Between 2014 and 2017, Esra was Head of Client Management and Sales at Barclays Non Core (BNC). Before joining BNC, Esra was the Head of Distribution and Risk Solutions Group for Middle East, North Africa and Turkey at Barclays Investment Bank and member of the MENA Management Committee in Dubai (2011 – 2014). She was also the Investment Banking Investment Management (IBIM) Head for Turkey Distribution and Wealth (2009 – 2013).
Esra represents Barclays on the Board and Finance Committee of Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership as a Trustee and Board Member. She is also a visiting researcher in classics at Royal Holloway, University of London.
How did you get into the banking and finance industry?
I loved maths at school and was interested in international finance so I thought banking would be a good career for me. I grew up in Istanbul where you study business or economics to get into banking so I attended Bogazici University and got a degree in Business Administration. My favourite elective was finance but I felt what we learnt in the undergraduate degree was just scratching the surface so I applied for graduate programs to deepen my understanding of finance. I did not have any work experience at the time but was accepted by UCLA Anderson School of Management where I studied corporate finance theory.
I had my first taste of banking in my final undergraduate year in Istanbul where I finished my degree one semester early so I got an internship at the local office of Bankers Trust and enjoyed every minute of it. During my MBA program, I had a summer internship in the finance department of a multinational in Rome which was fascinating but I realised I much preferred the fast-paced environment of banking. I got my first job at Bankers Trust London in corporate finance and after 2.5 years, I moved to the trading floor and redid my training in derivatives. In terms of training, technical skills, deal exposure and caliber of colleagues and mentors, it was the best start I could have asked for in banking.
What has been the most rewarding project you have worked on?
The 3 years I worked at Barclays Non Core was the most intense and most rewarding experience in my career. It was a huge undertaking where we brought down the Non Core RWAs from £118 billion to £23 billion in 3 years as a result of which our division was closed 6 months ahead of schedule. Our portfolio was very diverse and we were effectively disrupting our jobs. None of us in the leadership team could have achieved the results we have achieved without the great collaboration amongst our teams and the wider bank and our partners in the street. It was a lesson in how to achieve what seemed impossible thanks to single-minded focus and energy in the division, incredible support from senior management and mobilisation of the entire bank.
Tell us about the very first WIBF event you attended.
My mentor Noreen Doyle took me to my first WIBF event in June 2014 when she was WBIF’s patron. Noreen has been an incredible mentor, role model and inspiration ever since I met her at Bankers Trust and it was a real privilege to attend your event as Noreen’s guest. She is such a firm believer in giving back to society and in empowerment and promotion of women that despite her hectic schedule, we were able to host her twice at our WIN gender network events at Barclays when she was Vice Chair of Credit Suisse Group in 2014 and then as Chair of BBA in 2017. I also attended the WBIF Awards Luncheon last summer where Barclays sponsored the Champion for Women Award: There was great energy in the room and it was wonderful to have so many senior men in attendance.
What are your top tips for success?
I think it is incredibly important to be connected to who you are and to be centered in yourself. When you do that, you know what matters to you and you develop the strength and conviction and ultimately that inner confidence to withstand obstacles and to go after your dreams. If you can conquer yourself, you conquer life.
How can we get the biggest shift towards diverse and inclusive workplaces?
I think culture is really important. While we have many challenges in achieving gender diversity and equality in our industry, diversity to me is about diversity of thought, ability to challenge one another and not to be afraid to be who we are at work. Inclusiveness is what enables us to foster diversity and reap its many benefits including increased productivity and creativity, and inclusiveness is all about having a good culture.
How do you like to unwind?
I like reading history and doing sports. I have developed an interest in the history of one of the earliest banks of our civilisation, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus in modern Turkey. This Graeco Roman temple bank was not only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world but also had a great reputation as one of the most respected banking institutions of its time that lasted for a millennium. I am currently a visiting researcher in classics at Royal Holloway, University of London, to further research the history and ethics of this incredible institution. I would like to thank WBIF for re-publishing my recent FT article on this subject.