Liquidity’s leading lady: Meet Kirsty Gillies, Global Head of eFX Sales at Sucden Financial

Sucden Financial senior executive Kirsty Gillies details her instrumental role in the liquidity sector, and looks at how she drew the best from top female role models at top Tier 1 interbank desks and within the OTC FX sector

Companies in today’s trading environment have vastly expanded on the ability of providing second to none technology solutions in an ever evolving electronic trading market. This is encompassed and supported by building strong client relationships, which is always at the forefront of any successful business.

Generally, great emphasis is being placed on the need of clients, such as retail FX brokerages, to ensure that their trading requirements are seamlessly met. However, over the past decade, legislation has vastly changed and regulators across the globe have implemented regulatory requirements, which seek to ensure the efficient and safe running of global financial markets.

To that end, Sucden Financial is no exception. Established in 1973 and an early proponent of electronic trading, Sucden Financial’s London based operation has grown to  represent a significant source of FX liquidity for many brokerages, backed by the strong balance sheet of the company’s wider business.

Today, here in London, FinanceFeeds met with Kirsty Gillies, Global Head of eFX Sales at Sucden Financial Limited in a detailed account of her career, touching on what led her to a senior position within London’s institutional liquidity sector within the FX and CFD industry, her path along the way and many observational anecdotes of great interest within our industry.

“I first became interested in a career in banking and finance whilst studying economics at school in Scotland. I had an incredibly inspirational teacher called Mr MacFarlane and rather than strictly teaching the exam syllabus, we would read articles from the FT in each class and relate them back to the lessons. It made concepts that could seem quite abstract to teenagers more meaningful and I think it’s little wonder that my entire higher economics class went on to study economics at university!” enthused Ms Gillies.

“I did a 4-year Masters in Economics and Management at the University of St Andrews, a very special place to study at any time but made even more unique by a certain Royal! In between classes, holding down part time jobs and spending way too much time in the student union, I focused on building up my CV with various work experiences and internships. It involved a lot of travelling up and down between London and St Andrews, but I knew that in order to succeed in the super competitive milkround, I had to find a way to stand out” she explained.

“From the JPMorgan Spring Week Programme in my 1st year to a Diversity in the City programme with Citi, I was able to build up a network of contacts and gain a greater understanding of roles available in the city. I successfully applied for the Goldman Sachs internship programme in my penultimate year and spent an intense 12 weeks experiencing the world of private wealth management. What became clear during that time was that the sales and trading element of PWM most interested me and I was able to use that knowledge to target such graduate roles. I was hired by Barclays Capital in my final year, starting the following September, which meant that rather than spending the summer after university job hunting, I grabbed my backpack and travelled overland from St Petersburg to Hong Kong for the next few months” – Kirsty Gillies, Global Head of eFX Sales at Sucden Financial Limited

BARX Army! – Single Dealer Platform, Multi Faceted Leadership!

Looking at leading ladies in the FX business as a reference point, Ms Gillies said “I have been very lucky to have had strong female role models to look up to in this industry who have invested their time and given their support. One of the first was Susan Scott (now Cooney), now Co-Founder of MahiFX, who I worked for at Barclays Capital from 2006 in the now legendary “BARX Army”. Despite being the graduate on the desk, I was thrown into the BARX sales effort along with the rest of the Army. From central banks, corporates in Turkey, banks in the Middle East and hedge funds in London, I was able to develop a broad understanding of client requirements and hone my sales technique.”

“This was still in the relatively early days of e-FX adoption and not long after Barclays first introduced to the industry the concept of precision pricing, or the 5th decimal, which seems incredible to think of now! It was an exciting time for the development of the e-FX industry, although not everyone was always supportive, and I enjoyed being able to drive the change and be at the leading edge of new innovations” explained Ms Gillies.

“After 4 extremely enjoyable years at BarCap, I was headhunted to join UBS as the eFX Sales Head in their London office. Again, over the next 8 years I was able to take advantage of many opportunities to learn and develop myself, both from a leadership perspective and also in terms of expanding my product knowledge particularly within FX algos and also other asset classes such as rates and credit. One of my proudest personal moments was being promoted to Executive Director before the age of 30 which shows that there is no substitute for hard work and focus” she said.

Diversity at institutional level

“It was at UBS that I first became actively involved with diversity and inclusion, sitting on the D&I Committee for the FX, rates and credit business. Under this framework, I ran a series of group mentoring sessions aimed at junior females. As someone who was already running one of the more diverse teams on the trading floor, these mentoring sessions were an opportunity to meet with junior females from many different backgrounds and offer practical support in addition to expanding their network within the firm” – Kirsty Gillies, Global Head of eFX Sales at Sucden Financial Limited

“After 12 years at investment banks, I was excited to join Sucden Financial in 2018 as their Global Head of eFX Sales. Sucden Financial and their eFX management team of Peter Brooks and Wayne Roworth were already very well known to me and we shared a vision for the future development of their business. A key theme I had seen growing was the desire of larger institutional clients seeking to improve price discovery and transparency via a non-bank liquidity provider and Sucden Financial was perfectly positioned to meet this need” she said.

“Personally, I have particularly enjoyed the entrepreneurial atmosphere at Sucden Financial and the ability to truly shape the business to meet my clients’ requirements. The role has also given me the opportunity to further develop my leadership ability on a global scale. Working closely with my teams in both Hong Kong and Moscow, we’ve recently launched our TY3 environment via Flextrade and also announced our connection to NTPro (BierbaumPro in Europe) for our clients in Russia and the CIS region” – Kirsty Gillies, Global Head of eFX Sales at Sucden Financial Limited.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with so many inspirational people over the years and have had some very good fun along the way! Something I’ve always admired about the FX world is that your qualifications will only ever get you through the door, it’s truly a merit-based industry and there is no substitute for working hard and treating everyone with respect!” said Ms Gillies.

Tips from the top

Ms Gillies was keen to give good advice on leadership and success within the FX industry. “If you want it, ask for it” she said.

“Particularly in large organisations, don’t assume that just getting your head down and performing will get you noticed. That would be the case in a perfect world however, in reality, you need to take ownership of your career – expand your network and have a plan.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. Research shows that women are far less likely to push for a new role unless they feel they can already do it – take a risk and back yourself to be able to step up” explained Ms Gillies.

“Widen your world – the city can be a very insular bubble. About 3 years ago I became a Trustee for a big Lottery funded charity which provides befriending and advocacy services to over 250 individuals within the Tower Hamlets borough to combat social isolation and loneliness and I’ve really enjoyed connecting with the local community and contributing to the world in a small but more meaningful way” concluded Ms Gillies.

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