By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
According to Angela Best, EMEA Group Tax Controller at Nomura, one of the lessons she wishes she had learned earlier in her career is to be more open to new experiences. “It’s to be less serious and enjoy life – not to be frightened to make mistakes,” she explained.
After graduating from the University of Kent, Best began her career at an accountancy practice, and when she received her chartered accountancy certificate, she moved to the investment banking industry, working in tax. “It was a smooth move,” she said. “I haven’t encountered any stumbling blocks.”
“When Lehman happened in 2008, I saw an opportunity that I was unlikely to encounter again.” Nomura acquired parts of Lehman Brothers’ Asian and European investment banking, fixed income and equities division, she explained. “It was the opportunity to marry two very different cultures together, however, it wasn’t just the people factor, but also the new working practices. It was a very challenging and unusual time.”
In fact, Best says her most interesting roles have involved working through technical projects in the context of change. In her last role, she led a team designing how a unit of previously outsourced work would be brought in house. “As part of it, we had to recommend the software we’d be using – which meant presenting to senior management, performing due diligence, and selling how it would work in house.”
Participating in the team brought her significant visibility with senior management, she explained. “I had to prepare and present our cost benefit analysis – it was very exciting.”
Currently she is working to coordinate with Nomura’s Indian service center, and enjoying the unique opportunity to learn about a new culture. “Within my department I look after European taxes. There’s a lot of reconciliation work that we’re looking to offshore to India,” she explained.
Best said she is paying keen attention to the challenges the banking industry faces. “There are reputation issues currently. It’s something everyone in our industry should be following, just to see where the industry is going.”
Women in Banking
Best believes the key challenges to women in the professional workplace exist around balancing work and personal responsibilities. “Women do have children, and take time to start families. We miss a few years, and when we return, it can be difficult.”
It will take a more even distribution of these responsibilities between the genders to bring change to the workplace, she continued. “Until men start having babies,” she said wryly, “or it becomes more socially acceptable for them to have a greater presence at home, women will be more challenged to find a place in the boardroom.”
Best added that she hasn’t encountered any challenges in the industry as a woman, a lesbian, and someone of Chinese background living in the UK. “We’re all women at the end of the day, and have lives outside work.”
Best encourages younger women to enter the banking industry. “It’s very interesting and extremely fast moving. You’re expected to perform at high levels, but the rewards are great. There is a firm sense of achievement after finishing a project or closing off a quarter.”
She continued, “Banking is in a state of flux. The role you end up in may be different than the role you start in. You can use that to further your career.”
Women at Nomura
Best said Nomura offers a wide range of programs to advance and retain women. She participates in the firm’s mentoring program, which is part of its women’s network, WIN (Women in Nomura).
She also described the firm’s unique Women’s Immersion Program, designed to bring young women into the industry. “We’re the only bank who offer this,” she said. “We invite first year university students to work with us for two weeks.”
Nomura also offers emergency back-up care benefits for all staff. “If your child minder isn’t available or if you need elderly backup care urgently, we offer a benefit which means staff can access a high quality network of nurseries or in-home care immediately.”
In Her Personal Time
Outside work, Best loves to travel. “I’ll go anywhere!” she said. Having recently visited Egypt and trying diving for the first time, next on the list is a road trip down the US’s West Coast. “Maybe we’ll do our own version of Thelma and Louise in a little convertible,” she said with a laugh.