The Home of Investment Banking

Top 5 Female Powerhouses to Look Out For: Emerging Leaders in Finance


It’s no surprise that Investment Banking is perceived as a boys’ club. It is assumed that all bankers are aggressive alpha males: strong, confident, decisive – characteristics historically attributed to men.

Women in finance have recounted stories of new hire celebrations happening in strip clubs, how they have to put in extra effort to be seen as “one of the boys”, and clear changes of attitude from the men in the office when they become mothers or get married.

The fact is, women have extra challenges breaking into the industry because they are stereotypically perceived as too weak-willed for the fast-paced, high-stress environment of investment banking.

This barrier is solidified by the ever-present gender pay gap. In 2019, JP Morgan reported a 25.3% gap, Morgan Stanley a 31.5% gap, and Goldman Sachs a 34.4% gap. If women in the same roles as men can’t even be paid the same, how will the female presence in the industry grow?

Part of it is the visibility of women who have a strong presence in the industry. And we have counted our top five to watch, along with some advice they have for the rest of us.

5. Rola Abu Manneh (CEO, Standard Chartered Bank UAE)

Manneh has been the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank UAE since 2018 – the first Emirati woman to be CEO of a bank in the United Arab Emirates.

Before that, Manneh was Head of Corporate & Investment Banking at First ABU Dhabi Bank (FAB), facilitating relationships between FAB and its clients, who often include the government and elite customer groups. In 2019, she helped launch the Art Gap Exhibition which promoted the message of equal pay for equal work in UAE and internationally.

Her advice for success, though she admits it might be cliché, is to believe in yourself no matter the obstacles you may face.

4. Maria Hackley (Managing Director, Citi)

Hackley has worked for three decades at Citigroup. Today, she is Managing Director in Citi’s Financial Institutions Group. Her job covers a broad range of activities and industries that require advice on ever-changing regulations and new capital rules: healthcare, finance, and insurance. No doubt her fluency in English, Spanish and Portuguese helps her there.

Her piece of advice to anyone looking to make waves in the finance world: get involved with strategic initiatives like diversity and recruiting. It helps stand you apart!

3. Terecina Kwong (COO, HSBC China)

As the Chief Operating Officer of HSBC China, Kwong oversees tens of thousands of employees and is responsible for an annual budget of $200 million. Apparently, this is not enough for Kwong, who launched a nation-wide diversity network in China, similar to HSBC UK’s Balance network.

The result has supported the engagement and development of a gender-balanced workforce in China. Knowing this, it is no surprise that she won the 2020 Women in Finance Award for “Excellence in Leadership”.

Her advice: build a strong, international support network by finding like-minded individuals wherever you go. The emphasis on ‘international’ is important here; Kwong herself says whenever she crosses country borders, she’s on the lookout for building her network.

2. Nandita Bakhshi (President and CEO, Bank of the West)

Bakhshi is both the Chief Executive of Bank of the West and co-CEO of BNP Paribas USA. This woman is a powerhouse. During her tenure, BNP Paribas committed $1 billion to clean energy financing over the next five years.

Most importantly, they have also pledged not to finance Arctic oil exploration and have altogether stopped financing fracking. Bank of the West has also stopped financing tobacco during her time not simply because of the well-known harmful health effects, but because of the negative impact cigarette butts have on the environment. It should come as no surprise that Bakhshi was the one who brought this fact to light.

And she clearly follows her own advice. A quote from hers in an interview from American Banker: “What we don’t finance is as important as what we do finance.”

1. Suni Harford (President, UBS Asset Management)

Recently promoted to president at UBS Asset Management, Harford is the first woman to hold that title in the Swiss bank’s history. She was promoted back in October of 2019, and was placed on UBS Group AG’s executive board, which potentially puts her in line to become CEO of the Swiss giant’s global investment bank and asset manager.

During her time as president, assets under management grew 16% in 2019 to a massive $903 billion—a big reason the group won 95 best fund awards at the Lipper Fund Awards earlier this year.

Her advice is specific to those looking to increase efficiency: simplify your surroundings. “Eliminate bureaucracy. Cut back on unnecessary meetings. Stop spending time documenting and presenting ideas than actually executing those ideas.”

Image Credits: Lauren Lethbridge

More Articles