Celebrating female leadership in FX: Albina Zhdanova, COO at Tools for Brokers

Celebrating female leadership in FX, FinanceFeeds met with Albina Zhdanova, COO at Tools for Brokers, to discuss how she got into the industry and her views on how the industry has developed.

In an industry so well established with roots in all four corners of the globe we took time to discuss what the industry will look like in 10 to 20 years from now.

Whilst we all share different views on where the industry will end up or what it will morph into, the fact is that we forget the many good folk working in the industry. Especially the younger generation that started at the bottom and worked their way up essentially dedicating their careers to fintech, trading and finance.

As is a FinanceFeeds tradition, we decided to celebrate these hard working individuals that have and very well may become the future industry leaders as they move up the ranks. So without further adieu, meet the industry’s future leaders (all under the age of 30).

How did you get into the industry and where did it all start?

My first contact with Forex was in the 6th semester of my studies at university. We had lectures about finance markets and trading Forex. I remember my first words after I walked out from the lecture: “I would never understand that!”. At that time I couldn’t even assume that I would have a career in this sphere, so I concentrated more on organizational skills, management and marketing trying to implement my theoretical knowledge into practice.

I’ve experienced many different fields and each of them helped me to be in the position I am right now.

After graduation my life turned around, I was offered a position as a sales manager in IT company. I was supposed to move far away from my home-town and to start everything from scratch, including entering a new sector, a new job, would have to find new friends and even new places that I would like to visit on time off. That was an offer from Tools For Brokers and I decided to accept it.

I thought that as the firm is an international IT company within the Forex field in the new city, it sounded challenging and attractive.

Tell us about Tools for Brokers

Tools for Brokers is a software development company. We are based in Saint Petersburg, the city with the most qualified developers in the world, that is proved by dozen of championships.

When I came to this company there were about 10 people, everyone was friendly and ready to help. Nevertheless, during the first months of work I felt quite lost because of the huge amount of Forex related and technological terminology.

Although I became as a sales specialist, I was very curious and full of initiative from the very start. That helped me progress to become marketing and sales manager within six months. Another six months later, the CTO of the company decided to leave.

After his departure, the Quality Assurance engineer informed the company that she was also leaving. Within a month, another CTO who was promoted from his original position as senior developer to this position resigned together with the Operational Officer.

As a result, two months later, in November there were 11 people in the company, 6 of them having experience of less than 6 months, and a big amount of pending projects and developments with approaching deadline. Guess what? Right at that moment I got an offer to become Chief Operating Officer. What would you do? I signed the offer and started work really really hard.

Today, two and a half years later, we have 24 people in our strong team and are looking for another two, as well as planning to open an office in Shanghai and expanding in Tokyo. We developed more than 100 plugins, started to provide white label solutions, as well as provide services to binary options firms and consultancy, we have around 300 clients all other the world and are not going to stop on this.

One thing didn’t change. We still have a great team and friendly atmosphere. It is pleasure to work with these people.

What are your views on the women within the financial services industry?

Honestly, I acknowledge a gender difference. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be this question here. For almost 4 years in this company we met a highly qualified female developer just once! I am not saying a woman can’t be a professional developer, but in general it appears more the exception than the rule.

Some differences are caused by nature, some by the culture. This affects how women and men take decisions, how much risk they take and how they think.

I believe that women can count money better and they do have great intuition. Men are more hazardous and like to gamble. Women think about the future and men mostly live the current moment. There is no better or worse, they are just different.

In the Forex industry there are less women because they are less risk orientated. However, I believe that their intuition and proficiency in counting money makes them better traders. Do you know that in Japan the main market of traders are housewives? I truly believe that understanding and, what is more important, accepting this differences will help you to conquer the world whoever you are: man or woman.

Have you faced any challenges and how did you overcome them?

Well, when we speak about this market and top positions that means there was a lot of challenges. For me the first one was to understand all the technical specifications and details. Talking about the last challenge that I faced: it was negotiations with Japanese clients.

Japan is an amazing country and market. When you speak with people of other cultures – the decision can be made in one hour, however no one guarantees that this agreement wouldn’t be withdrawn in a month.

With the Japanese clients you will need, let’s say, 4 meetings 3 hours long, where you should prove your professionalism, patience and follow common interests.

And when the contract is signed you can be sure that you’ll be partners for a really long time. How to overcome these challenges? – The same way as with the gender. Just understand and accept.

Any interesting anecdotes from your own background and how this helped you succeed?

I remember when I was a 19 year old student, together with my fellow students we decided to organize 2-day PR-conference attracting students from different neighbor cities as well as sponsors and good speakers.

Trying to understand how to do everything, I decided to take a non-trivial step. I decided to write a letter to the president of our republic and ask him to come to our conference. Normally you shouldn’t do that without the approval of your professors and bosses.

Few days later I received a call: “Hello Albina. This is administration of the President. Can you please come tomorrow 9am to our office, we want to talk with you regarding your email.” Oh my god, what happened to me?” I thought. One minute a call from the President’s office, an hour later another call!”.. ” Hello Albina. This is the principals’ assistant. We just received a call from the President’s administration. Can you please come up to our cabinet for a talk?”.

That was a really awkward situation. Now I know that this is called opportunistic behavior. What can I conclude from that case? You should try new things and take risks in order to learn how to carry them out.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Last year I made plans for the next two years but the biggest part of them changed and exceeded my expectations in the next 6 months! Now I am afraid of making any plans not to limit myself while new opportunities are coming. In professional sphere I believe that T4B (Tools for Brokers)  would be one of the biggest players on the market in 5 years. Anyway, I’m always opened to all kind of changes and challenges!

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