and a lot of the career experiences they were getting were mostly in relation to STEM but there wasn't much push into finance. So there was very much focus on engineering and science, but not on the massive buy on that side.
So when the GAIN opportunity came about, then it really ticked a number of boxes for me and I thought, this is what I want to do. GAIN has been set up three years ago and so I came on board two and a half years ago to run the charity on a day-to-day basis. It was set up by women in the industry who are all still on the trustee board and incredibly supportive.
You worked through the IPO boom in the late 90s and the dot-com era. So what was that experience like then? Was it entirely male at that point in time?
Yeah, it was very male and I was sitting on the trading floor and it was very noisy at that point. People didn't call each other, they would literally stand up and yell. And I remember the first few weeks, months of being there, being utterly terrified most of the time and having to make a decision quite early on. You're either going to have to toughen up a bit or you're not going to make it. So I decided to keep trying But it was a growing business. So JP Morgan at the time was pretty small and it really grew into the enormous department that it is.
I was there in the mid-90s and it was.com boom and I was travelling around the world with these incredibly exciting organizations and meeting some fascinating people. I mean that's the beauty of that industry; you are surrounded by incredibly interesting, incredibly bright people and there is a buzz. There was a real buzz and it was great fun.
Did you feel as a woman in that environment that you need to do more than your male counterpart of a similar level or within the same team?
I think there is an element of you having to prove yourself, but in that environment, everybody works hard. Everybody is expected to work hard and put in the hours and you all do because frankly, everybody's doing it around you. It's not like people are working at different speeds or anything, so it's very pressured, there's a lot of shouting but it is incredibly buzzy and I think it's settled down a lot. Now, it wasn't quite what it is then, but it was then. But yeah, it was great fun and it was good.
I think the time when things change is when you get married and start having children and then responsibilities lie elsewhere and having to put in the hours that you did have to put in became more problematic. I would often be travelling at the drop of a hat. They say, right, you're going to Geneva this afternoon. You simply can't do that when you've got children and you've got other responsibilities. So it was fantastic early on but it became more and more difficult when you had other responsibilities.
The solution in such a scenario would be to pivot in your career to a different division within a bank or are we expecting too much for the bank to just change? Or is it a case where a change in role will be required?
Yeah. When I think back up, in hindsight that's probably what I should have done. But I guess I really enjoyed what I did and I was trying desperately to keep it going and I think they were also trying to help me do that. And I went down to four days a week and I think I was the first person on the floor to be able to do that and that point was really unusual. I had a fantastically supportive boss but it was something new for everyone. But four days instead of five actually meant you were even more pressured to do the same amount of work. But in hindsight is a wonderful thing. I could have moved internally, but in the end I just carried on and there was movement. We got moved into ECM and things like that, so things were changing anyway.
The issue of imposter syndrome or lack of confidence seems more apparent often in women than men in our programs. Is that a truly consistent thing that you see as well in the 15-21year old females based on your interactions with that demographic?
I think that's right. And there is that stat about young women not applying for a job unless they meet a minimum of 95% of the criteria. Whereas if men see a job asteroid, as long as they meet 50%, they think, great, I've got a fantastic chance. So there is a slightly different approach. What we notice, what we've noticed with GAIN is very much that the female role model piece is so important because if young women can't see women in finance and relate to them, how can they see themselves in that career? So we say if you can't see her, you can't be her. It's so crucial that be able to see women working in the industry and them being able to tell their journey and how they got there and the experiences they're having.
Finance can seem quite a scary sector to a lot of young people. A lot about what we with GAIN, our events that we put on and panel sessions online is sort of about humanizing it a bit and having a series of women speaking about how they got into the industry, what they found, their challenges, what the great things are about their jobs. But they are human and they're very normal and they're really nice people. I think that comes across in a lot of these events students start realizing that they, can relate to that see themselves being there now.
That whole area is difficult. I mean, the other thing is students all think they have to be studying maths or finance in order to get in and that's simply not the case. So just to give you some idea, in terms of the applicants for our programs, about half are doing math, finance, and economics, a good quarter are doing arts subjects and a good quarter doing more science or engineering subjects. So there is a real spread and companies are really looking for that diversity of background as well. They're not just looking at only for economic students all the time.
Are applications open now for your summer internship?
Yes, it is open now so do apply if you're interested. Essentially what it is, is an internship program - a summer internship program. And it's open to final-year undergrads and master's MBA students and recent graduates.
So we're recruiting now for next summer. We have 225 places available to go. So we've got over 124 others participating. So yes, you apply to the program as a whole and then you get allocated out to a firm and then the application process and the assessment happens in November and then decisions are made and offers are made in December, so you know, before Christmas whether you've got a place.
Then we have quite an extensive training program that we put all the successful interns on and that covers everything. All the Excel, the financial modelling, cash flow analysis, all of that stuff is covered, and a whole load of soft skills as well. We then allocate you to a mentor. So somebody from our network of over 1000 volunteers. These are all industry investment professionals and they mentor you for that three-month period. So before your internship and then during your internship, as well as extra support.
How do your students acquire mentors? It is a difficult process?
We have an amazing network. So we basically allocate mentors to all of our programs. So there's the internship program, which is sort of the big flagship program. Before that, we do an Insight program and that's the first-year undergraduates, and that's a twelve-week program, which is sort of an introduction to investment. You learn how to do a Stop pitch. We have a little virtual portfolio investment competition and it culminates in insight days with funds over the Easter break. Then you get allocated a mentor. We also have an ambassador program so students at university can apply to the ambassadors for the academic year.
And they have all sorts of other things going on. But one of the other parts is that they get allocated as a mentor as well for that period. So yeah, mentoring is really important. And it's not just women who mentor. We also have a lot of men signed up in our network as well, and they do mentor. But it's really valuable to get that understanding of the industry or different aspects of the industry. So we literally cover everything from private equity to venture capital, to hedge funds, asset managers, allocators and wealth management. So there are lots of different areas. So depending on what you're interested in, you'll get allocated a mentor, according to that.
If you could think back to a particularly challenging point in your career, and if you could go back to that time, what word of advice would you give yourself?
I guess the advice I would give would be to take control of my career a bit better. And I suspect I'm not the only one. I think it's quite a lot of women tend to do this if they're at school. You think “If I work hard, and do a good job, I’ll just get rewarded and move on to the next stage”. But actually, you do have to structure and think about what it is that you really want and manoeuvre your way through to that point because nobody else is going to do it for you. So you have to really think hard about what it is that you're good at, what it is that you like and where you want to end up being and think about moving your career in that direction and networking with people in the direction that you want to go in. Because if you leave it up to everybody else, then it's never going to end up being the way you want to go. So it's really important to think hard about your career trajectory and how you're going to get there.
GAIN just had its 3rd anniversary. What was the event like?
Yes, it was very exciting. We had all our companies that were involved and some of the students who went through the whole process were there as well. It was a really fun evening. And I think with over 1000 volunteers I've mentioned now we've reached over 15,000 students in three years through our events and programs. And the ambition is just to keep growing and reach students across the whole country.
So, if you're interested, do have a look at our website and get involved. All the events and everything is free. So please do sign up and you can receive our newsletter if you sign up for that. And that will just basically tell you about everything that's coming up that you can get involved with.
How can students connect with you? Can you be reached on LinkedIn?
Yeah, please reach out, connect and very happy to connect with anybody on this topic.