By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
“It feels like we have to work, in some cases, almost twice as hard as men to prove ourselves. And this becomes more of a delicate area as we progress through our careers,” said Nanette Buziak, Senior Vice President and Head of Equity Trading at ING Investment Management.
She continued, “We don’t want to come across as too aggressive, and that can mean walking the right balance of being aggressive and passionate about what you do, so that you are considered for opportunities as they come up.”
Buziak has learned to walk this balance, and she believes that the financial services industry is becoming more accepting of ambitious women. Recently honored with a Trailblazer Award by Traders Magazine, she told a room of 200 during her acceptance speech:
“Too often is the case of a woman who is high-performing and striving to advance in her career who can get defined as being too aggressive and pushy, whereas men who work hard to succeed and who are assertive often get described as being driven. Our industry has made great efforts to remedy that perception and in providing more support to women to help them in this regard. But there is still a lot more work to be done.”
Hopefully, as passionate and high-performing women become more visible in the industry, that balancing-act will become easier.
Buziak’s interest in investment began when she was in 8th grade. “I wanted to turn in some bonds I received when my grandmother passed away and invest them,” she said. “My father had me read the Wall Street Journal every day, and then he would quiz me. I built a paper portfolio and he then allowed me to redeem my bonds and invest.”
Buziak, who had always had a bent for mathematics, studied Applied Actuarial Mathematics at Bryant University. She explained, “I wanted to major in finance in college, but it was right after the crash in ’87, and my dad suggested I look at insurance, as I was good in math and had an interest in finance.” Nevertheless, she took an internship during her junior year in college at E.W. Blanch Co., working in reinsurnace intermediary services. “It reawakened a lot of my core interest in finance and a career on Wall Street.”
She continued, “It was an opportunity to see first hand what working at an actuarial department actually meant in the capital markets, and I made the decision to pursue a career in finance.”
She graduated from college in 1993. “It was during a recession,” she explained, “Most firms were not hiring so I was fortunate to have any opportunity to take and could not afford to be selective. So I took the first job offer I received.” Buziak landed at Bear Stearns as a financial analyst, working in between the back office and the front office, where she stayed for about six months. “I felt I wasn’t challenged enough, and they weren’t open to my further advancement.”
So she broadened her search. “A few of the traders knew I was hungry and young and wanted to get ahead, and they suggested I look at opportunities outside Bear Stearns – so that’s what I did.”
Buziak next took a position at First Marathon Securities, which, she explained, would now probably be referred to as a hedge fund structure. “I was their fifth hire, and I learned a lot about business.” Unfortunately, she said, when the firm had expanded to about 30 employees, there began to be some internal conflicts between the managers, and when the work environment was becoming toxic, she made the decision to leave. She added, “We were also doing a lot of index arbitrage, and a lot of the spreads were getting arbed away. I then started focusing on the fundamentals.”
She took a position at JP Morgan Asset Management in 1997 as a junior portfolio manager in structured equity. “It was roughly 80% fundamentally based with a quantitative overlay. We saw lots of growth,” she said.
“I did a lot of work with the trading desk there, and I focused on managing our portfolios to access liquidity in the most cost efficient way possible and continually changed our rebalancing process as a result. We were seeing ECNs being introduced as a result of regulatory changes in our industry and I embraced a lot of that change,” Buziak explained. Eventually, in 2004, she was approached by Rick Nelson, a former manager of hers at JPMAM who had since moved to ING Investment Management. She recalled, “He felt the next logical step for me in my career would be in running a trading desk.”
“I went through an extensive interview process, and when they made an offer I felt I couldn’t turn it down.” ING Investment Management was going through the process of integrating three trading environments, and Buziak took the helm. “We had 25 personnel across three desks, and I had to consolidate them. Now I lead a team of six traders including myself,” she said.
“One of the things I wish I had realized and appreciated more at a younger age is how small the industry really is,” Buziak said. “Things can be overwhelming when you’re first starting out, but you should be cognizant of that as you progress through your career – how much smaller your core industry is going to be as you get older.”
She added, “You have to manage those relationships from a very early start.”
Her ability to adapt well to change is a quality Buziak says she is proud of. “I haven’t been afraid to roll up my sleeves and work hard to get through a challenge,” she explained. “For example, at JP Morgan I took over a product for a lead manager who had suddenly resigned – and it was a year before I received any resources to help.”
She continued, “And joining ING meant coming into a completely different environment. I was no longer just a portfolio manager, but I also had to deal with sensitive personnel aspects associated with my role, particularly as I was merging three environments into one and was joining as a new leader. These were things I hadn’t been exposed to before, as well as the dynamics of the buy-side and sell-side relationships that I hadn’t been fully exposed to before either in my previous role.”
Buziak said she is careful to stay on top of the continuing evolution of changes in market structure. “The pendulum for our industry has swung to the buy-side. What we do is really exciting to me, and how we as the buy-side will embrace this going forward and how the sell-side responds is going to be interesting to see evolve.”
She continued, “The question is what all these regulatory changes will mean for the industry. Things are changing every day, and it’s interesting to see how different firms are responding to changes.”
“Particularly for the bulge bracket, each different firm’s response has been different. What does that mean going forward?”
Women in the Industry
“I’ve been very fortunate – I’ve had great managers and mentors whom I could go to in confidence and ask questions,” Buziak said. “You need to have go-to people who you can ask, ‘what would you do if you were in my shoes?’”
Part of this comes from managing relationships with others and building a support network, she explained. “There was some advice a senior woman gave to me right out of college – and I didn’t really pay attention to it at the time. But it was to take golf lessons. Now here I am twenty years later taking lessons – I should have heeded that advice.”
“But it’s more than just golf – pursue different interests that end up affording you networking opportunities. As you become more senior, networking it really important. Similarly, we have to really help mentor and grow the next generation of women.”
She added, “Also for women, as we evolve in our careers it becomes much harder to manage work/life balance. I personally get an F for that!” she said with a laugh. “But it is still very tough – I think men have a bit of an upper hand.”
ING has a number of internal programs for advancing and retaining women, she said. She also pointed to the company’s strong mentoring program, in which she has participated throughout the years.
In Her Personal Time
Buziak has been married for a little over four years. “We love boating on Long Island Sound,” she said. She is also active in a number of local charities in her area, especially Al’s Angels Children’s Charity.