Women in Banking

Women in Banking

Historically, 15-20% of Booth’s MBA class has recruited for investment banking each year. A career in banking provides a fast-paced and exciting work environment with a focus on guiding clients through strategic financial decisions faced by their businesses. Most major investment bank CEOs took the CEO Pledge for Action for Diversity & Inclusion in 2020, underscoring how highly banks value diversity.  In accordance with the 34th year celebrating Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight some outstanding Booth women and share their experiences pursuing careers in banking.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in banking?

Alex Wassink, Class of 2022, Incoming Summer Associate at CitigroupBefore Booth, I worked in wealth management. I loved building trust and rapport with clients, as well as being an advisor. However, I was looking for a career that paired these skills with a more technical and fast-paced environment. My conversations with those with banking experience confirmed that investment banking is the perfect marriage of the soft skills I had developed in wealth management with a quantitative tilt.

Grace Gu, Class of 2021, Incoming Associate at Evercore: Prior to Booth, I was an actuarial consultant helping companies perform pension valuations as well as conducting HR due diligence on corporate transactions. While I enjoyed the analytical aspect of the job, I felt that my role on my team was limited and I wanted more exposure to client interaction and participating more in the value creation process. Investment banking checks these boxes for me and it opens many doors for my future career.

Gabrielle Bates, Class of 2022, Incoming Summer Associate at J.P. Morgan: I was looking to stay in finance, having worked in asset management prior to Booth, but was looking for a role that was team focused where I could learn a lot quickly. Speaking with second years in Investment Banking Group (IBG) and learning about their summer internship experiences I decided to pursue investment banking to have exposure to a new part of the financial industry while still having the team environment I loved from my prior role.

Flavia Castagnola, Class of 2021, Incoming Associate at J.P. Morgan: Prior to Booth, I worked as a credit analyst in an investment bank in Peru. I enjoyed the project-driven work as well as the continual exposure to new industries, new companies, and new challenges that working in financial services brings. However, the Peruvian market is limited in terms of size and sophistication, and I wanted to have access to more complex deals and work where the largest transactions are negotiated. This is why I am eager to continue my career in investment banking in New York.

Liz Warmingham, ’20, Associate at Morgan Stanley: When I first got to Booth, I did a lot of exploration on different career paths in finance. I knew I wanted to stay in this field, but was uncertain about which specific industry/function I wanted to go into. After learning more about banking through Booth’s orientation programs and network, I found that it fit with my interests and followed both my short- and long-term career goals.

Mei Chang (MBA ‘15), Vice President at J.P. Morgan: I wanted a career that would elevate my strategic “big picture” thinking as well as challenge me quantitatively. In my last role pre-Booth, I worked in the insurance sector – I actually frequently met with CEOs and CFOs as part of that role, but the interaction was nothing compared to the in-depth experience working with the C-Suite and Boards on strategic advisory – and that’s exactly what I was looking for. I’ve stayed because I continue to find this role interesting and rewarding, but if that’s not your plan, I still highly recommend it for the breadth of skills you’ll pick up in a relatively short amount of time.

What were your trepidations going into recruiting or challenges you faced in the process, and how did Booth help overcome these?

Alex: Going into recruiting, I was concerned that my background wasn’t quantitative enough to make the pivot into investment banking. However, early on in the process, there were many people—career advisors and second-year students—that helped me craft my story of why I was a good fit in banking, as well as all of the transferrable skills I had previously developed.

Flavia: When the process started, my main concern was succeeding at networking. I was worried that cultural differences and my inexperience with the American business environment would harm my process. Thankfully, IBG had a key, very active role in preparing us for the process. Even though having so many rules seemed exaggerated at first (from how to dress to how to -not- eat), I was very thankful for all this guidance and felt supported through the entire process.

Liz: I think that banking sometimes gets a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to culture, so that was my biggest fear. I was really interested in the work, but I worried that I would not fit in at the banks and would not enjoy the cutthroat culture that I had heard about. Booth has a truly remarkable banking recruiting program which allowed me to meet all of the banks and find the one that I felt the most at home at. There really is a place for everyone, and Booth’s extensive network at the banks as well as their rigorous recruiting process allows you to see into each bank’s culture and find the place you fit best.

Mei: One of the things I was most nervous about was my lack of directly relevant experience – it was kind of nerve-racking to think about banking recruiting when you’re someone who had barely spent time in excel pre-Booth. First and foremost, banking is a relationship-based business, and so you should really think of the first part of the process as genuinely trying to get to know people; you will after all be spending lots of time with these folks and ideally it is with people you are comfortable with! This is the reason the Booth process is as time-intensive as it is, and you should take advantage of it. Secondly, there is plenty of time to study / brush up for the interviewing part, and I think some of the most helpful / challenging interviews I had were actually the mock ones given by the second years.

How did you find the right fit for you?

Alex: As trite as it may sound, the right fit ultimately came down to culture. All of the second-year students and IBG co-chairs tell you to “trust the process,” but it’s sincerely true. Throughout the recruiting process, you will talk to countless bankers. My final decision predominantly came from a gut decision (with a hint of data-driven decision-making, true to Boothie form)!

Gabrielle: Even virtually, I was surprised how easily you get a sense for different firms through conversations. The IBG process allows you to meet with so many different banks, you quickly realize which groups are a better fit. I mostly focused on overall fit, and finding a team I could see myself being comfortable with. I was not as focused on vertical or bank size. Instead, I wanted to find a place I knew I would have advocates that I could lean on during the internship.

What was the most rewarding part of your summer internship?

Flavia: I was very nervous when the internship started – I knew that interacting with the team and feeling included was going to be challenging considering my lack of work experience in the US and the virtual format of the internship. However, I was surprised by how welcoming the team was and how easy it was to interact with everyone, from the analyst to the Managing Directors . Feeling part of the team after just a few weeks of remote work was definitely the most rewarding part of my internship.

Grace: I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of client interactions I was involved with over the summer even though my internship was virtual due to COVID-19. I met our client’s Chairman and CFO via video conference the first week I hit the desk and participated in weekly meetings with them throughout the summer. Not only did my clients know my name, but they would also call on me and ask for my thoughts during those meetings, which was an exciting (and a bit nerve wracking) experience for a summer associate!

What advice do you wish someone gave you at the onset of recruiting?

Alex: Don’t be afraid to ask for help and time from the Booth community. Everyone truly wants you to succeed and end up at the right firm. It was initially hard for me to ask for the time of others – but everyone is willing to help! 

Gabrielle: I think the most helpful advice I heard last Fall was to stay in your own lane, but I would add to do so not at the expense of others. I would not have been successful throughout recruitment if it hadn’t been for the friends I made and the knowledge and advice we shared. It is important not to compare yourself to others since everyone’s process is different, but helping each other out whenever possible makes the experience much more rewarding.

How did Booth help prepare you for challenges you faced during your internship?

Flavia: After recruiting ended, I was very happy to be done with networking. I was wrong–I don’t think that networking ever ends. Starting a remote internship meant cold emailing bankers in my team asking them to meet over Zoom, coming up with good questions when participating in Q&A events with senior bankers, and having to repeat my “why banking” story several more times. I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate all the guidance we received from IBG – it has not only been valuable for recruiting, but also for my career. 

Grace: In terms of the technical aspect, taking courses such as Corporation Finance and Cases in Financial Management have helped me improve my valuation and financial modeling skills. Booth also has an extraordinarily strong alumni network at my bank – from weekly check-ins to group happy hour, they made sure the Booth interns were taken care of and had a safe space to ask questions. I am incredibly grateful to have a strong Booth network even outside of school.

How have you, individually and collaboratively, sharpened your voice as a banker?

Liz: This is definitely still something that I am working on! I think the most important part of this is surrounding yourself with people who you can learn from but who also accept your voice and do not try to make you conform to a traditional standard. I used to think that to have a strong voice, you must have conviction in what you are saying and to do this, you must be an expert on the topic. Because of this, I often found that my voice is quieter than I would like. However, I have learned that your voice can take many forms and it is important to speak it, no matter if you are the most senior or most junior person in the room. Chances are good you may be bringing a new perspective or thinking about something a little differently than everyone else.

Mei: It’s 100% a continuously ongoing process. Individually, it’s making sure my voice is heard, both with respect to internal and external clients, but also with respect to how I want to spend my time and where I want my career to go. Collaboratively – it’s continuing to build and strengthen relationships with those that I can learn from and those that will help champion me as well. Sometimes I can get bogged down executing on the day to day, and so for me it’s remembering to pick my head up and spend time on those higher order things.

What has sponsorship looked like for you in your career?

Liz: I have had overwhelming mentorship and sponsorship in my career, and this is something I hold near and dear. I have found amazing mentors at Morgan Stanley who have helped me navigate this year remote and have been my biggest advocates, but I have also kept in touch with my mentor from my previous industry who has known me for almost a decade and often offers me a unique perspective on my current career path. I think the key to these relationships is to build trust and familiarity and to understand that they take effort on both ends. You really get out of these relationships what you put into them.

Mei: Sponsorship has taken on many forms, and for that I’m grateful and fortunate. I recently made a change between groups within the investment bank at J.P. Morgan, and couldn’t have done it without the support and guidance from mentors on both sides of the ‘aisle’. Mine have tended to arise naturally from the people I’ve worked more frequently with, but it can and should come from any other aspect, whether it be recruiting / clubs / personal realm, etc.

While these personal accounts highlight the variety of backgrounds and motivations of Booth women who pursue careers in banking, a few themes are consistent – unwavering determination and a recognition of the Booth experience as an unparalleled way to foster sponsorship and build the skills necessary to excel on Wall Street.

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