Recent projections from Deloitte estimate that women will fill 28 percent of leadership roles within financial services firms in 2030, up from 24 percent in 2021—still below parity, but climbing steadily. While financial services firms are making progress in recruiting and retaining top talent, they must redouble their efforts if the women in their ranks are to make the final leap from senior leadership roles to the C-suite. The gap between women in senior leadership roles and the C-suite is currently 9 percent, and it may widen to as much as 14 percent by 2030.
Meanwhile, Tuck remains among the leading MBA programs in enrolling the most women students. In financial services firms across the globe, women at the highest levels of leadership once called Hanover home.
The following five alumnae have diverse experiences. They were born and raised in five different countries. They execute five different job functions within five different companies. And they each traveled a different path to where they are now. But there is more overlap than difference. They all spend their days solving problems for their clients in innovative ways. Their jobs move at an unrelenting pace, challenging them to develop tools to maximize productivity and maintain focus for long stretches of time. They are deeply committed to nurturing the next generation of leaders, both in and out of their firms. And they credit their time in Hanover with imparting a skillset and a network that have helped catapult them into spaces where they can make a lasting impact.
These women leaders have less spare time than most, but they have taken the time to provide us with a glimpse into their lives: their hard-fought victories, their ongoing challenges, and the lessons they have learned along the way.
The movement for gender equity within the financial services industry has picked up steam in recent years, but there is still considerable ground to cover. Planted in the tough soil of tradition and precedent, seeds of change take years or decades to fully take root and break through the surface. Fortunately, there is no shortage of Tuck alumnae to model capable, decisive leadership for the generations that follow. In the hands of leaders like these, the future of the financial services industry becomes a little brighter every day.
Claudia Carbonelli T’10 was honest with her new colleagues when she became Head of Finance at Payworks, a Munich-based provider of next-generation payment gateway software for the Point of Sale (POS): They were in for a bumpy ride, but it would pay off.
After Visa acquired Payworks in mid-2019, Carbonelli moved halfway across the globe to manage the company’s finance operations. She had spent the last five years climbing the finance ladder at Visa’s headquarters in San Francisco, and she was ready to embrace a new challenge.
And what a challenge it was. Heading into the role, she had a limited working knowledge of Tax, Treasury, Accounting, and other job functions outside the umbrella of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A). For one six-month period, she carried a two-person workload as both Head of Finance and Controller. She was constantly confronted with the complexity of helping a fast-paced, innovative startup integrate with a massive global corporation. And, to top it all off, she arrived in Munich only a month before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Playbooks are great, but most of the time, you don’t have one,” reflects Carbonelli. “The pandemic had a lot of us asking what to do next. You have to forge your own path.”
There is nothing better than raising up the next generation of leaders.
—Claudia Carbonelli T’ 10
Carbonelli successfully steered her team through a season of tremendous change and upheaval over the next few years—and she did it by getting down in the trenches and leading by example. She credits her Tuck MBA for not only enhancing her ability to get things done, but for teaching her the strategic value of building authentic connections. “I’m a very present manager, always knowing what’s happening on the ground,” she says. “I set a very high bar for my team members and an even higher bar for myself.” When it comes to putting in the hours needed to make reliable projections and ensure compliance in dozens of countries, no one outworks her.
A key element of building trust is maintaining transparency, she says. “If we’re going to have a tough few weeks, I will be honest with my team and make sure they know what to expect. But they know I will be there, working alongside them.”
Carbonelli also emphasizes the importance of creating an environment that allows employees to be transparent. “The pandemic reminded us that there is this whole other life that employees live outside of working hours,” she says. “In the past, that was not always top of mind. Now, I make a point to ask my team members more questions about their lives and let them know that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.”
She recently relocated back to San Francisco, but she still maintains close communication with her team in Munich. While she savors the intellectual challenge of financial management, she points to empowering others as the most fulfilling aspect of her role. “I love when someone I mentored takes the time to come back and tell me about the promotion they just received,” she says. “There is nothing better than raising up the next generation of leaders.”
These days, Meral (Cur) Ramsey T’08 makes every minute count. She had already shifted into a higher gear in 2019 when she took on a new role as a coverage banking COO within Investment Banking & Capital Markets at Credit Suisse. Then, two years later, she gave birth to her first child.
“Building a career in finance is inherently difficult no matter who you are, but I have a newfound respect for mothers who work in this space,” she says. “Growing up, I never envisioned myself being in this kind of role when I started a family, but I’m proud I’ve managed to make it work.”
In 2006, Ramsey arrived at Tuck with a plan to forge a path to management consulting. She quickly changed direction when she recognized how much she savored the challenge of the investment banking career path. Then, after cutting her teeth in investment banking at Deutsche Bank for several years, she made another pivot into the COO space. “I enjoyed my time in investment banking, but I was motivated to make a change after reflecting more on my long-term goals,” she says.
After rising to the COO level at Deutsche Bank, it was a natural progression to move into her current COO role at Credit Suisse, where she works with bankers and senior stakeholders within the company’s Industrials and Real Estate, Gaming, and Lodging groups to manage a broad portfolio of initiatives. “It’s endlessly rewarding to be a part of propelling a business forward in tangible ways,” she says. “Being a COO means being in an environment of constant growth and evolution.”
Building a career in finance is inherently difficult no matter who you are, but I have a newfound respect for mothers who work in this space.
—Meral (Cur) Ramsey T’08
Without a doubt, the greatest challenge she faces on a day-to-day basis is shouldering a heavy workload, with more tasks and requests landing on her desk than one person could reasonably accomplish in a day, while maintaining an active presence in the lives of her husband and son.
She handles the time crunch by time blocking her schedule and going into the office early in the morning, frontloading her day so that she can get home to her family. On weekends, she and her husband unwind by taking walks to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with their son and dog. “It's hard to call it unwinding when you have a baby, but it’s fun to see the world through my son’s eyes,” she says.
In this hectic season of life, Ramsey also finds value in connecting with colleagues in more senior roles who have navigated a similar path. At Deutsche Bank, she was heavily involved in employee networks and people-centered initiatives. Inspired to keep learning and connecting, she recently joined a company mentorship program at Credit Suisse linked to its Americas
Women’s Network, an organization that offers support and career-building opportunities for women in finance.
She could always use more minutes in the day, but Ramsey has fully embraced the challenges of balancing family life with a flourishing career in a demanding field. “My time at Tuck propelled me to a different career path than I could ever have imagined,” she reflects. “I don’t take it for granted.”
Since a classmate from her Tuck MBA program first linked her with a job opportunity at Merrill Lynch, every move Qin Hong T’06 has made in the last 16 years can be traced to a Tuck connection. “My time in Hanover was an enormous driver in getting me where I wanted to go,” she says. After building her credentials in investment banking, financial planning, strategy, and analytics at Merrill Lynch, Barclay’s, and Deutsche Bank, Hong accepted the challenge of leading the global function which manages Morgan Stanley’s real estate portfolio.
Hong’s role as global co-head of real estate & location strategy at Morgan Stanley has always kept her on her toes, but it became even more of a challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“The events of the past two years have certainly made my job interesting,” she says. “We have seen a surge of interest in real estate and a major shift in how employees think about their workplace.”
My time in Hanover was an enormous driver in getting me where I wanted to go.
—Qin Hong T’08
From strategy to execution, Hong oversees a giant chess board of 20 million square feet around the world, with thousands of employees moving around constantly. The head count of many businesses, including Morgan Stanley, increased during the pandemic, but their employees’ preferences shifted dramatically. In the U.S., the company witnessed a migration of talent from coastal centers like San Francisco and New York to more affordable mid-sized cities like Tampa and Columbus. At the same time, the rise of the hybrid work model changed the way space is used.
Hong is executing a multiyear plan to modernize workspaces, largely in response to shifting preferences among employees. The new workplace replaces individual seats with more open, collaborative space; includes far more amenities, and builds connection within the community rather than serving as a fortress within it, she says.
"The most rewarding aspect of my day-to-day work is the opportunity to solve operational challenges for my clients, while at the same time knowing how much difference a positive workplace environment can make in the life of an employee,” says Hong. “It’s a privilege to make a tangible impact through real estate solutions.”
Recently, Anna Burdin T’04 re-read her application to the Tuck MBA program. In those years, she was a recent immigrant from Ukraine who had hit the ground running and launched a career in corporate tax at a Big 5 accounting firm. But she had quickly reached a crossroads. “In my application, I wrote about my desire to work with numbers in a completely different setting, like finance or business development,” she shares. “Amazingly enough, that vision came true.”
For the past 17 years, Burdin has built a thriving career at Fidelity Investments. She steadily climbed the ladder from treasury analyst to VP of finance for the Fund and Brokerage Operations & Technology (FBOT) organization, filling several corporate business development roles along the way. “In each one of these roles, Tuck set me up for success by imparting analytical, technical, and research skills I needed,” she says. To this day, she still whips up the tornado charts she learned to create in a Decision Science course at Tuck.
In her years in business development, these skills equipped her to manage the finance side of high-profile acquisitions and divestitures with finesse. Now that she leads central finance operations for the FBOT team, she uses them to serve Fidelity’s businesses. “I spend a lot of the day understanding what is happening in a business through the numbers and communicating that story to the executive level in a way that moves the needle,” she explains.
You can never give 100% at work and 100% at home at the same time. But you don’t need give 100% everywhere to be effective.
—Anna Burdin T’04
The challenge and reward of the role are one in the same. “The industry is changing constantly,” she reflects. “There is always a new generation of investors coming in. I have to work hard to stay up on top of new developments, both in and out of Fidelity.”
Burdin credits mentorship with putting her in the right mindset to keep up the pace. When she first joined the company, she was newly engaged and about to start a family. She reached out to a more senior woman for guidance on how to achieve her personal and professional goals simultaneously. “Not only did she end up hiring me down the road, but she helped me figure out how to live with less guilt,” says Burdin. “I learned that you can never give 100% at work and 100% at home at the same time, but you don’t need give 100% everywhere to be effective.” Now, Burdin mentors younger women through Fidelity’s formal mentoring program.
If Burdin could go back and talk to herself at the beginning of her MBA program, she knows what she would say. “I would tell myself to take a deep breath,” she says. “My time in Hanover was like my wedding day—over in a moment. And in the end, it all worked out.”
If Maansi (Dugar) Gupta T’07 could redo the first year of her MBA program, she would participate in every social outing and networking event that she could.
“Coming from India, where education is focused on accumulating academic knowledge, I didn’t realize that getting to know my classmates and building relationships were every bit as important as mastering my coursework,” she remembers. “Fortunately, I got the hang of it by the second year.” Gupta more than got the hang of it—she left the MBA program with a spouse and a solid foundation on which to build a successful client-facing career in investment banking.
As a managing director in JP Morgan’s Hong Kong office, Gupta leads Diversified Industries and Healthcare business for clients in 10 countries in East and South Asia. She has played a central role in $100B+ worth of transactions in M&A, IPO, and capital raising. “Having worked in this field for 15 years, I can successfully bridge the gap between companies and investors,” she shares. “The most rewarding part of my job is leveraging my expertise to influence my clients’ strategic direction in the long term.”
But it’s one thing to have knowledge and another to convey it in a way that resonates with clients. In Gupta’s experience, understanding the cultural nuances of workplace communication is vital to maintaining successful relationships. “Certain clients value relationships first and foremost, so I have to make sure I’m connecting with them in more informal settings,” she says. “On the other hand, other clients prefer to dive right into content. You must have both content and relationship, judging from experience which one to lead with.”
Client preference is as much connected to type of company as it is to local culture, Gupta has observed. The more family-led and family-oriented a company is, the more it will put relationships front and center. Private equity firms, on the other hand, almost always prefer a more direct, content-first approach.
In the future, Gupta aspires to put her cross-cultural management skills to work as the leader of a global business within JP Morgan, or even outside of the realm of finance. “It will be interesting to see where my knowledge and relationship-building skills will be most effective,” she says. “I’m looking forward to all that’s ahead.”
This story originally appeared in print in the summer 2022 issue of Tuck Today magazine.