A visit by Souad Benkredda to “Ladies First” at Frankfurt School
I have always dreamed of being a part of secret, powerful, and sophisticated society, so, does Frankfurt School make dreams come true? – Sounds too cheesy, but that is exactly how I feel every time I visit events by Ladies First – Forum for students and alumnae. I am going to share my very personal impression of the event.
We gathered on a Thursday evening at the first “Ladies First” presentation and discussion held in English rather than German, as I found out later. I was sitting in room 20 just opposite the entrance and could see girls arriving. Suddenly I saw a very sporty and beautiful young woman with huge volumes of curls, wearing a stylish tight dress, smiling brightly. It turned out to be Souad Benkredda – Managing Director of Deutsche Bank, London and mother of twins.
Sitting on the edge of the seat? – Not enough to express my engagement, the goal of the presentee was achieved: Lively, catchy, deep, and educative.
First woman on the Trading Floor! What strikes you most is the fact that Souad has always managed to be herself: moral code and honesty always guided her. Sentiments did not hinder her to make business decisions. The company and its goals are her first priority. The most valuable suggestion about the conduct I took away from the presentation was to evaluate whether any conflict harms the company. It is only worth escalating when it harms the company, otherwise one needs to be flexible and tolerant.
What makes Souad stand out for me? – She made her way by her outstanding performance and real passion for her quantitative and “mathy” job, never abandoning her personality. For example, she does not drink alcohol or smoke and considers it necessary to help and sponsor the newcomers in the industry. The first part astonishes me because of club-idea of men in banking, which I had from the movies and stories. The second idea surprised me as it is the opposite of what you think about seniors, “wolf of WT”-style of competition.
An exciting part of her career development happened when Souad was managing the EMEA region, meaning, she frequently visited Arabic countries and faced a certain superficial image about women in banking. However, Souad shared a couple of stories in which culture played a crucial role, and the situation demanded spontaneous reaction that would be in line with the interest of business. Souad, who was born in Algeria said that all Arabic have a different culture and cannot be easily compared and understood.
I discussed this point also later at the ADB forum with an Executive Vice President of a bank.
The highlight of the discussion was the topic on managing a team that is heterogeneous across several dimensions: gender, nationality, divisions with different working ethics. (Trading – hectic, profits-driven, fast, and corporate – client-oriented and long-term relationship-intensive, more calm). When there are so many differences, Souad suggested not rushing or pushing decisions. She also stressed the long-term (popular term now – “sustainable”) changes, aims and strategy.
Take your time to observe and learn to listen, but do not forget that at the end it is you as the leader who is supposed to make final decisions and judgments. “That is what they pay me for, right?” – Sounds like a good conclusion.
Tough inside and fragile outside, understanding and demanding at the same time – totally possible to combine. This is what I learned from Souad.
So, put on your pink coat, but do not forget to go through the pitch or analysis to make numbers talk for your competency!