Inspiring Women - Virginia Nordback
Katie.Dix / 18 Jul 2019
Some might think that an economics degree from Yale University and an MBA from INSEAD guarantee a stable career in financial services, but mine has still had its ups and downs. I’ve had to take risks, be innovative and be an entrepreneur; but ultimately the skills I’ve acquired along the way have brought me to my current employer, Man GLG, the discretionary investment business within Man Group, equipped (I think) to assume the role of portfolio manager.
I’m half Swiss, half German and grew up in Zurich. I chose Yale over European universities for its reputation and liberal arts education – I felt I wanted more than just an economics degree and, at Yale, I could explore philosophy, languages and other subjects that interested me.
My risk taking started after my time at Yale when I realised that I wanted to work in finance in London. I joined the M&A division of Deutsche Bank on their analyst programme in 2003.
Why was this a risk you might ask? Many, in fact most, of my colleagues were much more qualified than me thanks to their finance masters degrees and there were times when I really felt out of my depth. I had to learn critical skills such as financial accounting and company valuation on the job but luckily, I learnt quickly. And on top of that, as a woman, I was in the minority. There were 27 people on the analyst programme and only three of them were women.
After Deutsche Bank I moved to Citigroup with my boss and the team, where we helped to build out their M&A real estate practice. After a year at Citigroup, I decided I needed a change of scenery and opted for an MBA with an international flavour – I attended INSEAD, based in Fontainebleau near Paris, and this experience also provided the opportunity to spend two months in Singapore, which gave me an insight into the local, Asian culture.
Upon my return to the financial services industry, I started work as a European equities analyst with Powe Capital, a hedge fund. Sadly, the business suffered during the 2008 financial crisis and suddenly I was out of a job.
I was unemployed and the job market wasn’t looking great: the industry was in turmoil as a result of the crisis and more people seemed to be made redundant than hired. I had always wanted to do something on my own and I’ve always had a passion for building “things” and seeing them succeed, so I decided to start my own business.
During my time working for Deutsche, Citi and Powe Capital, I had been exposed to recruitment agencies and their practices. I created an innovative online marketplace for recruitment agencies and HR departments to connect, benefit from better fee transparency, and ultimately make recruitment more efficient. It felt risky but I decided to take the plunge.
It took a year and many, many conversations to raise the necessary venture capital to set up the business, develop the product and hire a team, but we managed to get Talent Puzzle off the ground. We had a great time and grew the business to almost twenty employees, however after four and a half years, in 2014 - and even though Talent Puzzle was doing well - I decided to return to finance because I missed the intellectual challenge. But this time I was starting (again) in finance as a mother. It felt risky. Processes had changed and technology had progressed – would I be able to last the distance?
I started with a German bank called Berenberg as an equity analyst before moving to work once again with Rory Powe of Powe Capital at Man GLG. That was three and a half years ago and I’m pleased that as a mother of two (I’ve since had a third), I’ve found a company where I can use my skills and experience, and advance my career. It was a risk worth taking.
The obvious example of my entrepreneurial nature is Talent Puzzle, my recruitment business platform, but I think many of us are entrepreneurial every single day in our roles. At Berenberg, for example, I worked as a generalist in the European Equities team and covered ten companies – working on the sell side is almost like running your own franchise: clients pay to hear your view and tap into your knowledge base and you travel the world to meet companies, industry experts and clients.
And at Man GLG, I feel as though I have the chance to be innovative and creative. The passion I mentioned about building something still exists in me and luckily, I can exercise that here.
Man Group – Man GLG
I’m really pleased that I work for a company like Man Group which is taking real action to attract and elevate women in the workplace. They were supportive when I was on maternity leave and the flexible working arrangements, including technology to support remote working, were helpful in achieving the right work-life balance when I returned. Last year, the firm introduced a global parental leave policy, which allows every new parent (regardless of gender) 18 weeks of parental leave at full pay. Since the introduction, we’ve seen more men take time off when they become fathers.
In addition, Man Group also introduced an active inclusion recruitment strategy in order to attract a more diverse group of candidates. One key partner for us is E2W, whose model not only helps senior women in the industry progress in their careers but also connects them with firms who are committed to diversity and inclusion.
I am also really impressed with the calibre of the graduates that I see coming through. They seem to think on their own a lot more and they’re not afraid to speak up. The culture within Man GLG encourages this and Man GLG itself acts as a fantastic platform from which more junior members of the group can build their careers.
I have just been given a mentor which is great, and I'm enjoying being a mentee. I would really like to mentor others too, to pass on what I’ve learned over the years.
If you would like to share your career in financial services with E2W followers, or if you have made a contribution to a project or initiative within your organisation, please contact Katie.
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