Women Explore New Derivatives Landscape at First Annual WILD Symposium

By Jessica Titlebaum, President, Women in Listed Derivatives

The derivatives industry will come out stronger from the past year’s challenges. Dodd Frank legislation was keeping people up at night, MF Global failed, and then the industry was hit with Peregrine Financial Group. It’s enough to shake anyone in their boots, some of them even high heeled!

This was the backdrop of the first annual Women in Listed Derivatives’ WILD Symposium: Industry in Transition. Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Symposium featured high caliber speakers like Carol Burke, the woman tasked with implementing Dodd Frank at the Federal Reserve, and Terry Savage, one of two women on the CME Group Board of Directors, who discussed how the industry was changing and how women could prepare for surfacing opportunities.

Women in Listed Derivatives, or WILD, was founded in 2009. It is managed by a group of women that work in an “old boys club” known as Chicago’s derivatives industry. Now a global community, the not-for-profit WILD organization is dedicated to helping women in the listed and over-the-counter derivatives space advance their careers, find mentors, and learn how to network effectively. This was the group’s first half-day conference.

One-on-One with Terry Savage

The WILD Symposium kicked off with a one-on-one interview with Terry Savage, a financial expert and author of the most recent book, The Savage Truth on Money.

I had the honor of interviewing Terry Savage. Besides finding out she has Van Morrison albums on her iPad and where she likes to lunch, I asked her how she got into the industry.

She started out as a secretary for a Chicago brokerage firm and expressed interest in training as a broker.

“I was told that girls do not become brokers,” she said. Savage didn’t let that stop her and she went on to become a broker. She was told women weren’t traders either, but she went on to become a trader on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange and at the CME Group. Savage is currently one of two women, out of 30, on the CME’s Board of Directors and has held seats on the Board of the McDonald’s Corporation and the Pennzoil-Quaker State Corporation.

With women striving to be better represented on boards, what was her advice on how to get those exclusive seats?

“Don’t take no for an answer,” Savage told the audience. “Do not be afraid to push your way in.”

She also advised the audience, “Pick a mentor that you want to be like and whose style you like. Copy their style and go from there.”

Polling the Panel

Mentoring was also addressed at the Symposium’s second session; a panel discussion featuring Robin Ross of RSR Consulting, Elizabeth Flores of the CME Group, and Diane McFadden of ICE Clear US.

Robin Ross shared the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. Ross explained that mentors could coach you on career decisions. A sponsor is someone in an organization who will support you and have your back if you are up for advancement.

The panel also shared observations on networking. They said women tend to have deep and narrow networks, but that they should broaden their network, like men do. Another recommendation was to identify people who have strong connections. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

Due to the evolving marketplace, many WILD members were interested in the right time to make a career move. The panelists said that when you are bored and don’t see any real growth opportunities, it is time to make a change. Let boredom be a change agent.

A Keynote Speech

The final segment of the WILD Symposium featured Carol Burke, senior legal adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Burke was tasked with implementing Dodd Frank legislation at the bank.

Although she went on to discuss heavier topics, Burke started her speech by joking about something all industry participants can appreciate – the time it takes to learn market-related acronyms. Dodd-Frank has a lot of them, including shortcuts for the terms “Financial Market Utilities” (FMUs), which are actually known as “Financial Market Infrastructures” (FMIs) in Europe. She also mentioned the “Financial Stability Council,” also known as FSOC, and “Swap Execution Facilities,” aka SEFs.

After getting through the abbreviations, Burke’s speech focused on Title VIII of Dodd Frank, which highlights the importance of FMUs. Financial Market Utilities such as the CME Group, the Depository Trust Company, ICE Clear Credit LLC, and the Options Clearing Corporation, are involved with the payment and settlement process of a derivatives trade. These organizations have been deemed “systemically important” by the FSOC because they are important to the financial stability of the US financial system.

The New Order

The evening concluded with a networking reception where women reflected on the afternoon’s sessions. Participants did not dwell on the events that led us to a Dodd Frank World, but rather how the industry is changing and what they can do to successfully fit into the new market. The WILD organization hopes to prepare women for new roles and challenges, and ultimately, how to embrace change and capitalize on innovation.

While men were not invited to the Symposium (it’s been an old boys club for awhile, women deserve a night to themselves), men are just as much part of the solution as women. If the Symposium proved anything, it was that everyone is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Women just have extra help from WILD.