As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, it is important to highlight the achievements and contributions of women in various industries, including finance. In this interview, Jessica Beckstead, managing director, North America, and CEO, US, shares her experiences and insights on gender equality in the sector.
Her advice for women starting out in finance and her efforts to promote more equality and acceptance across the financial sector are particularly relevant on this day as the world celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women while also recognizing the work that still needs to be done toward gender equality.
Q: What made you want to enter the finance industry?
It all started when I was in college studying international politics and economics. I began day trading. I found it really exciting, so I made the decision to go into finance and trading, but the stock market didn’t really appeal to me — I wanted a more global view. In 2004, I started as a sales trader at FXCM and began to work my way up, eventually to managing director and CEO of FXCM Australia before joining OANDA in September last year. My first role when I started as a sales trader was covering Asian markets, so my hours were from 2:00 pm until 2:00 am, which wasn’t a great way to meet people in a new city, but we all have to start somewhere. It was amazing for me to be able to follow a passion and combine that with what I learned in college.
Q: What advice would you give to women who want to work in crypto/finance?
Find a female mentor that’s already in the space who can guide and lead you through some of the hurdles that you’re going to face and give you a sense of what you’re up against. There are so many organizations now that are dedicated to women in tech and finance, so that would be my advice to anyone starting out. You see that female leaders do want to foster these relationships and help pay it forward. It’s something that I make sure to prioritize as part of my role at OANDA.
Q: What are the top three lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
As I’ve moved up into management roles:
- Always explain the “Why.” Why do we do certain things as a business? Why does this matter? Not just giving orders.
- Being transparent. If you try to sugarcoat things or don’t give the whole story, in my experience, it backfires. So, explaining why you get paid what you get paid, why the results are what they are, etc.
- Balancing the bigger picture with the weeds. This has been crucial as I’ve moved into more executive roles. It is absolutely essential to always have that 30,000-ft view, but that needs to be balanced with not being afraid to get into the weeds and understanding the nitty gritty. Understanding exactly what you’re asking your staff to do and how that looks day to day is invaluable, in my opinion.
Q: What are the most challenging aspects of being a CEO in finance?
The forex and crypto segments of the finance industry are particularly fast-paced. The forex market alone has an average daily turnover of $7.5 trillion. Very often, you have to be able to absorb information, analyze it and make decisions (preferably the right decisions) very quickly.
The industry has changed immensely since I began in 2004, and regulation has been a big part of that change. It has certainly helped bring credibility to the industry, but staying on top of the changes and balancing implementation with educating clients about how to prepare for these changes is definitely a challenge.
Q: A recent OANDA survey revealed that more female traders plan to invest in crypto this year than male traders. Why do you think that is?
There’s been a lot of studies around why there are fewer female traders than male traders, and a lot of the research points to the fact that women tend to be more risk-averse. If they had $10,000, statistically speaking, they’re more likely to put that in a savings account than trade it. Although, if we look at success rates in trading, female traders tend to be more disciplined, which can lead to better results.
It’s important for us in this industry to make sure we highlight the ways that risk can be managed — adding stops and limits to trades, making sure that we’re minimizing our usage of leverage, and providing more education in general to increase female participation.
Q: Who are the female role models that inspired you when you were making your first steps into finance?
I always looked up to Sallie Krawcheck. I admired the way she worked her way up during a period of time when there were very few women in positions like hers, and how she persevered through the adversity she faced.
Q: What are your goals as CEO of OANDA? What are you doing to promote more equality and acceptance across the financial sector?
Our motto is “Smarter trading,” and it truly embodies how we approach things at OANDA. Our goal is to provide a best-in-class product for our clients and continually improve upon that. Some of the enhancements we will be rolling out this year include improved charting, the launch of a loyalty program to reward our clients and something I am very excited about — more in-person events where we will have the opportunity to provide additional education to our clients and also spend some time getting to know them.
While it is clear that there are challenges to be addressed in terms of gender equality within the finance industry, it is also encouraging to see the progress that has been made. As more women enter the industry and become role models for others, the future of female entrepreneurs and managers in the crypto industry is bright.
Find out more about OANDA on the company’s official website.
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