By Caroline Kihlgren
Hi, I am Caroline Kihlgren, and I’d like to share a little bit about my career story, and shed light on my somewhat ‘untraditional’ career path within capital markets. Untraditional, because capital markets is (still) one of the industries with a workforce of predominantly men – and with myths about the working environment. As such, I think it’s important for women to tell about their work experiences as a means to attract more females talents and break bias.
A quick rewind to my youth; after having pursued an educational career across several countries - leading me from the west Midlands of England, to the bustling and vivacious city Taipei in Taiwan - I completed my Master of Science in Supply Chain Management at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.
I then landed a job as a graduate at Nordea Markets in Copenhagen. After almost a year, I moved to Stockholm in 2019 for an internal move within Nordea. Fast forward to today – I’m still with Nordea Markets, now working as an Associate at FX/MM Sales – and enjoying it.
Never a dull day
I really enjoy my job at Nordea. There is never a dull day, which is great because it keeps my mind active. Since I started, my job responsibilities have evolved. When I began, I covered our Danish institutional clients and international Hedge funds. That meant customer contact from early on, which was a very good start to get to know the characteristics of the FX Market. Since the client base is very professional, you quickly get to understand the importance of covering risk from a FX perspective, and the highly competitive environment, we act in.
I then shifted to my current position in the Swedish advisory driven sales team, working closely with my own portfolio of clients. Here, I have the possibility to act more as an outsourced treasury function for many of my customers, helping them with everything from traditional FX Risk Management, portfolio optimization, automation and execution strategies related to M&A flows.
An attractive employer
For me, the finance sector is one of the most forward-thinking industries, constantly undergoing changes. As the largest bank in the Nordics, Nordea has not only adapted to the changing environments, but also embraced them, making the bank an attractive employer. As much as these aspects were of high importance to me, so was the flexible internal rotation opportunities.
When I applied for the graduate position at Markets, my plan was to try different departments over the first few years; find the best match for my skills and personality, and then decide about the field to specialise in. The only ‘problem’ was, that Markets FX sort of swept me off my feet 😉.
When reflecting upon my current job in Markets FX, I can’t imagine another role outside of the Nordea Markets trading floor, that could offer me the same joy and amount of opportunities to challenge myself to break new barriers every day.
Respect and support
I doubt that I would have had the same career journey as a woman thirty years ago. On an overall, the industry is still male-dominated – yet again, women continue to make gains in entering careers where men have historically had the stronghold, but we have some progress to make before things get more equal.
From my point of view, the reason why women are less inclined to pursue a career in finance has nothing to do with the tone of voice or lack of confidence in the work itself. In my experience, women typically jump off in greater numbers as they progress the career ladder. "If a woman looks up and does not see any women at the top, she wonders if she will make it — and whether all the sacrifices she will have to make, will pay off".
If a woman looks up and does not see any women at the top, she wonders if she will make it — and whether all the sacrifices she will have to make, will pay off.
I believe all leaders, men and women, have a huge responsibility in fostering an inclusive culture with focus on diversity, and where women of all backgrounds feel that their managers respect and support their needs.
Nordea is genuinely committed
Although Nordea has not yet achieved gender diversity across the board, I do think, we have come far in fostering a culture of belonging, flexibility, and growth. I believe that by introducing a number of “women-friendly” initiatives, such as flexible hours, parental leave, and mentorship schemes, Nordea is genuinely committed to improving diversity and gender balance, not only on entry-level but also among senior executives.
We have come very far in acknowledging that diversity is a business imperative, and that we need to actively seek change to avoid losing talents and the trust of female clients.
Some of the best things I have learned, is to be open to new opportunities, and learning to embrace a bit of uneasiness. I've learned that challenging situations aren't obstacles, but opportunities – and some of my best learning experiences, and most rewarding achievements. Lastly, remember networking is about giving help, not just getting it. Be a “go-to” person who can be relied on for help, and you’ll find your kindness repaid in a million ways.
That was my career journey in brief, and I hope it gives some inspiration and encouragement for other female talents to pursue a career in finance. I’m now sending the baton on to Susanne Spector, Chief Analyst, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, read Malin’s blog for more insight to women’s work life and opportunities in finance.