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Barclays plc

09/14/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/14/2020 06:06

“Trading is about the world around you”

We hear from Kiran Irshad about her journey into the world of Markets at Barclays Investment Bank, how the bank's mentoring programme is helping to grow women's careers - and why it's important to challenge gender stereotypes about who can make it in trading.

'People often ask me, 'Why do you think there are so few women in trading?',' says Kiran Irshad, Emerging Markets Credit Trader at Barclays Investment Bank.

She says one answer lies in the preconceptions about financial services. Growing up, she 'knew nothing about finance' and wanted to be a professional tennis player. 'None of my family or friends are in the industry so I really had no idea what a role in trading actually was,' she says. 'I had a view of what traders do from what I had seen on TV and films - I genuinely thought they just sit in front of an array of massive screens and don't talk to anyone. It sounded really boring.'

I had a view of what traders do from what I had seen on TV and films - I genuinely thought they just sit in front of an array of massive screens and don't talk to anyone

Kiran Irshad

Emerging Markets Credit Trader at Barclays Investment Bank

Kiran says learning from other women at the bank has been invaluable.

Out of office

I unwind by… exercising and playing tennis. I'm always in my sports kit after work.

My perfect weekend… is a busy one. I think people in Markets tend to wake up early on the weekend as well. I go for a run, have brunch, play tennis and meet friends again in the evening.

The book I'd recommend you read… is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It's a memoir from a US neurosurgeon who had metastatic lung cancer. It's such a good read and no matter how hard you work or how stressed you feel, it helps you put things into perspective.

I achieve a work-life balance by… playing a lot of sport. The nice thing about trading is that you start early but you tend to finish by six or seven as the markets are closed. I'll play tennis in the evenings, go for a run and go to the gym.

My dream dinner guest, dead or alive, would be… Roger Federer.

'What I really like about trading is that everything you do is about the world around you. A head of government makes a statement, something happens in China, there's a conflict emerging - you're using all of the things you read in the news for the job,' she says.

After starting as an FX Trading Analyst, Kiran became Assistant Vice President in the Emerging Markets FX team before making a lateral jump to the Emerging Markets Credit team - a change she describes as a career highlight in her five years at the bank. 'I started from scratch again, but it was definitely the right move,' she says. 'I love my new role. Even though in a sense, I took a step back, I feel like it has helped me progress further in what I actually want to do.'

Promoting gender diversity in banking: 'Anything is possible'

Kiran credits her mentors at Barclays with her success and says learning from other women in finance was invaluable. 'I was introduced to two senior female members of the team - Esra Turk and Lucinda Lawrence,' she says. 'Lucinda really helped me when I was considering changing teams and it was great to have someone to talk to.'

Experiencing the benefits of having mentors inspired Kiran to become one too. 'Every summer, I'm a mentor for the summer interns, and some of the people I've mentored have now joined the bank. There are so many things that you don't know when you come into this business - what's right, what's wrong - so it's nice to be able to give them that support.'

Mentoring is particularly important in progressing the careers of younger women arriving at the bank, says Kiran. 'There aren't many of us to start with so it can show you that anything is possible'. It might be answering 'little questions', offering a fresh perspective on a problem or simply being a role model so that others think, 'I can do that too'.

Supporting women in finance is likewise crucial to Barclays' success as an organisation: 'Gender diversity in the Markets business is super important. We've come a long way but there's still a long way to go. Studies have proven that with greater diversity, your performance is better as a team - so it makes business sense too.'

Game, set, match

While Kiran has grown a passion for the fast-moving world of trading, her childhood love of tennis has endured and helps her to achieve a work-life balance. An avid player, she is part of the bank's tennis team and has helped the team to victory three years in a row in the Corporate Tennis Tournament.

Kiran has helped Barclays' team to victory three years in a row in the Corporate Tennis Tournament.

What I really like about trading is that everything you do is about the world around you. You're using all of the things you read in the news for the job

Kiran Irshad

Emerging Markets Credit Trader at Barclays Investment Bank

'It's awesome because I've met like-minded people from different parts of the bank, who I'm now good friends with. Before coronavirus, we were training together at least twice a week. Right now, we just play when we can.'

Kiran is also involved in the bank's gender network Win, and Credit network - frequently taking part in sports events, team drinks, and more recently a fitness class hosted on Zoom. 'I think this is what draws people to work at Barclays - they make the effort to bring colleagues together,' she says.

Reflecting on her dynamic journey at Barclays so far, what's the piece of advice Kiran would give her younger self? 'Don't come in with preconceptions,' she says. 'Take time to find out about the different teams, pick one that's right for you and spend as much time as you can asking questions.'

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