Reflecting Inward and Influencing Outward-The Colourful Life of Trader Eunice Zhu
2021 was a milestone year for Eunice Zhu’s career. She was the winner of the We Are the City – Rising Star Award in Banking and Capital Markets, was selected for the HERoes Global Top 100 Women Future Leaders list by INvolve and Yahoo Finance, was a finalist for the Women in Finance Next Generation Leader of the Year Award and the Ethnicity Award Top 3 Future Leader Award, and was Highly Commended by the Asian Women of Achievement Award in the Business Category.
In 2022, Eunice was once again selected for the HERoes Global Top 100 Women Future Leaders list (ranked No. 12) and was a finalist for the Women in Credit Awards’ Advocate of The Year. As such, her outstanding contributions as a role model for women in finance and an advocate for gender and ethnic minority equality have been recognized and acknowledged by the UK public.
Academic Superstar and Career Outperformer
Eunice has loved and excelled at mathematics and science since she was young. During high school, she skipped two grades. At the age of 16, she was admitted to the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, majoring in Econometrics. She consistently ranked among the top students and graduated with the title of “Outstanding Graduate” at the age of 20. In her third year, she was selected to study abroad in Sweden as an international exchange student. There, her vision was broadened and her worldview became more mature. She made up her mind to pursue graduate studies in the UK. In 2008, while pursuing a master’s degree in Finance and Economics at the London School of Economics, she focused on her studies and again graduated with the highest academic performance – Distinction.
It was 2009 when Eunice graduated, the economy was in recession amid the global financial crisis. It was very difficult for graduates to find employment in the UK, and many of her Chinese classmates decided to return to China for jobs. However, Eunice was determined to gain work experience in the financial industry in London before returning to China for career development. With no industry contacts in the UK, she had no choice but to grit her teeth and look for a job. During that year, Eunice sent out numerous resumes and went to every interview she could get. Although she recalls that she did not have any remarkable ability to shine in her interviews, she still received several job offers and eventually joined the Italian investment bank UniCredit.
In her first job as a derivatives XVA trader, Eunice was always inquisitive and proactive at work, constantly asking questions and speaking her mind. Eunice says that she did not have the high-pressure lifestyle as people thought, and she could basically complete all her tasks during working hours. However, she often voluntarily stayed in the office for longer and worked overtime mainly to learn new skills, gain a deeper understanding of the financial market, and get to know her colleagues better. With a solid theoretical foundation accumulated in school and the experience she gained in the workplace, she quickly adapted to the role of a trader and was quickly promoted to Associate Director.
Although traders are primarily engaged in product pricing, trading, and project management in the front office of investment banks, Eunice was able to collaborate and communicate with colleagues in other positions at work, comprehensively understanding the middle and back-office operations of the investment bank, thus giving herself a better control of her own role.
After more than five years, she joined RBC Capital Markets, the investment banking arm of the Royal Bank of Canada as Vice President of Counterparty Risk Trading. In 2017, she also became a chartered financial analyst (CFA) charterholder. In May 2018, she stepped up the career ladder joining one of Japan’s megabanks, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), as Director, Head of Derivatives XVA Trading EMEA in London.
In her studies and work, Eunice always “spares no effort to do her best,” and she attributes this quality to her mother’s influence. Her mother is a strong, driven woman and has been a role model for Eunice from childhood to adulthood. Whenever Eunice had any confusion in her studies or work, her mother always offered her ideas and solutions from a different city or country. Her mother’s persistent and enthusiastic attitude towards life has always inspired Eunice to move forward.
The Myth of A Female Trader
When it comes to traders, many people might immediately imagine a picture of several large computer screens standing in front of an office desk, displaying various charts and graphics in red and green, with traders holding the cheek in one hand and tapping the keyboard in the other, gazing at the screens. If you extend the view to the entire venue, you may also think of the scene in “The Wolf of Wall Street” where traders are shouting and making frantic phone calls. Did you have a female figure in the image you just formed in your mind? Probably not.
Is trading a difficult job? As Eunice shares, the skill set for this job requires mathematics and finance knowledge, excellent analytical and communication skills, and an ability to multitask. The multiple big computer screens in front of traders are not just for show, but for displaying trading applications and Excel spreadsheets for analysis, which help traders multitask while keeping track of market price changes on the screen.
People who believe that women are not suitable to be traders often think that women are not capable of handling high-pressure work and balancing work with the stereotypical “family” role that women are supposed to play. But Eunice believes that women actually have advantages over men in financial trading – women are more resilient, less impulsive amid market volatility, and are more patient and cautious in making decisions. Therefore, women are no worse than men as traders. As for the reason why women are underrepresented in trading, Eunice shares that it is mostly due to both employers and job seekers. In this male-dominated industry, recruiters have long favoured male candidates, while many female graduates find it difficult to actively seek jobs in trading due to the lack of female role models in the industry. This has somehow created a closed loop of a poor job-seeking environment for women.
The financial industry has not been very friendly to female employees historically, especially in male-dominated trading departments. In early 2015, selected as a “Top Talent” in her company, Eunice was given the opportunity to transfer to the foreign exchange option trading department internally. As the only woman in the team, she was treated unfairly by her then new manager, who would ask her to buy lunch and coffee for him and all the male colleagues even when it was out of her way. Eunice refused this request repeatedly, stating that her work time was as important as that of her male colleagues and stressing the importance of mutual respect in the workplace. It was interesting to note that, the male manager who once asked Eunice to bring the team food came across Eunice as a client several years later in a different company, this time Eunice did not give him the chance to boss her around. With this example, Eunice hopes that more female professionals will stand up for their basic rights and know how to say “no” to unfair treatment, and that more companies and leaders will continue to improve and provide equal treatment and opportunities for both male and female employees.
Eunice encourages women to apply for jobs in trading and banking, and provides mentorship and training through the ‘Young Women Into Finance’ programme and the Lean In (Women In Banking & Finance) community to attract more women to the financial industry. Eunice advises job seekers to learn from their seniors, understand the market, and purposefully submit resumes to companies that match their skills. As an example, many banks in the UK have launched returner programmes to train candidates who have been out of the workforce for more than two years, which is very suitable for full-time mothers returning to work.
Eunice also advises us not to let the first job limit one’s career development, but to have a holistic view and understand one’s position within the organisation, accumulate skills and experience and align oneself with industry standards in career planning. While cultivating oneself, one should also seek opportunities to move up or aside to better platforms.
Managing Up and Managing Down
Looking back on her career path, Eunice recalls, “I was probably a difficult person for my manager to manage back then. I was diligent and inquisitive, and often took the initiative to talk to the managers about compensation and promotion opportunities.” As a staff member, Eunice never quietly did her work, but instead took a proactive approach to manage up.
Later, she became a middle-level manager for several years and now she has taken on higher leadership roles. She has experienced anxiety and confusion about her subordinates who lacked motivation, has reflected on whether it was her own fault that a subordinate she hired was fired, and has constantly adjusted her expectations for employees and her own management style. Eunice believes female leaders are not inferior to male leaders. Many male leaders focus only on profits, ignore the physical and mental health and personal development of their subordinates, and seldom make real efforts to promote diversity in corporate culture. Female leaders, on the other hand, often empathise with their employees, take care of their emotional changes, and set good examples for young women in the workplace. Women rarely make hasty decisions and, in her experience in trading, female leaders actually perform better than male leaders on KPIs. As a leader, Eunice says, “One must recognize that people are different, just as I cannot expect all subordinates to work as perfectly as I did back then. At the same time, one must be good at identifying and utilising people’s abilities, and applying different strategies flexibly to stimulate more potential from people.”
Volunteering and Philanthropy
While the awards in 2021 focused on Eunice ‘s achievements in her career, in 2022 she was recognized for her outstanding efforts in pursuing gender equality, defending ethnic minority rights, and inspiring and helping women in the finance industry.
Eunice is a founding member of the UK Chinese Women Connect Association (UKCWC), a UK registered charity connecting and empowering women of Chinese heritages working and living in the UK. Since the establishment of UKCWC in early 2020, she has taken on the leadership responsibilities of the Events team and the Public Relations team, where she has connected the charity with many female leaders in the finance and business industries. Eunice hopes to grow with UKCWC to enhance the social impact of Chinese women in the UK.
Eunice volunteers for the CFA UK where she has been a mentor and ambassador for years and she is currently sitting on the governance panel of the Investment Management Certificate (IMC) Committee. Eunice is also a board member of the Ekaya Housing Association, providing housing support and training opportunities to BME mothers and children in South London. As an ambassador for Reboot dedicated to promoting workplace and social equality for ethnic minorities in the UK, Eunice was interviewed by ESG Clarity in May 2022 sharing her story of breaking the stereotypes of Asian women and the glass ceiling in the workplace, which has inspired many people with similar backgrounds in the public. She continues to get invited to events and interviews as a thought leader on similar topics.
Eunice devotes most of her spare time to the Lean In (Women In Banking & Finance) circle, aiming to empower women in finance and promote gender equality in the financial industry.
In January 2016, Eunice founded the circle to strengthen the connection and empowerment of women in the financial services globally. From a small group of people in the beginning to nearly 80 in early 2020, Eunice has been leading the creation of offline and online events, inviting guest speakers and connecting mentors and mentees. Now there are 500+ active members in the network. Every time Eunice has successfully organised an event, she feels that these experiences have made her more versatile. She has gained more confidence in her skills beyond the finance industry. The awards she has subsequently received have continued to attest to her excellence.
Eunice has in fact been volunteering for many years. She has a long history of sponsoring children in poor countries, and supporting women’s employment and conservationism in Africa and Central America. Eunice has volunteered with many local charities and organisations in the UK too (e,g. Alumni association, children’s rights, animal protection etc). She has won the Alumni Volunteering Award from her alma mater SUFE in 2021 for her contribution to enhance the alumni networks over the years. Eunice will never forget her volunteering experience particularly in Honduras and Uganda in 2017 and 2018. The living conditions in these two regions were poor, with insufficient supplies of water, electricity, and vaccines. The children there were facing difficulties in their lives, and even small things were hard to come by. Eunice plans to return to Uganda and Honduras to visit the children she supported and to participate in sustainable clean energy projects. In September of this year, she will also go to Nepal to participate in volunteer work for women’s education in the local area.
As a volunteer, Eunice is willing to do everything she can to help those in need, which is her daily practice. She also hopes to serve as a role model and encourage more people to join volunteering work and contribute their strength to others and the society as a whole. Eunice says being a philanthropist is her life goal, but in my opinion, she already is one.
Reflecting Inward and Influencing Outward
The year Eunice went to Sweden at the age of 19 really opened up her horizons, and since then she has had the ambition to go out and see more of the world: studying in the UK, doing social service, travelling, mountain climbing, scuba diving, making friends from different fields are all part of her outward explorations. Her experience of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, in 2019 was unforgettable. Eunice said that mountain climbing is a kind of asceticism in a sense, like life itself, every step must be steady and resolute, challenging difficulties, and the ultimate harvest is full of meaning.
She has always been searching for her true self. From a well-behaved girl who excelled academically and was cute and introverted, to a perfectionist who feared speaking English on the phone and kept her notes neatly organised, to now being confident and carefree, not overly concerned with details, reading widely, expanding her thinking and goals.
On her path to career advancement, Eunice not only read many professional books, but also participated in many professional skill improvement programs, expanding her range of abilities. In the past decade, she has spent her spare time learning Python programming, data science, technical analysis, negotiation, product & project management, WEST Level 2 Award in Wines, art appraisal, leadership projects… Eunice constantly challenges herself, and her lifelong learning practice is truly admirable.
In the interview with UKCWC in 2021, Eunice said she loves who she is now and will continue to strive for success in her career and become a more influential philanthropist. She has a stable and compatible partner and looks forward to a life with “two children, two cats and a dog.” While following her rule of “do her best,” Eunice also advises herself not to plan her life too full, saying “sometimes I can’t even catch up with my to-do list!”