Carolyn is a Managing Director of Macquarie Bank’s Commodities and Global Markets’ Securitisation team The bulk of her experience is in investment banking but also spans private equity, advisory and asset management. She has been a director of start-ups, LLP’s and Fortune 500 companies and is respected as a proven strategic thinker with entrepreneurial drive.
Carolyn Porretta
Carolyn Porretta

Carolyn mentors socially-disadvantaged teenage girls with The Girl’s Network and she sits on the board of UN Women UK and chairs its Risk, Governance and Finance committee. She previously chaired City Women Network and the Junior League of London’s boards sub-committees too. She is a passionate and inspirational senior role model who actively supports other women and drive societal change.

Carolyn has been shortlisted for the 2019 Award for Achievement.

How did you get into the banking and finance industry?

I first studied applied mathematics and computer science at University and after four years, aged 22, I realised that I wanted to understand business and the world around me. I wanted to study “everything else”, from economics to marketing, so I took on the challenge and got into a business school called ‘Grande Ecole’ in France. There, what I enjoyed most was market finance and I applied for many internship positions with investment banks. With persistence, I did get to interview stage for a few, and finally got an offer for a position on the exotic rates trading desk at “Société Générale” back in 2004. The rest is history.

Can you tell us your career path leading to your current role?

I used to think that my career path would be linear, and I now laugh about it. I’ve come to peace with the fact that you do not control external events and there will be some tough times, therefore, the only thing you can try and adapt is your reaction to it and your capacity to make the most of every situation.

I started in the securitisation and principal finance team of Bank of America in 2006, just before the credit crisis hit us hard. I went to work for a private equity firm before returning to UBS investment bank where I had a successful time being promoted twice to Executive Director in only four years. I then had “a break” and tried different things, like being a Financial Director for a start-up and being an advisor. I had a baby too. All very different – but equally exciting (and tiring!). After that, I got headhunted to take on a senior role in asset management, overseeing the management of the type of structured products I had once helped put together, alongside some Real Estate Debt ones.

Once established I started missing the adrenaline of deal-closing, and the entrepreneurial opportunities and fast-paced environment that you have in Investment Banking. I also wanted to make the most of my all-round experience in the structured credit world, and above all, join a place with values that resonated with me. So I carried out a strategic and thorough job search for several months and am happy to now be at Macquarie. The company has been profitable for 49 years straight, has a great culture that encourages me to own my career and develop new ideas, has a newly-appointed global female CEO and is genuine about its interest in diversity and willingness to create an inclusive culture. I am thrilled.

Tell us more about your volunteer work with The Girl’s Network charity.

I am a volunteer mentor with this charity whose aim is to inspire and empower girls from disadvantaged communities by connecting them with a mentor and even a new network of professional female role models.

Practically, over the course of a year I will try and meet with my mentee a dozen times. The charity provides themes and materials to support conversations during your meetings if needed, and off you go!

As part of the mentoring my mentees and I have been out for coffee, lunch, cinema trips, but the biggest success has been for one to come to my office and introducing her to various people and learning more about how their job allowed them to travel the world, how one subject such as chemistry can lead to a career in finance, watching all of us wearing our office attire (lots of grey’s and navy’s), travel in the City, the lot! It was of great value and something I’m really proud to support.

You were nominated last year, can you tell us a bit about what you have been up to in the last year?

I carried on doing the same mostly, but I spent some time developing my network. I came to realise that I had a good network, but it was mainly made up of my peers and very much focused on Investment Banking. I realised I lacked senior contacts from diverse backgrounds so I had to actively try and meet with various people, asking for introductions, attending industry events and introducing myself to them there, or sometimes directly on LinkedIn asking for a coffee! Most importantly, offering them something too. That was time-consuming, but a hugely valuable investment and I am glad I did it.

Talking about coffees, I also received plenty of requests for coffee from junior women or others trying to join a charity board. I always try to say yes, as I find that meeting and helping other women gives me an unrivalled energy. There are so many interesting stories to hear out there; it’s great to help each other.

What has been your most memorable lesson in terms of diversity and inclusion?

I went abroad for the first time when I was 18 to Madagascar. We used local transport, travelling to remote towns, and at the time, tourism was not common there. Everywhere, and constantly, people were staring at us and for the first time in my life I was the minority, and I realised what it was to be so. I’ve never forgotten it.

Do you prefer to cook or be cooked for and what is your favourite cuisine?

I love both! We cook fresh from scratch at home, there’s no processed food, and everybody helps. Plus, I am a keen baker, so I’m always happy to make some scones or a cake, especially on Sundays for my family to eat together. When my daughter spots the baking, she starts running around the kitchen screaming, “Scones!!! Scones!!!”, it is the highlight of the week.

Anything modern European makes me happy. I like fresh, tasty, good-quality ingredients cooked simply. I cannot stand eating cold sandwiches or sushi for lunch and I am thankful that Macquarie has brand new facilities where I can re-heat or prepare my lunch, plus an on-site canteen with cool booths to sit, eat and chat.