There are all type of cautionary tales about women working together. For me these stories were so foreign to my experience. As one of a handful of female options traders I reported to men. As a swaps salesperson I reported to and worked with men. It would take 25 years before I would have my own story of working with women.
In late 2005, a tall, striking blonde woman entered my class on derivatives. She was smart and quick as a whip. We hit it off immediately and stayed in touch. Months later she’d become head of the interest rate and currency solutions desk at her bank.
I met her for lunch and after a lovely lunch, we decided to move forward and have me meet with others at her bank. Shortly after joining the bank, our team of five was quickly reduced to two. It was then that her true genius became apparent. She understood institutional strategy better than most and knew what was necessary to keep her unit operating and generating revenue. At the end of the day all that matters is for colleagues to find synergy and profits. Any other points in common were superfluous.
Our unwritten deal was simple: I would teach her interest rate products and how to find solutions for corporations and she would guide me through the politics of the bank. We came in every day with a game plan and worked every possible revenue angle. We enjoyed each other’s company and found a kindred humor between us.
It was impressive to watch her work. I’m a floor rat, a trader. It’s either done or it’s not. But she taught me that right price; right time wasn’t the only way to get things done. Right tone, right presentation and right group of supporters were also an important part of getting things done, especially in a large institution.
I can only conjecture what she learned from me. But she learned a great deal about presenting price and about negotiation. She learned that it was ok to ask for the deal as well as move on to a deal which had a greater chance of closing. She grew more confident and closed deals at a quicker rate. She learned that fence sitting clients didn’t reflect on her skills and she found it easier to walk away from low probability closers. In the end, she taught me other ways to win the deal and I taught her other ways to close. The proof of our synergy was in our revenues. Our revenues grew steadily and were well above target and remained so as the years passed
I rarely questioned her moves. She knew the institution in ways I did not. Yet she listened to my thoughts knowing I was viewing hurdles with fresh eyes and zero personal agenda. She also gave me a voice when for all intents and purposes she didn’t need to. She held me out as her equal when she didn’t have to.
She never hid my contribution from senior management. Just the opposite, she made sure senior management saw me as her equal. She rowed me in on situations a different kind of manager would never do. Once when I closed a particularly prestigious deal she stood back and allowed me to take the accolades. In turn I felt great knowing she was coming back from vacation with her annual budget well covered, freeing us up to explore other business opportunities.
The credit crisis came and I saw new business opportunities as banks readied for Dodd frank. I was better remunerated elsewhere. Sometimes when I’m in the lobby of the building in which we worked, I smile to myself knowing how lucky we were to work together. I smile knowing that women of future generations will forge similar sisterhoods. But mostly I smile knowing that work may be work, but it can be so much more. As long as you know the field of play isn’t your college dining club and your colleagues are not personal friends.
Have you had an experience like this that you’d like to share?
March 13, 2013