Growing up with a keen interest in Politics & Current Affairs, Abisola began her career aged 11, working alongside Local and UK Government, the Metropolitan Police and other organisations to ensure young people were included at the decision-making table.
Abisola Barber
Abisola Barber

Now as a Trading Business Manager within FiRM, Abisola is responsible for three bespoke trading desks and supporting the business in its responsibility for driving returns and managing financial resources across Barclays International.

Abisola has been nominated for the Rising Star Award in the WIBF 2018 Awards for Achievement. She was nominated by Olaniyi Oyeledun of Barclays.

We asked Abisola to tell us a bit more about herself…

Tell us about your day to day role

I currently work as a Business Manager at Barclays in a recently created division, Financial Resource Management (FiRM). FiRM was established in 2017 with the mandate and responsibility for helping drive returns and manage capital & financial resources, structuring and financing activity across Barclays International. Given the wide remit of BI (which includes the Corporate & Investment Bank, Barclaycard International and the Private Bank & Overseas Services), FiRM’s scope incorporates managing capital, leverage, risk assets, funding and tax optimization across these businesses.

My role covers three bespoke Trading desks with varying areas of expertise, including holistic xVA management and Counterparty Credit Risk more specifically, Collateral Optimization, and specialized legacy Macro trading. The Business Management role – often referred to as Chief Operating Office (COO) – requires the ability to provide short-term operating and administrative leverage to the Business head, whilst simultaneously shaping and executing long-term strategic change and economic decision-making. I am encouraged to act as an empowered delegate for the Business, often representing for Regulatory and Legislative initiatives, and offering oversight over all organisational requirements from Technology to Real Estate to Communications, partnering with key internal stakeholders for successful delivery. Working with a range of colleagues with broad skill sets and interests enables me to constantly learn from them; and the sheer variety of the desks I cover always ensures no two days are the same!

You are Co-Chair of the WIN Gender Network’s ‘Recruit and Retain’ committee, what do you think are the essential things a company should do to retain female talent?

Barclays’ Gender Network, WIN, exists to encourage, inspire and support women in achieving their career goals and potential at Barclays through the support of all colleagues. The success of the network is in empowering all colleagues to participate, join the debate and support the cause – regardless of gender.

Alongside two other fantastic women, I co-chair the ‘Recruit and Retain’ committee. We focus specifically on early recruitment of highly capable and talented women into the Bank, engaging them via University outreach events, social media insights, and external co-partner events; and supporting those leaving and returning to work due to parental leave through preparation workshops and buddy communities – be it maternity or paternity cover. More recently, we have begun supporting a new initiative to help women reignite their careers following an extended break and re-enter the workforce, partnering with the Barclays ‘Encore!’ programme.

My particular passion is ensuring the next generation are empowered and encouraged to be the best version of themselves, with the appropriate support and guidance they require early in their careers. From personal experience, I know and have seen the impact this can have when executed effectively – and sadly where lacking, the missed opportunities that are faced. Targeting women from an early age and point in their career, offering appropriate opportunities to excel, and developing and exposing their skill set to maximize their talent are vital to enabling the retention of female talent. Where the loyalty and investment is shown, I firmly believe affinity there grows.

How did you get into the banking and finance industry?

I grew up with a keen interest in Politics and Current Affairs, and in fact began working for alongside Local and UK Government, the Metropolitan Police and other organisations at the age of 11 – passionate to ensure young people were included at the decision-making table. Throughout my A Levels and Undergraduate degree, I was successful in securing work placements and internships at top Financial Services firms, intrigued by the interlock between the economy and society, and the impact it has on both the national and international level.

Before joining Barclays on the Graduate scheme in 2014, I completed my MSc in International Public Policy at University College London (UCL), passing with Merit. Interestingly my thesis focused on gender differentials in political voting patterns from sociotropic and egocentric perspectives, given the state of the National Economy. My fascination on the impact economic performance can have on the average person’s decision-making, on both a self-interested and collective level, encouraged me to understand how the performance of a variable responsible for impacting economic performance – namely the Banking and Finance industry – can impact behaviour. Over the past four years, I have held various roles at Barclays that have enabled me to understand how the Bank works, building the puzzle of understanding how this can in turn impact the industry, economy as a whole, and decision-making.

When was a time you were out of your comfort zone and how did it ultimately help you?

My first permanent role following the completion of my Graduate Scheme saw me in Barclays’ Non-Core division. This specific business area was established to reduce assets and businesses that, although valuable, simply did not form part of Barclays’ future strategy. The run-down activity coordinated and executed by BNC therefore had significantly positive financial impacts by removing costs from the Group businesses – a total reduction of c. £95bn RWA in its three years of operation – and allowing capital to be appropriately redeployed. As a Project Manager in the team, my role required responsibility and oversight over the Global Market Operations (including Trade Capture, Middle Office, Confirmations and Settlements) execution and delivery on Traded Asset divestment projects.

One particular project under my remit was due to be executed during the final working week before Christmas 2016. The project had been tracking ‘Green’ for the previous five months since inception, with frequent and successful planning and preparation with all internal and external stakeholders. Contingency plans and back-up contingency plans had been baked into the run book to ensure timely and successful completion over the three-day execution period. However, one incorrect action by an external stakeholder on day one sent the project immediately into ‘Red’ status, escalating immediately to Senior Management and posing a considerable threat to completion. Having to manage both internal and external senior stakeholders, with high dependencies on the completion of this project and potential reputation implications, was not a situation I was au-fait with – but one I had to throw myself into. My resilience and tenacity grew exponentially in what were the toughest three days of my career at the time; and through that experience, I emerged far more confident in my abilities and network of support to successfully turn the project around and complete in the nick of time!

Tell us about the very first WIBF event you attended.

Interestingly enough, the very first WIBF event I attended was the 2017 WIBF Awards Luncheon, supporting fellow colleague and WIN co-chair Caroline Graham who was shortlisted for the Champion for Women award. It was such an encouraging and inspiring opportunity to be surrounded by successful women changing perceptions and driving the Diversity & Inclusion agenda at their various companies. That is why this year, I am truly honoured and humbled to have been shortlisted for the Rising Star Award – thank you!

How do you like to unwind?

One of my favourite ways to unwind is actually at the gym – which is quite different to a lot of people, I’m sure! I am a big fan of a tough, sweaty workout. So whether it is a weight lifting/Crossfit-type session, functional high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, spinning class or restorative yoga, you will most probably find me there! And the best part of workout out is the refuelling after, which means trying out all the great new brunch and lunch restaurants across London.