Voices of Experience: Janet Thomas, Director, Citi FX Prime

Janet-ThomasBy Elizabeth Harrin (London)

“Foreign Exchange is exciting,” says Janet Thomas, Director at Citi Foreign Exchange Prime. “The pace of change is so fast that trading takes place in microseconds.”

Thomas has played a key role expanding the business from a start-up to being ranked a key global FX Prime of strategic importance to clients. “The relationship I have with clients is one of the most rewarding aspects of my position,” she says. “Some clients have expanded their business through acquisitions as unprecedented market conditions presented once in a life time opportunities; others have devised pioneering new models of business and substantially increased their profits.”

Thomas joined Citi FX Prime in 2006, and was very excited about the challenges ahead – and economically it has been an interesting time since then. She believes that the foreign exchange market has been incredibly resilient during the credit crisis which has decimated other business areas in financial services. “It’s at the epicentre of any political, economic and social change and these factors impact the market immediately,” she says.

One of the biggest impacts she has had on the FX market is through creating and introducing transaction reporting tools. “It’s been great to have provided an innovative product called Click which has assisted clients to actively exploit opportunities in these highly unusual and extremely volatile market conditions,” Thomas explains. “Citi also uses Click for real time monitoring of market positions and collateral management exposure to our clients as well as enabling Sales to provide creative solutions for our clients.”

Thomas’s foreign exchange clients are always looking to find new ways to advance their business and she finds it rewarding to be able to tailor Click to satisfy their needs. “Transparency and the real-time management of risk are of critical importance for clients and the provision of Click has enabled FX Prime to attract substantial new business,” she says. “CitiFX Click is a global product and the initial launch was across North America, Europe and Asia. I’ve lost count of the number of times a client tells me that the visual appearance of Click is so appealing and different to that of other FX products.” Click won an industry ‘Best Product and Service’ award for two consecutive years, 2008 and 2009, for innovatively addressing a gap in the market.

Making a Difference

While it’s clear that Thomas has made a splash in the world of foreign exchange markets, investment banking wasn’t her first stop. “I spent over a decade working in the public sector,” she says, “where I was headhunted to lead a £0.5bn regeneration program in West London after raising over £17m to revive a much needed Trust.” Seeing her efforts go towards having a monumental impact on the lives of others was very rewarding. “My most memorable moment was providing over £10m in funding for essential voluntary sector organisations to secure their long term future,” she says. “An example was the Women’s Refuge and when I attended the launch one user presented her plight. As I listened, I realised it really was a case of life or death for this woman and I was deeply touched by having contributed to making a difference to someone else’s life.” Thomas delivered to the tight deadlines of the regeneration project while studying for a MBA at Cass Business School and adapting to motherhood.

In her current directorship role, Thomas also sits on the London Board of CitiWomen, the steering committee responsible for managing the development of female talent throughout Citi. “Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Citigroup, strongly supports women at Citi,” Thomas explains. “He has put in place a formal, corporate-wide diversity structure to effect, monitor and review initiatives that will attract, develop, retain and harness the best female talent throughout Citi.” The steering committee’s initiatives have resulted in the creation of 45 CitiWomen networks at Citi’s offices around the world.

Advice For Women

Thomas believes that women have a great contribution to make to the London investment community. “In London, women represent some 50% of the workforce,” she says. “Women have the right qualifications, skills and attributes required by employers but representation is still elusive at senior positions and also at board level. Although London still has some way to go in harnessing female talent to the top, I am confident that women will continue to find strategic and creative ways to have their talents realised.”

One way to do this is to start off on the right foot. “Young women considering a career in banking should join a Graduate Recruitment Program,” Thomas advises. “The concept is great; individuals spend a certain number of weeks in each business area. Investment banking has many different business areas and this is the best way to find an area that you will enjoy and excel at. This also improves your chance of making the right career choice from the outset.”

However, if you are already a way into your career you won’t have that possibility open to you. No problem. “For women in the middle of their career, this work is fulfilling especially if you like challenges,” Thomas says.

Thomas has had her share of challenges, but also her share of accolades. Last year she won the Women in the City Finance Category Award which she says was “a great honour and privilege”. She believes that awards like these highlight the essential contribution that talented women make to maintaining London’s pre-eminence as a financial global centre.

“Harnessing female talent is absolutely critical to enhance a firm’s competitiveness,” she says. Couldn’t have put it better myself.