With Laura Ryan, Director, Head of Analytics APAC, FactSet
How have trading desks evolved in terms of diversity?
I started my career on the helpdesk of a US Treasury bond trading platform. My role involved working with bond traders, all of whom were men.
This is no longer the norm. While there is still far to go, trading teams have become more diverse. It has happened gradually — as I’ve progressed through my career, I noticed bit by bit there were more women and in general, more diverse teams on the sell-side desks I was covering. The atmosphere of these desks has evolved and this in turn has impacted performance and recognition across the market. Intentional sponsorship and ongoing support for diverse talent has resulted in winning strategies across investing and trading. For example, a female innovator with a viable startup concept historically would have trouble gaining access to the investment community. Now as a result of asset owners/investors’ demands for more diverse leadership in portfolio companies, capital markets are intentionally looking for those companies and uncovering hidden gems.
There is immense value in exercising the power of diversity to innovate and grow; research shows it leads to stronger outcomes. Simply put, more diverse teams can lead to more successful companies.
What are some biases you’ve encountered in your career?
The most common bias I’ve encountered myself is gender bias. This issue is close to my heart and I have fought it throughout my career. However, as a leader, I have also seen other biases that my team members encounter, and I have learned to see the world through their eyes as well.
In my experience, the most common bias faced by many is in-group bias, which is often a precursor to other forms of discrimination, including racial. Our conscious thinking is a small part of what drives our decisions. Everyone is bombarded with an immense amount of information. We unconsciously gravitate toward what makes us comfortable; it’s easier for our brains to process the familiar. This mindset is what makes it so important for us to intentionally engage with others who are different from us and end discrimination.
How have relationships in trading been influenced by technology, and what implications does that have for diversity?
Trading is historically a highly relationship-based business built on trust with counterparties and partners. This trust is still vital, but in the recent decade, it’s less about a trader-to-broker or system-to-trader relationship, which is highly personal, and more focused on the value brokers and systems provide. In my opinion, this focus on value has provided more opportunity to more people.
Meanwhile among portfolio managers and analysts, relationships and discussions are more centered around quantitative data and analytics, including past execution and performance. These higher-quality relationships revolve around the collaborative effort to deliver the most effective, unique, and comprehensive insights and solutions. This kind of quantitative approach helps limit biases and fosters a more diverse, inclusive environment.
What Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are underway at FactSet?
DE&I is an integral part of FactSet’s business strategy. Our DE&I actions are structured around three impact areas:
-Workforce efforts to increase Diversity, Equity & Belonging
-Marketplace efforts to create more economic opportunity
-Societal efforts to improve Justice
Our workforce actions include visible leadership commitment, people processes, recruitment, education (which includes unconscious bias training), and retention and advancement efforts – which are key as it is in everyone’s interest to build a more diverse talent base globally. If we retain talented, diverse staff, we will continually attract a more diverse talent pool, which contributes to our innovation and success.
In 2020, we completed a successful sponsorship program for employees in underrepresented demographic groups. We also facilitated numerous mentorship programs to boost employee advancement and invested in LinkedIn Learning to support talent development across the organization. Our leadership is committed to equitable talent reviews and has participated in programs to disrupt unconscious bias in our people processes. We continue to expand our DE&I team and further invest in this work.
We’re also taking actions in the marketplace, such as taking a closer look at our suppliers and the steps we take to collaborate with clients. Our goal is to create sustainable economic opportunities for newcomers in the market and to work with our own network to do what we can to foster an inclusive industry and society. As a final point around our societal actions, FactSet has actively advocated for equality legislation. This is an area that our staff and clients can be proud of, and the result of that pride can be seen in workforce satisfaction and performance.
How do you measure progress on improving DE&I?
FactSet values diversity, knowing that our best ideas come from anyone, anywhere, at any time to help us solve our client’s greatest challenges. We provide better client solutions when we leverage diversity for collaboration, innovation and shared success, and we are at our best when everyone is able to be their full selves at work and feels empowered to join in, be heard, contribute, and grow.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at FactSet begins with a commitment from our CEO, Phil Snow, and the entire FactSet leadership team. We hold our leaders accountable for measuring progress and setting expectations that a diverse workforce and inclusive culture are critical to our continued success.
We have always tried to create an inclusive and balanced environment for our employees. To do so, we ensure that people are listened to at all levels. Managers spend time with employees to proactively understand their feedback. We have several structured initiatives such as surveys and interactive forums, to enable our employees to share their feelings and help us create a supportive and inclusive workplace. In addition, employees engage in education and unconscious bias training to help us all grow.
Diversity aside, what key skills and traits are common to all successful traders?
My colleague, Janette Shim, Head of FactSet’s APAC Trading Solutions Client Service & Relationships, had some great words around this topic just the other day. She said, “Someone who expects a loud floor, with mostly men yelling across the desks, would be surprised to find how quiet buy-side trading desks can be. Traders are running multiple applications on their computer screens and heavily depend on technology to carry out their jobs and to communicate with others. Good communication, which is core to a successful relationship, is not bound by your gender, race, age, or sexual preference.“
The common traits I have seen from some of our most successful trading clients are that they are curious and always questioning. They strive for improvement, to reach perfection in their jobs, and to optimize the trading desk’s performance. •
Laura Ryan is FactSet’s Director, Head of Analytics Asia Pacific. She has over 15 years of experience in complex enterprise sales across data, analytics, and front & middle office operations. Her team supports asset owners, the investment management and sell-side community with FactSet’s best-in-class portfolio analytics software for portfolio construction, performance, attribution, risk and reporting.
Prior, Ms. Ryan began at Cantor Fitzgerald/BGC Partners where she focused on FX interdealer brokerage and fixed income trading platforms. She also has experience as Head of Buy-side Sales & Listed Trading Solutions at Refinitiv, APAC Sales Head at Eze Software Group, and Tora Trading, as well as launching the APAC ex-Japan operation of Orbital Insight, a leading geospatial analytics firm. Ms. Ryan earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Bucknell University.