A junior woman in banking

Third-year analyst Alaoui Zenere chats to Lucy Mair about finding her place in the finance world and the strong network of women at J.P. Morgan
Investment banking
Doing the job

Can you tell us about your role at J.P. Morgan?

I'm a third-year analyst in Investment Grade Finance (IGF) in the UK Financial Institutions team and I'll soon be starting a one-year rotation in our New York office. In London I work in a small team of four people, and we're responsible for helping our clients - organisations in the financial services industry - raise money by accessing debt capital markets.

My role involves providing pricing updates, writing market reports, assisting with the execution of transactions and some direct work with clients. It's a busy and demanding environment and I get asked to do plenty of different things during the day. My job involves a lot of multi-tasking, but I have to pay close attention to detail and be able to prioritise urgent requests.

What attracted you to a career in investment banking?

I studied economics and business administration at Paris-Dauphine University and I completed several internships in France during the course of my degree. After completing a Masters in Banking and Finance, I was interested in learning more about investment banking. I applied for an internship in debt capital markets at J.P. Morgan, where I really enjoyed the fast-paced and challenging environment on the desk.

During my internship, my colleagues were very accessible, friendly, and treated me like a full member of the team, which was key when it came to deciding if I wanted to work here. From the first project I was involved in, my team listened to my opinion and copied me into emails to clients. I felt I was trusted and valued from the outset, which I didn't experience when I did internships at banks in France - it's part of the J.P. Morgan culture.

Investment banking is notorious for being male-dominated - did this reputation concern you before you applied to J.P. Morgan? How have you found the atmosphere since joining the bank?

My department is pretty much evenly split, so imbalance between men and women wasn't something I took into account when deciding whether or not to join the bank. Other departments may be slightly weighted one way or the other, but that shouldn't discourage anyone from pursuing a career in investment banking. If anything, it should give women more incentive to join the industry, make it more feminine and challenge the stereotype that investment banking is male-dominated. In my experience at J.P. Morgan, men and women are treated equally. I've never felt that I'm at a disadvantage because I'm a woman.

Before I started my job, I was more concerned about whether I would find my place here given the image of investment banking in the media over the past few years. But when I joined J.P. Morgan I was surprised by how nice everyone was. The people I work with are really friendly, normal and chilled out, and this is true from the other graduate analysts right through to high-level managing directors who are always willing to take the time to explain things and answer questions. We organise events for analysts and also have lots of networking activities, so it's a very inclusive environment.

When I joined, some other analysts and I organised "Blind Lunches", where groups of five people who didn't already know each other went out for lunch together. It was great because it gave us the opportunity to interact with people who we wouldn't necessarily cross paths with at work.

How does J.P. Morgan encourage female students to apply to the bank and promote their progression once they arrive?

J.P. Morgan runs a recruitment programme called Winning Women, which gives female students the opportunity to discover the different areas of investment banking and learn about internships and the roles open to graduates. I recently participated in a networking event for the Winning Women programme, where I shared my experiences with students, and they also had the chance to meet female leaders from the bank and ask them questions about their careers.

As an analyst, I'm also part of an employee networking group called Junior Women Connect, which organises a range of networking and career events. Last year we organised an event called "Power Dressing 101", which consisted of an evening in an L.K. Bennett store hosted by a professional stylist who advised us on how to dress for work and the impact of our image on people's perceptions of us.

We had both a female and male managing director who attended and gave us tips and funny anecdotes on the topic. The event was particularly directed to first year analysts to help us feel more confident at work. The event also gave junior women the opportunity to meet with female directors and socialise with other women from different departments within the bank.

I also have a senior female mentor as part of the Black Leadership Forum. I can turn to her for advice or if I have any questions. It's really reassuring to know there's always someone I can talk to - it's a very helpful resource when you're just starting at the bank.

Do you worry about combining your personal life with your work life, and perhaps one day balancing your career with having a family?

It's definitely a question I often ask myself, because a career in investment banking is very demanding. But, as I said before the ability to multi-task is key in this industry!

It was important to me to join a big organisation that offers women the flexibility to work and have children. During my seven-week training programme in New York, I had the chance to meet with several top female managing directors who balance their families with their career.

What advice would you give to female students considering a career in investment banking?

Never think that being a woman puts you at a disadvantage. If you're smart, if you really want to be part of the organisation and if you're motivated, recruiters will want to hire you irrespective of whether you're a woman or a man. Women can do any of the jobs that men can do across the bank.