Success Redefined; Samantha Huggins Pt 1
Samantha Huggins is a Managing Director and Head of Equity Sales Trading for Developed Markets in EMEA at CitiGroup, overseeing a team in seven European countries. She is also a member of the EMEA Equity Executive Committee. Outside of her immediate business responsibilities, Samantha sits on the Steering Committee for Citi Women in Markets as well as the Markets Recruiting Committee.
She joined Citi London in 2009 and prior to that was with Merrill Lynch in both their London and New York offices, transferring to the United Kingdom in 2004.
Backtracking a little bit into your life journey, what did you study at Georgetown University?
I studied Art History of all things! I had a very liberal education hence I’m not your typical finance grad, especially looking back at the landscape 20 years ago. I thought I was going to be at an art auction house, all guns blazing, really pushing for a summer internship at Sothebys. Then my Father said to me, “I’ve done the research here and you’ll be making minimum wage and no health benefits, so who’s going to pay your rent?” I did the math and realized if I was to live in Manhattan I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent and eat in the same month!
I can definitely speak from experience about the applicability of degrees such as liberal arts or straight science in the financial industry. A lot of it goes back to the university system, which prepares you for the ‘City’ if you come through the economics or finance route; it’s almost like a pipeline. So what we’ve tried to do through our recruiting efforts is to break down that pipeline and think of more creative ways of getting individuals in because we’re desperate for more diversity. Ultimately, an analytical mind is what you want in finance because most of the things we learn, are learnt on the job. We firmly believe that diversity of gender, ethnicity and experience leads to thought diversity. It’s very apparent that if you get 100 people in a room that all have the same background, whether it be academic or social, they are all going to approach things from the same direction. Diversity makes a much smarter decision making process and therefore, a much smarter business.
What inspires you to do what you do?
At a certain point, you realize that ultimately a job like this gives you a little freedom to contribute to your passions outside of work. When you don’t get to do art, ballet or some of those wonderful things every day, you get to enjoy them as your own personal affair. For me, it’s made enjoying the arts all that more special. I do a lot with the arts and really enjoy that as a private passion.
The people that I work with are remarkable and they are inspirational. Going to talk at the ‘Women of Tomorrow’ events and to people like yourself, just starting out in their career – it’s a huge motivator for going back in and trying to be the best you can be professionally. I find the people I work for inspirational otherwise I wouldn’t come to work every day. You’re in an environment where there are some massively intelligent, high achievers; I’m in meetings everyday where I’m like ‘Wow, I wish I’d have thought of that’. You’re in such a constructive environment around thinkers who do and achieve, so much so that it inspires you to make finance a better place to work for the people who are leaving university and coming out to work here.
What is your networking-style and how would you want young women and girls to approach you in that setting?
A networking event is such a give and take environment where the person will be learning a lot about you from the questions you’re asking or the feedback you’re giving. When you’re in a group environment as opposed to one-on-one, you want people to ask questions and then listen. Sometimes you sense that people are just trying to get their questions asked but they’re not actually listening to the answers. Or they may not be listening to the answers of the person before them. Whereas, if you sit back and listen it might change the question you were about to ask.
It’s like any mentor-mentee relationship, which is a two way street. Often the mentor learns more than the mentee does and I always use networking for self-reflection as well. Not only am I trying to give some good advice and help people out in their journey, but remember that I’m trying to learn as well.
What three qualities a young woman needs to possess to thrive in the fast paced, potentially male-dominated environment?
You need to have purpose; come to work every day with that purpose. You cannot be scattered all over the place but should instead have intent and focus, that’s very important.
Secondly, having an innate curiosity to learn beyond what’s immediately in front of you.
I also think it’s important to maintain elegance. You can be tough and be very professional but maintaining an aura of elegance is always something I personally aspire to. I don’t mean how you dress but instead how you carry yourself, with a little bit of grace. It just makes everything run a little bit smoother.
Many young women actually can become discouraged by the distance between their position and that of women with immense success. What advice would you give to them?
It’s something we say quite often when we talk about embracing your personal journey and that is - you can’t be what you can’t see. In an aspirational way you can’t be a Vice President, a Managing Director or run a business unless you can see somebody that looks like you that has done it. If you look up and you see only your typical white male at senior level, that is where your aspirational issues will come to play.
I would encourage young women in your position – at university and college level – to look to make connections with women who are one step ahead. You can look at someone and say I want to be there in twenty years but who’s the person that I connect with that’s two or three years in? When we recruit we have a massive spectrum of people from different levels that go in to universities to get an idea of what different levels of experience look like. When people come and talk to me I always make sure I have an Associate near by to be able to say ‘When I was in your shoes, these are the conversations I was having and these were my daily tasks’.
I always encourage young entrants to find the group of people that is most supportive of them and that them feel most inspired by. Pick that and go do that for a living. Some of the best things about global investment banks are that there are so many avenues to explore. I still maintain that you should start your career in a place that you feel supported and can really embrace the product as well as the people that you’re working with. You’re likely to be sitting next to them for 12 hours a day, so you’d better like them otherwise you’ll have a very miserable career.