Women in the investment industry: Why I left my high-flying career in trading to join a fintech start-up by Roxane Sanguinetti

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Roxanne Sanguinetti: Increasing the Representation of Women in Tech and Finance

Today I'm excited to share my journey from Wall Street dreamer to Head of Strategy at a fintech business. My hope is to provide you with some key insights on how we can increase female representation in tech and finance.

A Change of Plan: From Wall Street to Fintech

At 14, I read a book about a woman working on Wall Street and it became my obsession. Fast forward 20 years, and I've spent my career in London, head of strategy for a 40-people fintech business. My initial plan was to work in New York on Wall Street, but plans change and mine did after my stint at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London.

Though I enjoyed living my dream at Merrill, the pace of tech innovation within the bank left me discontented. So, I left to join a very early-stage capital markets fintech called Hubbe. With an initial painful pay cut and as employee number four, my journey in the world of startups began.

The Thrill of Startups, Investment in Women and a Return to Trading

Working at a startup is like being on a roller coaster, but the thrill of it all and the freedom to lead projects left me excited. This exploration opened my eyes to a whole world of new possibilities and opportunities in the tech ecosystem. As a woman in tech, one thing that I feel strongly about is to see more wealth in the hands of women. More wealth equals more freedom.

To support this, I joined Alma Angels – an inclusive community of investors supporting female founders. In recent years, I've learned that less than 2% of VC funding goes to female founders. This is a huge discrepancy considering how beneficial female-built businesses are for society.

Principal Lessons For Women in Tech

  1. Speak up and leave toxic environments: Stand your ground and speak up for your rights. If a work environment is hostile, consider leaving for a more inclusive organization.
  2. Make career choices based on opportunities: Consider opportunities that could emerge from your choices. Look out for companies and programs like Code First Girls that are looking for women to join.
  3. Visibility is key: To get found, you have to be visible. This is particularly important as recruiters tend to reach out more to men. Use your male networks to your advantage.
  4. Invest now :The best time to invest is now. Women retire with 34% less pension savings than men in the US and 40% less in the UK, which makes investing as early as possible vital.

In conclusion, the one key takeaway from my journey and this session is to 'take the plunge'. Be it career-wise or with money, embrace the opportunities and you'll be amazed at what can develop.

Questions and Answers

During a Q&A session of the conference, I offered some advice on investment platforms and financial products for women, particularly those based in the US and UK.

In the US, start with Ellevest, they cater to women's unique financial needs. In the UK, there are businesses building female-focused investment platforms.ETFs are a great way to diversify your investments. If you're keen on angel investing, consider a community like Alma Angels that support female founders.


In summary, my journey from a Wall Street wannabe to a fintech professional has been thrilling and enriching. The path has had its ups and downs, but the learning experiences have been invaluable. I hope my journey inspires more women to venture into the world of tech and finance. Together, we can forge a more inclusive future in these sectors. See you at the top!

Video Transcription

I'll start. Um And then if more people want to join, um they'll pick it up. So again, my name is Roxanne Sanguinetti. Um Today, I'd like to present my journey and some key takeaways to maybe increasing the representation of women in tech and finance.I wanna keep it short because I'd like to encourage a discussion. So please feel free to post your questions as we go along and we'll get to them. Now, most kids growing up, imagine a career that they've ever seen around them or in the media. Um I read a book when I was 14 about a woman working on Wall Street and it became my dream or an obsession even I was going to study in New York. Um I was going to move to New York and I was going to climb the investment banking corporate ladder. Now, fast forward 20 years later. And I've spent my career in London in the UK and in Europe and I'm now head of strategy of a 40 people business. So what happened? Well, plans change, I did study finance, um quantitative finance even I joined um a sought after summer internship at bank of America Merrill Lynch in London. And after completing my master's degree, I came back to Merrill for a full time position as a Delta One trader. I was pretty much living my dream and I was planning to spend just a couple of years in London then to get transferred to New York.

Absolutely all mapped out. Um Although it turns out after these couple of years, I resigned, um I was young and eager and frustrated by the pace of tech innovation within the bank. Um I didn't feel like I was being heard um or that I was moving the needle uh within such a large organization. So I left um to join a very early stage capital markets fintech called Hubbe. I was employee number four, I took a painful pay cut, earning less than £2000 a month at the start. So pretty much. Bye bye corporate ladder. Um And then here was I, I spent the following years getting involved in all sorts of projects um learning from leading a development team, learning how to pitch, understanding the whole fintech and start up ecosystem um in London and in Europe. And it really opened my eyes to a whole world of new possibilities and opportunities. So I started looking into A I machine learning digital assets I met and connected with all sorts of tech professionals, entrepreneurs, investors. And I realized something that what I was missing or lacking within um the bank was really freedom to lead projects, to be curious about innovations and to manage my own schedule. Now, don't get me wrong.

It was an old p when you join a start up, you commit to one hell of a ride. I'm sure some of you know what I mean? Um Things can go really well and things can also go wrong. We were on a roller coaster between great achievements and fundraising trouble, empty bank accounts. But when I reflect back on this years and on my move, I wouldn't change a thing and I still choose fintech over banking every day shortly before the pandemic in 2019, um an ex colleague of mine from Merrill Cold and he had just taken over the partnership of a small hedge fund and he asked if I wanted to come back into trading.

At first, I said, no, not really. Um And then he went on and he explained that he wanted to transform the firm that he, he really wanted to turn it into a leading fintech grow. The team, there was a whole entrepreneurial project behind it. And so I came on board and we spent the last three years reshaping the business and Ghco was born or reborn even that it used to be a previous business. And yes, I went back into trading, but this time with a massive difference, I had the power to get involved in strategic projects. I knew I could greatly impact the business and possibly the whole ecosystem. And I set up a pretty big mission for us was to build um transparent and accessible financial markets. So I then moved into the role of head of strategy at the start of this year, basically full time exploring new areas of growth for the business. Now, what's one thing that's connects it all in my life is that I want to see more wealth, more money in the hands of women. So for me, more wealth means more freedom. So I, I use my voice, I speak up on topics like the gender investing app, which by the way, in the UK alone is £1.65 trillion. But I've also been using my time and money to support and advise female founders on their fundraising journey.

So I joined a group called Alma Angels from its early days in 2019. It's a, it's an inclusive community of investors, about 70% women and 30% men that are actively supporting female founders. Why is this needed? Because less than 2% of VC funding goes to female founders. Yet when women build businesses, it benefits society as a whole. So what I've learned um is is to really give back on, on my time that way. Um But let me move on to a few things that I've learned along the way that can apply to you um on the on on the job prompt let's call it that way. Speak up tax space, leave the jobs in toxic environments to try something new or to join more inclusive firms. When you make a career choice. It's not about making the best choice. It's about seeing the opportunities that, that open up. Nowadays, you've got loads of options to retrain.

You've got um a program here called Code First Girls. Um You've got firms like 15 tech that will match you with safe workplaces. I believe that it's actually an amazing time to be in to be a woman in tech because more businesses are actively looking for women to join, but for them to find you be visible, you have to be visible and I see it firsthand that recruiters tend to reach out to men a lot more than they do to women.

Get in front of them and use your male coworkers networks too. If you don't have any recruiters contacts, your male coworkers, chances are they'll know. So that's, that's on the job front. I was good to see a good recommendation from Morgan on, on Code First Girls. Um I, I know that the CEO and it's incredible program. I, I highly recommend it now on the personal front, if you're not doing it, start investing, start as small as you feel comfortable with and as regularly as possible. Um The best time to invest is always now rather than later. And I think it's now easier than ever to find resources for knowledge and platforms to invest. And I'm happy to give some recommendations later on if you ask. Um now women retire with on average 34% less pension savings than men in the US and that's 40% less in the UK. Now, of course, this is due in part to the salary gap, but the other main culprit is the investing app. So this is obviously um an interesting discussion to have this year given that cash sitting in your bank account is now losing 8 to 10% value annually. And by the way, it's been proven that women make better investors than men. We're risk conscious and, and note that I'm saying risk conscious and not risk averse because I believe that we analyze the risk a lot better than men do. We do not panic and we invest for the long term.

So now I'm going to stop here and I just want you to remember really just one thing from this session. I know it's been a long conference. So just one thing, take the plunge, be it carrier wise or money wise. It's you'll see all the opportunities that can develop from that. Um But now I don't want to take longer. I would rather go on to questions if you have any. Um And yes, Morgan, I can give you some recommendations for platform. So um us based um Elves is a, is a good place to start. Um something that I should know that I should say by the way is that there are a lot of platforms that exist in us UK Europe, but there are very few that actually cater to women's needs. And it may sound strange for certain people to think about it that way. But women in investing do have different needs for men. We take carrier gaps at very different times compared to men, right? We were out of work in the middle of our career, whereas men will retire later on, right? Um So in terms of um female fifth platforms, I would check out Elves in the US, which is quite well established now in the UK.

Um You've got a, that's currently building a, a female focused investment platform. Um There are a few more around Europe if there is anyone in Europe that I can mention, but this is a good place to start. Um And I think if it is as well a place where you want to start in terms of financial products is to look into ETF S. Um I've done a few educational sessions on that, but you can also find some with alpha that, that we can recommend. Um ETF S are really a great way for you to diversify your investments and to start with the most vanilla product, then take it up to the most complicated ones once you're more comfortable with what you're doing. And um yeah, so this is this is 11 thing that we've been doing with my business where we provide liquidity on ETF S, meaning that we are making it easier for people, anyone, any sort of investors globally to buy and sell ETF S and so to buy and sell their investment ideas. Um Now I briefly mentioned as well um on Android investing, which is, I don't wanna call it another level, but this is one that um you need to be more comfortable with your investment decisions and you also need to be more comfortable with your um with the risks that are involved, let's say, because investing in start ups is really about um it's really about taking that risk and maybe taking the plunge on someone else's business and really believing in what they're doing.

Um If you want to check out the Alma Angels community, um We are about 300 investors and we're, we're quite present obviously in the UK and Europe because this is where we started, we started in London. But um we have investors from pretty much everywhere and we even have some people now joining us from India and I see Shaba is from Mumbai and actually we have a couple of people who are there as well. So this is one that, that you may want to check out. I don't know if um anyone else had other questions um for people who joined a bit late, the short story is went from Merrill or Bank of America Merrill Lynch in trading, went to join a very, very early stage start up, had great times, very bad times and now growing fintech business based there in London um dealing with disrupting the ETF ecosystem.

So I think I only have a couple of minutes left, but if anyone has other questions. All right, then I will let you go take a break um from your next next session. It's good to speak to you. Um, and have a very nice day.