In Conversation with Julia Raiskin, Citi’s Asia Pacific Head of Markets
Laura Atherley, Head of Senior Relationship Management, Asia Pacific at Citi Global Markets was recently recognized for Excellence in Leadership in GlobalTrading’s Women in Finance Asia Awards 2022. Under her leadership, Laura’s team provides bespoke coverage to Citi’s largest global clients across the Markets business in Asia Pacific. Her team is always armed with the latest markets and industry trends, delivering differentiated and valued content as well as thought leadership on key issues; this service is highly appreciated by Citi’s clients.
The annual Women in Finance Asia Awards celebrate dynamic, talented and accomplished women across different areas of finance, a testament to the great work that women do as leaders and more broadly, the advancement and progress of women in finance. The awards and what they represent resonates with Citi where Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are the cornerstones of the bank’s culture and ethos. In December 2021, Citi appointed 18 female managing directors in Asia, a record number of such promotions in the region. Furthermore, Citi currently has women serving as country CEOs in Korea, China and Hong Kong. The bank’s Asia Head of Operations and Technology, Asia Head of Citi Global Wealth, and Asia Pacific Head of Markets are also women.
Julia Raiskin, Citi Asia Pacific Head of Markets, shares more about the bank’s efforts in this space, why it matters and the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the financial services industry.
Julia first joined Citi in 2007 as Head of Retail Structured Products Distribution in Asia Pacific. Since then, she went on to take on roles with increasing responsibility and was appointed Asia Pacific Head of Markets in March 2022. Her journey and well-earned success at the firm is an inspiration to many within Citi and as a passionate advocate for gender diversity at the firm, Julia continues to mentor young female talent at the bank as they chart their career paths.
Julia, let’s start with the Women in Finance Asia Awards. You must be so proud of Laura (Atherley) and the team at Citi. Can you share with us your view on the importance of recognizing women across the financial services industry?
We are all definitely very proud of Laura and her team. This is such a well-deserved recognition and an important one, not just for us at Citi but for the broader financial services industry.
It is no secret that our industry has traditionally been male-dominated, so it is important to recognize women as trailblazers and importantly, the progress that continues to be made in improving gender diversity in the industry. This includes having more women enter and remain within the industry, and making sure they are given the right opportunities and exposure to grow their careers and increasingly take on roles in the mid-to-senior management level.
At Citi, this is a commitment we take seriously. Earlier this year, we announced that we met and exceeded our firm-wide, aspirational diversity representation goals for 2018-2021. This included increasing the representation at the Assistant Vice President to Managing Director levels for women to 40.6%, up from 37% in 2018. In Asia Pacific, the representation of women at these levels stands at 41.5%. This is a milestone achievement for us, as we mark it in conjunction with Citi’s 120th Anniversary in Asia Pacific this year.
Last year, Jane Fraser made history when she took on the role for Chief Executive Officer at Citi. Being the first female CEO to lead a major U.S. financial institution, this was momentous for all of us at Citi and indicative of the priority Citi places in diversity and inclusion. Across the financial services industry, various companies are stepping up their efforts in diversity and inclusion. This is encouraging and signifies that there are many more opportunities to come for women in the industry.
In your 20-year career in Markets, how has the culture on the trading floor evolved?
Across the firm, as well as in the Markets business, gender representation has increased steadily. Already, over one-third of our Assistant Vice President level and above employee base in Markets are women. The more equitable representation of gender on the trading floor has certainly changed over the past decade or so. Over and above this, I think our culture has evolved such that both men and women are invested in taking diversity and inclusion forward. Male ‘Allyship’ is critical to our gender diversity efforts in Markets and I am proud to say we have seen much more activity in this area.
In creating a culture that values and drives diversity and inclusion, we also have advocacy programs in the Markets business that are targeted at our high-potential female talent. These programs leverage the knowledge and expertise of senior talent or advocates within the business to provide participants with an experienced, seasoned colleague who serves as a confidential sounding board and source of guidance. The Markets business in Asia Pacific was also the first to launch Maternity Matters, which provides support to new mothers as they return to work, enabling them to continue to advance their careers as they transition into managing parenthood at the same time.
Many of these initiatives have been conceptualized by our own colleagues which to me is telling of the changing culture on the trading floor. As we drive gender diversity efforts, we have a culture that prioritizes meritocracy and mutual respect for colleagues.
Can you tell us more about Citi’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategies and initiatives and how they are leading to some of the positive changes you have described?
An important component of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts is our talent strategy which includes targeted recruitment, retention and development, and promotion. In recruitment, we actively work to ensure that our teams are inclusive and representative of our clients. We’ve been using diverse slates in our recruiting, and we continue to provide guidance, tools and expertise to internal recruiting teams and hiring managers to promote inclusive hiring practices across the firm.
Citi’s campus recruiting program is another important way for the firm to diversity our employee base while building a strong pipeline of talent. In 2021, we launched an EarlyID Women’s Leadership Program to increase female representation in our annual Markets’ Summer Analyst program. The program serves to identify, mentor, and hire diverse talent early, helping us to invest and develop a pipeline of female bankers in Markets.
We also started a Women in Trading program targeted towards female students interested in Markets. This has increased awareness around trading as a career path while also identifying potential candidates for our annual Summer Analyst program. In 2021, we saw a roughly even split between male and female participants in our Markets Summer Analyst program.
To develop and retain diverse talent, Citi is committed to ensuring that compensation is equitable and that women are provided opportunities and viable pathways for entry into mid-level and senior roles. We are invested in career development and planning for diverse talent through mentorship, networking, and internal development and rotational programs. We have in place learning programs to meet the needs of our diverse talent at various stages of their career, helping them to identify future promotion paths and opportunities. What brings these efforts together to drive progress is the accountability we place on ourselves to ensure we achieve the progress we want to see. Senior leaders view themselves and others as accountable for enabling the uniqueness of our employee base and our driving change in our culture, practices and policies.
How are senior leaders at Citi driving change in the firm’s culture, practices and policies?
Members of Citi’s leadership team lead nine Affinities globally that represent the broad-ranging demographics of our employees including Citi Women, Pride, Generations, disAbility and Families Matter in Asia Pacific. In these roles, leaders are responsible for developing a better understanding and appreciation of the uniqueness of each group and coming up with ideas and initiatives so that Citi is helping them grow and develop through the firm. While we believe the tone starts at the top, we also know Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a collective effort and needs to involve our broader employee population at the bank. The leaders of these Affinities work in tandem with Citi’s Employee Network Program to drive change.
In Asia Pacific, we have 38 Employee Networks across the region, including Women’s Networks, that involve employees on a voluntary basis to drive diversity and inclusion initiatives. In 2017, I led the Citi Women’s Network in Singapore. I have also had a long-standing engagement with 100 Women in Finance and the Financial Women’s Association in Singapore. In different ways these positions have proven incredibly rewarding for me since they allowed me to connect with women both within and outside Citi, with whom I would not have interacted in the normal course of business. Many have become close friends, and others advisers on both strategic and technical issues. I have particularly enjoyed the mentorship component of my engagement, which has allowed me to walk in the shoes of people who have entered the industry more recently and have a very different path ahead of them for which many new skills are required. But some things never change — so I advise my mentees to be curious and self-aware— and in return, I’ve learned as they have given me insight into the technology needs of our clients and the evolution of the investment process.
Julia, you have been in this industry and business for over 20 years now. What are some the challenges you faced and how did they influence your career trajectory? What message would you leave with today’s young talent?
Some of my biggest periods of personal and professional growth have come from business restructuring in the wake of material issues. Many people shy away from these situations — they are complex, stressful, involve multiple stakeholders and unfortunately often result in substantial personnel change. They are tough. And yet they provide opportunities to step away from the day to day and ask yourself some fundamental questions about building businesses that are resilient and accountable. It’s a sort of a “blank slate” moment. I have felt huge professional and personal growth when I have had to manage these situations and I am grateful to have had some of these opportunities in my career. Well— in retrospect anyway.