Ayesa is a Director and the Head of the EMEA e-Commerce sales team for Foreign Exchange (FX) and Local Market (LM) Rates and manages over a $100 million dollar business at Citi. Citi is an industry leader in FX with presence in 74 countries with market share of over 10% globally and the e-commerce business is a core component of their strategy to stay at the top of the market.
Ayesa Latif
Ayesa Latif

Ayesa comes from a humble background. She was born in the Philippines and her family originates from Bangladesh. Her parents moved to the United States when she was 4 years old. From a very young age, her parents instilled into her and her sister a high work ethic and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. Having access to an excellent and free education system was a key stepping stone to changing her life and enabling her success today. This is why Ayesa is passionate about education related programs and non-profit organizations that help underprivileged children gain access to education.

Over the past two years Ayesa has been fortunate to be the EMEA Sales lead for Citi’s “e for education” campaign through which her business donates $1 for every $1million of foreign exchange traded by their clients electronically to education related non-profits globally. Last year was a record year and they raised over $6 million from this campaign. As a part of the campaign, she spends a lot of her time organizing events for students from the respective charities to engage and inspire them through a variety of activities and presentations.

Ayesa attended The City College of New York on a full scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering. She completed her internship at Stryker Orthopaedics where she worked on the Japan Product Development team helping to design hip and knee replacements and medical instrumentation. After her graduation, Ayesa decided to shift her career and joined the graduate program at Goldman Sachs in 2008. Her background in engineering helped her to quickly become a top performer in her finance career. In 2009, she moved to London with Goldman Sachs and was promoted to Executive Director in 2014. Prior to joining Citi in 2016, she was the Co-Head of the EMEA e-Commerce sales team at Goldman Sachs.

Tell us about your day to day role

I work very closely with the sales, trading, product, and technology teams to help develop innovative new products and implement strategies for our clients. As one of the largest liquidity providers, we have developed close partnerships with our clients over the years. Our clients demand the best in class pricing, depth of liquidity, a complete product suite and workflow solutions. Velocity is one of few platforms that can provide the breadth of product and service, competitive pricing, and depth of liquidity that our institutional clients need.

I also spend a lot of time on diversity, recruitment and talent management. The only way to build the best business is to hire and retain the best people and invest in your team.

Last year you were selected to participate in the Citi Women’s Leadership Development program, what did you learn and gain from that experience?

The Citi Women’s Leadership Development Program was launched in 2008 and is an initiative to support the advancement of high performing female Directors to senior management. The program combines lectures, discussions, small group work, and personal assignments to help female leaders to advance their careers. The goal of the program is to teach it’s participants to demonstrate executive readiness, become champions and role models to the organization, and grow professional networks.

The program is typically held twice a year with approximately 50 participants from all over the world and from all parts of the bank. I found the program a very rewarding experience. It’s taught me to a better manager and a more compassionate leader. More importantly, I was able to meet and hear the stories of some of the most fantastic and inspirational women that work at Citi. The network you build globally through this program is invaluable.

What is the biggest challenge facing your area of the sector?

The e-Commerce FX market is a very competitive space. In order to stay at the top of the market, you have to be the best for your clients. This means listening to your clients and continuing to invest in innovative new technologies, expanding your product suite, and providing deep and consistent liquidity.

For example, with respect to pricing and trade capture we’ve reduced latency and achieved higher throughput with new high capacity lines across our co-locations, actively reducing hops across both the network as well as within the trade stack itself, allowing us to deliver pricing to clients some 60-70ms faster while realizing gains of some 75% in trade capture optimization.

We have also built our pre-trade analytics suite which offers live views on liquidity and spread conditions in the market which help our clients make more informed decisions around their execution. These types of products were not previously available to clients so add a lot of value to them.

What is an essential quality of a successful manager?

You have to listen to your people, invest time in them and get to know them. Each individual on the team brings something to the table and has their relative strengths and weaknesses. As a manager, it’s important to be able to identify what those are and work with your team to promote those strengths and help support and develop areas where they need help.

I believe diversity is crucial to building a successful and balanced team with different skillsets that complement one another.

It’s also important to lead from the front. The benchmark for excellence is high and we work in high pressure environments. As a manager, you need to set the pace and direction for the team and be the role model.