Women in Finance Award Winner Nicola White Shares Her “Formula for Success”

December 19, 2016

We’re thrilled to share that Nicola White, COO of our fixed income market making business, has been recognized for “Excellence in Rates Trading” at Markets Media’s second annual Women in Finance Awards. After the awards presentation we caught up with Nicola to better understand what has propelled her career success and what advice she has for future leaders in the financial services industry.

What were the early career highlights that helped lay the groundwork for future success?

My education at the University of Waterloo was critical to launching my career and enabling me to succeed in financial services over the long term. The University of Waterloo co-op program gave students the opportunity to work with multiple firms during their time in school. Based on that experience, I was able to intern at Morgan Stanley and join them full time in 2003.

Within a couple of years of graduation, I had developed real-time mortgage pricing software and launched an electronic trading desk. The breadth of experience I gained during my time at the University of Waterloo catalyzed how fast I could bring extensive value to a firm and the industry at large.

It’s this same experience I draw on in my role here at Citadel Securities. I focus on leading the team’s efforts to enter new product and geographic markets, as well as business innovation and regulatory affairs. This requires a broad knowledge of asset classes and market rules.

What lessons did you learn from taking on these challenges early on?

I learned several key lessons early in my career that continue to drive my formula for success. First, I think it’s important to seriously consider all opportunities that are presented to you by colleagues and mentors. I do believe that people who you work with are generally looking out for you. As an example, I was asked early on to trade U.S. treasuries even though my experience was in developing mortgage pricing software. I took the opportunity and learned everything I could from people around me about trading and the treasury market.

Second, I focus my communications on asking the right questions at the right time. By focusing our interactions with clients on issues or problems they may have, we can learn what our clients really need. We subsequently are able to put our attention on solving the most pervasive challenges.

Finally, I consistently ask for criticism. I regularly ask my colleagues a simple question: what’s one thing I could’ve done differently? While some take criticism personally, I use it to grow. In a broader sense we’re always asking clients what we, as Citadel Securities, could do differently moving forward.

Do you have any other advice for those who are just now starting out in financial services?

I’d reference a lesson I learned from the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. He suggests you should constantly nurture your professional relationships instead of only reaching out when you need them. In that spirit I’d recommend focusing on building a network and, simultaneously, codifying how you’ll stay in contact. You could schedule monthly lunches or set reminders to start email conversations.

I certainly couldn’t have won a Women in Finance Award without the support of my colleagues and mentors. And I’ll continue to ask them about what I could do differently.