Ayesa has been instrumental in the success of the electronic trading business within CitiFX. She has more than doubled revenues in the four years since joining from Goldman Sachs in 2016. Ayesa has achieved this by developing close partnerships with key clients and working with the product, technology and trading teams at Citi to deliver best in class pricing, depth of liquidity, product suite and electronic workflow solutions through Velocity.
Ayesa is a keen advocate and champion for diversity and a driver for change. She has invested much of her time in hiring and developing the best talent to build one of the most diverse teams within FX. Her team is a shining example of how hiring diverse talent can lead to higher performance and revenues.
Ayesa is also a strong believer in corporate social responsibility. Beyond her day to day, she is the regional champion for Citi’s annual charity campaign, Citi E for Education, leveraging her team and platforms to help generate $8 million in contributions to education related non-profit organisations last year. Outside of work, Ayesa also spends time speaking and coaching young women and minority students in the hope to inspire them to pursue careers in underrepresented fields such as banking and STEM.
Ayesa is winner of the 23rd Annual Awards The Future Leaders Award.
You were nominated for the WIBF Young Professional Award in 2018, what are your memories of that process?
It was an amazing experience and a great network to be a part of. Through the process, I met many inspiring women across banking and finance who share similar experiences to me. We even had the opportunity to speak with HRH, the Countess of Wessex, and hear about the work she is doing on gender equality around the world. It was also nice to be recognized by Citi and the industry for my work accomplishments.
What has been your career highlights since 2018?
The electronic FX business at Citi continues to grow and outperform our peers across the FX markets. We have developed a broad, deep, and customer-focused business with Citi Velocity, our award winning trading platform, at the centre of it. We have evolved with the market and regulatory landscape and improved productivity and efficiency with a differentiated offering that adds significant value to clients.
Our team continues to invest heavily in technology innovation to defend our #1 position in the industry. In the last two years, we reconstructed our structured forwards offering and re-wrote our pricing models to deliver quicker and more competitive pricing for clients. We deployed a low latency infrastructure for our API business and developed the FX overview page which brings together our research, sales and trading ideas, strategy and quant publications all in one place, at the fingertips of our clients. We are building the next generation of market leading algos which is due to be released later this year and will be a huge benefit to our clients.
More recently, as a result of the pandemic, we saw a huge pivot in trading behaviour from our clients to our e-commerce platforms and solutions. Having the right technology and platforms enabled our clients to continue dealing with us while working from home. We were there for our clients when they needed us the most.
This year, we also released our much anticipated vendor scorecard which assesses each FX vendor platform against a number of criteria with the intention of providing market participants with greater transparency and clients with an objective framework for vendor platform comparisons. We now require all platform vendors we connect through to commit to the principles of best practice in the FX Global Code. We hope this approach will increase standards and competition across all vendors.
I also have the honour of leading the EMEA efforts for Citi’s annual E for Education campaign, which has grown significantly over the past few years. During the campaign, CitiFX donates a percentage of proceeds from our electronic trading business to raise funds for education-focused non-profit organizations that tackle childhood illiteracy and improves access to quality education. We work with 10 non-profit partners globally that support the right to education for all children, including the Malala Fund in 2018 and Teach For All for the first time in 2020. Since the launch of the campaign, we have raised over $37 million to support over 600,000 youth, and 530 schools across 32 countries.
Diversity has also been a key focus for me. I made it a personal goal as a hiring manager to source and hire talented and diverse people. I am proud to say, half of my team today are women and half of my team are underrepresented minority ethnicities. This is atypical of most teams within banking and finance, especially in sales and trading roles within markets. My job is to continue to invest in, retain, and promote our talent. I believe that diverse managers attract and hire more diverse talent. The success of our team is also a testament to the correlation between diversity and high performance.
FX has always been a traditionally male dominated sector of the industry, are you seeing this changing, and what more needs to happen to see closer gender parity?
I see more women coming through the graduate program and at junior levels, but we need to do a better job of retaining, investing, and promoting them. There are still too few women sitting in senior roles in FX across the market and we lose many women after the VP level. A key driver of the gender pay gap that exists within banking and finance comes from the greater number of men relative to women in more senior and higher paying roles. In order to close this gap, we need to build a pipeline of female talent and proactively give them platforms and opportunities to showcase their abilities.
I am proud to work for an organization like Citi, who has signed the UK Women in Finance Charter, and set a goal to achieve at least 30% female representation among Directors and Managing Directors in EMEA by 2025. More companies and teams need to implement specific and measurable targets to hold themselves accountable for improving the diversity of their workforce. We don’t need diversity just because it is the right thing to do; we also need diversity because it translates into a better business.
How do you manage your work, kids and family responsibilities?
It’s tough! My husband also works in banking and we both have high intensity jobs while juggling two young children. I’m lucky that we work really well as a team and share a similar outlook on life. Our children are our number one priority but neither of us feels like we have to compromise on our careers to be present and involved with our children. We made a commitment that at least one parent would always be at home in the evenings and weekends, so we plan our client meetings, events, and trips ahead of time, and around each other’s schedules. It is a lot of juggling, but we manage to make it work most days. I am fortunate to have a partner that understands and supports my career choice, respects me as an equal, and is my biggest cheerleader both personally and professionally. If I didn’t have the support at home, it would be challenging for me to perform to the best of my ability at work. This is an issue that many working mothers face every day.
Finally, how did you keep up your spirits during lockdown?
The beginning of lockdown was challenging. I had to figure out a new way to work. My first priority was to make sure each member of my team felt supported during lockdown and was keeping well from a physical and mental health perspective. At the same time, I had to find ways to keep my team engaged and focused on our business objectives and goals. We had to step up our client intensity and engagement virtually to ensure our clients felt well connected and had access to our traders, liquidity, pricing, and market insights. In all of this, we were home-schooling a 5 year old and I had our 10 month old son on my lap and on many video calls. It was definitely a stressful time, but I try to focus on the positives in life, which were, my family and friends were healthy and safe and I got to spend my commute time in the mornings and evenings playing with my children instead. There were also many mid-day cuddles from the kids that kept me going through the tougher days!