“To be successful on the trading floor, it helps to have ‘grit’”
From overcoming imposter syndrome to challenging stereotypes and realising you need true “grit” to get ahead in banking, Lucinda Lawrence shares her journey from intern to Director in the Markets team at Barclays Investment Bank – and everything she’s learned along the way.
“I want to change the perception that when you work in financial services, you can’t have a fulfilling life outside of work.”
This is just one of many myths about working in Markets that Lucinda Lawrence – Director, FX Sales, at Barclays Investment Bank – is keen to dispel. She joined Barclays as an intern in 2008, and soon discovered her “type A personality” was a good fit for the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the trading floor.
“It was exhilarating to watch the constant flurry of currency exchanges being executed in millions of dollars at a time. There was just so much adrenaline – it was unlike any work environment I’d experienced,” she explains. Lucinda specialises in foreign exchange – a role in which she supports clients’ sales and trading activities across rates and currency products.
You need ambition, self-discipline, persistence and hard work. These have been critical to my career progression and are the raw materials I look for in new joiners to the team
Director, FX Sales, Barclays Investment Bank
Having no friends or family in the industry – and having completed degrees in Geography and French – meant that Lucinda “wasn’t entirely sure what she was signing up for” when she decided to pursue a career in Markets, the division of the Investment Bank which provides institutional investor clients access to execution and risk management solutions across major asset classes. “I wouldn’t say that FX jargon came particularly naturally to me – but then nor did the 6.30am starts,” she jokes. What she soon learned, however, was that working in Markets required a lot more than being good with numbers.
“To be successful on the trading floor, it helps to have ‘grit’. Yes, you need to be numerate and bright, but to come in every day and differentiate yourself you need ambition, self-discipline, persistence and hard work. These have been critical to my career progression and are the raw materials I look for in new joiners to the team.”
Rising through the ranks
Working on a trading floor “pushed her out of her comfort zone” and she found the learning environment and shouting out prices on the open trading floor “intimidating”. In the early years, she suffered from imposter syndrome. “For some time, I questioned whether I was cut out for the demands of the job. I was relieved when I learnt there was actually a term for this self-doubt,” she says.
Like many, she has experienced “short term setbacks” which have challenged the very linear career path she had envisaged for herself, but they have ultimately taught her “resilience”.
Over a decade later, Lucinda is one of the more senior women on the trading floor and has recently increased her managerial responsibility. She feels it is her duty to support young women entering the trading field, and as a result has taken on several mentees. “There aren’t many senior females on the floor and I feel that comes with a lot of responsibility on my part, but it’s something I really enjoy. It brings out the human aspect of my job.”
One thing Lucinda is keen to assert is that characteristics that are sometimes seen as “feminine” do have a place on the trading floor – a space which has long been seen as a typically masculine environment.
I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of being a woman on the trading floor. Being able to empathise, listen, collaborate and build consensus – all of that can be really beneficial, and arguably more so as you rise through the ranks
Director, FX Sales, Barclays Investment Bank
“I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of being a woman on the trading floor. Being able to empathise, listen, collaborate and build consensus – all of that can be really beneficial, and arguably more so as you rise through the ranks.”
She adds that it’s important to have role models at a senior level. “I now have two female bosses which has completely reshaped where I would like to get to in this industry. But we still need more role models. Until we see someone like ourselves undertaking a role it’s hard to picture ourselves doing it.”
“Some of my proudest achievements have been outside of work”
Despite the demands of her job, Lucinda says that leading a fulfilling life outside work helps keep things in perspective. A keen “off-grid” traveller and fitness fan, her adventures over the years have taken her to nearly 100 countries including running a marathon in North Korea, ski touring in Afghanistan and meditating with a Tibetan monk in rural Japan. “I love the balance of an intense work life combined with the freedom of travelling to places that feel unexplored. Going to space is top of my list now,” she says.
Within Barclays, she runs the Human Capital Programme’s ‘Diversity’ workstream and the ‘Engage’ workstream for Macro – and is involved with the bank’s Win network, which works to recruit, retain and promote women across the bank. She also represents Markets at volunteering events, most recently with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity through the bank’s citizenship programme.
Her hobbies and outside interests have, she says, “helped me to develop character and the ability to exercise judgment”. She wakes up at 5am every morning to meditate for 45 minutes, a part of her routine that is “key to helping her stay level-headed, balanced and focused through the day”.
However, being realistic about consistently achieving a work-life balance in Markets is also important. “At a recent networking event I was once told, ‘You can have it all, but not at the same time’ – and that really stayed with me,” she says.