As part of our on going Voices of Experience series, contributing writer Jessica Titlebaum spoke with this top-ranking executive woman from MexDer on her career in derivatives and balancing work and life.
While studying at the Universidad Panamericana, in Mexico City, Berenice Corral harbored dreams of being an executive woman working for the Mexican Stock Exchange, the owner of Mexican Derivatives Exchange (MexDer), but never imagined those dreams would ultimately come true. Corral had to overcome many challenges on the path to success, including her very difficult financial engineering classes at university.
After graduating with a degree in business and finance, Corral joined Scotia Bank Inverlat, a global brokerage house in Mexico. She was responsible for developing an international procedural manual and supervised every transaction that took place from their New York office. While at Inverlat, Corral never gave up on her goal of working at the Mexican Stock Exchange. So when, about a year later, she was offered the opportunity to work in the Exchange’s market development department, she jumped at the chance.
From there, she moved into a role at SIF ICAP, a joint venture between the Mexican Stock Exchange and ICAP, where she was responsible for developing new products including a fixed income trading platform very similar to the Mexican Stock Exchange’s electronic equity system.
In 2001, she moved over to the Mexican Derivatives Exchange to build and manage the equity futures business. Two years later, she was offered the opportunity to co-lead the group that developed the options markets. In that role, she spent time in Madrid to learn about the Spanish options market. She worked with MEFF, the Spanish Derivatives Market.
Then, this woman who once struggled in her derivitives class at university was asked to join the Mexican Derivatives Exchange (MexDer), where she used the knowledge acquired in Spain to improve the Mexican derivatives market.
She has now been with MexDer for seven years. In April 2008, she was promoted to vice president of the Exchange. In her current role, she is involved in the legal, IT, compliance and trading aspects of signing up new members to trade at the Exchange. She is also responsible for managing ISV, media and corporate relationships; creating marketing material, organizing industry events and acts as the point of contact for any hiccups members may meet when operating with the Exchange. She has participated in challenging projects such as getting the CFTC non-action letter for the Future of the IPC which allows US customers to trade the IPC futures contract at MexDer and promoted changes in the local regulation in order to have remote exchange members. Corral was also part of a project team that promoted the abolishment of the withholding taxes for foreigner participants that trade at MexDer.
Corral said that she is working on a few different goals this year, including: enhancing liquidity; gaining further support from local market makers; and, last but certainly not least, bringing the Exchange into the international framework. She explained that when people think of global exchanges, they think of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Eurex or NYSE Euronext. She would like to get MexDer into that category.
Corral credits Jorge Alegria, the chief executive officer of the Mexican Derivatives Exchange, for the global vision for the company. She explained that her boss instilled in her the idea to grow a quality and stable company. She even applied that advice to her own life when two years ago, when she and her husband launched a chain of photo studios around Mexico City. “During the week, I am a professional businesswoman at the Exchange but, during the weekends, I am able to get that [childlike] side out of me and work with children and families at the photo studio,” she explained.
Corral said that she would never leave her job at MexDer because she likes the independence and balance the two positions offer her.
Balance is very important to Berenice Corral, who admits that she would not be able to manage all of her responsibilities without her husband’s guidance and support. She explained, “It has been a challenge for me to build a professional reputation while trying to incorporate [home life] into my life, but my goal to have both, keeps me balanced.”
Corral believes that women bring a certain flavor to the capital markets. She explained that women bring a balance to the work place and while she feels men are always about business, she thinks women cover also the human aspect of things.
“We know how to break the ice. We are smart. We know how to smile,” she said. “It’s not always about my knowledge of delta or fragmentation. It’s about public relations too.”
With that in mind, she admits that women have to think like men when it comes to the capital markets. While she believes that this has traditionally been a man’s industry, she looks at market participants as equal. She advises that women have to put their intelligence first, before everything else, and to be secure in what they know.
Corral understands the importance of female role models and has specific people she looks up to in the industry. She admires Kim Taylor, the head of the clearing division at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and Leslie Sutphen, the global head of eSolutions at Newedge.
“These women are like icons to me. They are tough, they know their stuff, and they cultivate knowledge. They laugh and enjoy their job and their lives,” she said. “Leslie was the first woman I met in the industry and I was so impressed with her. She is secure and knows what she does.”
Corral works seven days a week, splitting her efforts between the Exchange, her photo studio and her home life. She is proud of the work she has accomplished in each sector of her life. She hopes that her experiences will help other women in the capital markets find a balance, not only with the work-life challenge but, with the ability to interact with their male counterparts on an equal level and still bring that spice she knows women bring to the industry.