The Senior Risk Approver for structured transactions, Saadia’s remit also covers assessment of new business initiatives for Markets and the Structured Lending Franchise.
She is recognized for her pragmatic decision-making, her ability to find the “sweet spot” of credit vs. commerce during tough complex negotiations and effective stakeholder management.
Saadia is passionate about investing in others and is a strong advocate for the broader inclusion and diversity agenda.
Saadia founded and co-chairs the 100 Women in Finance Peer Risk Advisory Group in London; co-chairs the RBS Women Policy and Advocacy Committee and is the Global Chair of the Risk Leaders Committee for the Professional Risk Managers International Association where she managed the successful delivery of Women in Risk and Diversity series of events.
She is a Tutor on the Henley Hedge Fund Executive Programme and has successfully designed best-practice training, partnering with Fitch.
She has held Non-Executive Director roles for charitable trusts. Saadia holds an MBA from London Business School.
She has been nominated and shortlisted for the 2019 WIBF Award for Achievement.
How does it feel to be nominated for a WIBF Award for Achievement?
I am absolutely delighted to have been recognised and nominated by my colleagues and clients for this prestigious award.
Can you tell us about your career path that lead you to your current role?
I started my career on the Barclays Graduate program, where I worked in Sales in our Dubai office to deliver and implement the FX E-trading platform to the Banks’s Gulf-based corporate clients. In London I was assigned to the Accenture Partner in the Strategy team at a start-up B2B E-commerce joint venture between Barclays, Oracle and Accenture.
My final assignment was in New York working for the Global Head of Hedge Fund Credit, (Cindy Gargano) and the Global Head of Hedge Fund Analytics, (Paul Lee). This was multifaceted role; from calculating trade-level risk to negotiating with clients (re Initial margin and other VaR-based variables) to providing input on legal negotiations and conducting onsite client due diligence meetings.
One of the key aspects of this role was the design and rollout of the bank’s daily stress testing framework and development of a new risk measure for the Global portfolio which was approved at Board Risk Committee.
After my MBA I joined Bank of America’s Hedge Fund and Equity Derivative Team and in the middle of the credit crisis I was headhunted by Citi and thrown in the deep end. It is one thing to preside over a steady-state portfolio; quite another to manage and make decisions real time atop teams in crisis. This expertise in managing exposure to clients in distress and leading teams in crisis, led to an approach by RBS today NatWest Markets. I enjoy a challenge and being part of one of the largest corporate turnarounds in UK history was an attractive proposition. Over the past few years my remit expanded to its current scope.
What inspired you to found the 100 Women in Finance Peer Risk Advisory Group and can you tell us more about that?
Post credit crisis the number of senior women the industry had reduced significantly. I often found myself the sole senior female decision maker in meetings. The vision and objective for founding the London Chapter of the 100 Women in in Finance Risk Peer Advisory group was to create an effective platform enabling members to share best practice, resources, ideas and visions with their peers.
Our network spans the financial institutions space covering hedge funds, asset managers, banks, and insurance companies and members work across all risk stripes, credit, markets, operational, investment etc. We provide peer-to-peer mentoring and sponsorship – in essence, women enabling women to succeed!
What motivates you to do what you do with regards for championing women?
We are living in era where women’s voices are increasingly being encouraged and heard. Women however still face a number of issues ranging from gender pay gap to lack of visibility, to underrepresentation in leadership positions.
I believe it is a responsibility for those in senior positions to champion women by providing opportunities to raise their colleagues profile and sponsor them to help them succeed. A genuine shift in organizational behaviours and culture can only occur when women at an Executive level and C-Suite are no longer a novelty.
Championship is the key differentiator between women who achieve leadership roles and those who don’t.
I have benefitted from such championship throughout my career, championship that not only encouraged diversity of thought but actually “walked the talk”.
During my time in New York, Cindy and Paul not only endorsed but delivered on personal and professional investment through education and training. Paul invested significant time to ensure I came up the learning curve quickly and his approach gave me the confidence to present my ideas and recommendations to CROs and stakeholders with authority.
As a female executive, Cindy cut an exemplary role model being technically proficient and a natural leader. She pioneered a new accommodative approach for women returning from maternity leave to ensure they could pursue their career and attend to home life in equal measure. She didn’t need a flexible working policy to help her make that decision.
Ann Roughead, a mentor recommended by Kane Edland, a university classmate, has been an inspiration for my Non-Executive Director roles. Always generous with her time, Ann has provided advice and contacts in a way that befits a true champion of women.
What advice would you give to a young woman starting out on her career?
• Holistic Overview - Spend time in different teams across the front, middle and back office to understand the full lifecycle of trades, from pricing/quoting right to post-trade protocol. The better your understanding of how the system works the more valuable your conversations as you work your way up to ladder.
• Seek out international experience both in developed and emerging markets. The experiences of living in a different country and engaging a breadth of cultures and personalities early on your career allows you to build a unique network of people who become your global ambassadors.
• Become an expert and the “go to” person for that sector/product and invest in continuous learning. Don’t rest on your laurels and keep learning to ensure you are up to date with trends and developments. Yes, it’s an investment of time - a significant one – it’s worth it.
• Give back - This can happen at any stage of your career, as a graduate you can help undergrads with interview practice for internships, as an MD of course you can help open doors and provide sponsorship for those coming up. Everyone has someone they can help – you never know how your small action can change someone life forever.
What are you reading at the moment and are you enjoying it?
I’m reading two books – Ray Dalio’s Principals and Michelle Obama’s Becoming, seminal but practical books addressing leadership development and how to “knock the blocks” along the way. Their messaging is more powerful in the form of an autobiography than it would be in a traditional text or clinical work.