Women at Credit Suisse | Investment banking on The Gateway

Women at Credit Suisse

A female analyst, vice president and managing director tell Hannah Langworth how they're achieving their ambitions at the bank

If you're keen to make the most of your talents, eager to learn and progress, and interested in the world around you, working in finance is an ideal career choice. "Investment banking doesn't sit still," says Sabine Chappard, a managing director at leading investment bank Credit Suisse. "It's incredibly competitive - if we don't respond to something, there are another five investment banks that will."

"So you have to constantly challenge and reinvent, juggling your current strategy with this need to do things differently and even change yourself."

Challenges and opportunities

But those who work in the financial services industry relish and thrive on the unusually demanding and fast-paced nature of their roles. When Sabine joined Credit Suisse 12 years ago, she found her team to be "a close-knit group totally dedicated to what they were doing and incredibly enthusiastic and entrepreneurial."

And it seems that things work in much the same way today. "I like the busy nature of my job," says Claire Lincoln, a vice president in the bank's foreign exchange team, who moved over into banking recently after rising through the ranks at a financial data firm. "I enjoy being part of a team that's making a name for itself in the market."

"There are always new things to learn," she continues, "whether that's new market knowledge or a better understanding of processes at the bank. Here you find people who are motivated, positive and want to contribute to the business, not only making it more profitable but also maintaining and increasing the respect Credit Suisse has in the market."

This journey starts from day one. Anna Topchiyan joined the bank last autumn and has thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and opportunities of her first few months: "At the beginning, I felt like I was still in a classroom as I had so much to learn - I constantly asked people questions. But I've found that being inquisitive and keen to collaborate with others will take you a long way here because we're always looking to improve things."

A first-class bank

Credit Suisse in particular has plenty to offer intelligent, curious and enterprising women like Sabine, Claire and Anna. The Swiss-headquartered bank is one of the world's largest and most profitable financial institutions, with offices and staff across the globe.

In practice, this means career opportunities in a wide range of areas across finance - from working on mergers and acquisitions like Sabine, with the financial markets like Claire, or on the bank's own financial strategy like Anna.

The bank also prides itself on offering not only first-class work, but also a first-class business culture. "We have a very flat management structure," says Sabine, "and our teams tend to be small, which means as a junior person you can learn directly from the managing director and get in front of clients more quickly."

Claire highlights how the open atmosphere at Credit Suisse is ideal for her as she continues to build her career. "If you think we can do things better and have ideas, people will always listen to your suggestions. If you want a career where your voice is heard, you'll find an audience here."

Anna, as a graduate recruit, has particularly appreciated the collaborative culture at the bank. "I've found personally that as a graduate you can go up to anyone and they'll happily tell you about what they do, or train you up in a particular area."

Women in banking

None of the three women have found their gender to be an impediment to success at Credit Suisse. Sabine has noticed the industry becoming more balanced during her career. "There are a lot more women in banking now than there were when I started, and a lot more junior women coming through at Credit Suisse."

"Credit Suisse and other banks," she continues, "have recognised the importance of having a diverse workforce - it gets you more perspectives and different ways of doing things. If you have just one type of person working at an organisation you may get just one type of answer when a question is asked, and that's not what our clients want."

At the beginning of her career, Anna says that gender hasn't been an issue for her: "I haven't come across any barriers," she says. "My manager is a woman and on my team of ten, six of us are female."

Claire works on a trading floor, where across the industry as a whole women still tend to be in a minority. But she hasn't encountered any problems at Credit Suisse.

"I don't feel isolated," she says. "At Credit Suisse there are a lot of women working in trading compared to elsewhere and I'm encouraged by the presence of the other women within the department and the interaction between us."

Mentoring and networking

At Credit Suisse, there's plenty of support for female employees, and employees in general, and initiatives to give them the tools to progress in their careers. Sabine mentors more junior women, a resource that's available across the bank and that Claire has found helpful to further her career: "I often go to more senior women with issues and questions," she says, "and they give me advice on how to execute strategies or develop relationships."

Claire is also involved in the firm's women's network, which runs a variety of events from careers sessions for female students to presentations by senior women at the bank. Anna has found the networking events particularly useful, and has also enjoyed the social activities the bank sponsors to encourage people at the firm to get to know each other.

"Each division has a graduate committee and we get allocated a budget for social events. We recently had a division Christmas party, and we also hosted an ice skating event with people from our technology division," she says.

Looking forward

All three women are ambitious, and have clear plans for their future that they think they can realise at Credit Suisse. For Sabine, who's already achieved so much, it's about staying on top in an industry that's evolving rapidly.

"Negotiating the ever-changing regulatory environment will continue to be a challenge for everyone in financial services" she says. "I hope to stay alert and to spot new opportunities to develop new products and to work with new clients. I actually think that uncertain and changing times have the most business potential."

Claire, who's approaching the senior ranks of the industry, is looking to move up further. "I'm at that stage where I'm continuing to develop and deepen my knowledge. I want to work hard, bring in even better results, and get recognition for what I'm doing. I also want to increase my management responsibilities and grow my team."

Graduate joiner Anna is looking forward to her next six-month rotation, and is hoping to get a chance to learn more about the financial products the bank provides to its clients.

Looking further forward, she plans to embark on qualification as a chartered accountant, an opportunity Credit Suisse offers graduate recruits in some areas and a valuable addition to any CV. But it's banking where she wants to stay: "I like this industry," she says, "and want to remain within it. And I know I can progress at Credit Suisse."

Advice for you

Think you could succeed at Credit Suisse? Here is Anna, Claire and Sabine's advice

Anna "Prepare for interviews and recruiter campus events as thoroughly as you would for an academic assessment. Your preparation will help you stand out from the crowd and could help you get fast-tracked through the recruitment process."

Claire "During the application process, and as you come into the banking world, make sure you're visible. Be brave enough to introduce yourself to people and show that you can add value through your ideas."

Sabine "As you progress, make sure you spend time and energy developing your career as well as doing your job. Cultivate a small group of people that you can go to for advice in confidence to keep yourself on track."

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