Kim Fustier: “Bringing back telecommuting in banks would punish women”

Kim Fustier, who was appointed HSBC’s head of oil and gas research more than a year ago, has been a financial analyst in London for almost 20 years. After several months of M&A at Morgan Stanley, she quickly decided to enter the world of equity research, which she never left. After working at JPMorgan and Credit Suisse, she also took a sabbatical, which will not be without consequences for her career development. She deplores the low status of women in London finance and considers the French mentality in this area more modern than the one she observes daily in the heart of the British capital.

L’Agefi: Why did you choose a career in equity research, which is not the most well-known financial profession?

Kim Fustier: My interest in finance in general came quite naturally. Father was the financial director of a medium-sized company, financial topics were a regular part of family discussions. I liked maths, but decided to take the HEC prep class to be more open minded than a purely science course. Once at HEC, the choice of the financial sector came naturally because it is, in my opinion, the most interesting subject that allows us to understand the economy and the world around us. I then did my first mergers and acquisitions (M&A) internship at Morgan Stanley, but quickly transitioned to equity research.

Financial analysis is a field that was very little emphasized at HEC when I was there, in contrast to M&A, which was highly valued, presented as the most prestigious career in which you move the world. On the contrary, I find stock research more interesting. This profession uses the same skills as M&A – financial modelling, forecasting – and allows you to really get a global view of the industry you’re following. We talk to both CEOs of large companies and investors. No profession in finance offers such a broad vision.


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But are salaries in M&A higher than in financial analysis?

Yes, but in return the days are more sustainable. On average, a financial analyst works from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., while an M&A specialist works from 9:30 a.m. to midnight. I don’t understand how some people manage to maintain this pace for years. I lasted eight months.

It’s common for me to be the only woman in a meeting for nine men.

The pandemic and remote work have your work habits changed?

They have definitely added flexibility to my work which promotes balance with my personal life. I work remotely two or three days a week, and the organization of attendance days has also changed. Now analysts start their day from home. We are on board at 7am to respond to any emergencies, take customer calls and arrive at the office during the morning. We can leave earlier in the evening and work again in the evening once the children have gone to bed. For example, today I made a series of calls between 7:00 and 7:30, then dropped the kids off at school and went to the office. The pandemic and telecommuting have also changed the mentality a bit on points that women were more likely to penalize, such as having to leave urgently to pick up a child from daycare, leaving work early, etc. A return to telecommuting, as some major US banks seem to be advocating, would penalized women.

Does your employer, HSBC, have a policy to promote parity in their organisation?

HSBC now has a parity policy in job interviews that didn’t exist when I joined eight years ago. This is a good thing, but in practice it is complicated. For example, 80% of the resumes I receive are from men. We have more formalized processes for recruiting juniors or interns where we try to achieve parity during interviews. But in reality the problem will appear later. When I started at Morgan Stanley, we were far from equal with my interns. As the years go by, there are fewer and fewer women, especially with a high rate of attrition as they approach their thirties, with the arrival of children. Today, based on my experience, I estimate that the proportion of women in my area is around 20%. It’s common for me to be the only woman in a meeting for nine men. The problem is that this phenomenon is self-perpetuating, as this imbalance can discourage women who would like to continue.


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How did you manage to be part of this “20%”?

I am lucky to have a very committed partner, we split the tasks completely 50/50. In the UK, there was shared parental leave which allowed me to take four and a half months off when my children were born and my partner could take three months. In the banking sector, we are paid 100% of wages during this period. However, in reality, very few men take this parental leave. In the UK, most women take a year off. And 12 months is a long time in our business. Several of my friends went away for a year and it was complicated for them to return. Clients forget about us, we are not aware of what has happened in the industry we follow… Earlier in my career I had the opportunity to experience what a power outage cost a year in the City of London. A little late I performed the “gap year» this is what many business school students do. It penalized me, I almost had to start from scratch. Succeeding in this industry, especially as a woman, I think is a matter of resilience and interest in the profession.

I find the world of finance in the UK more traditional than in France

Has the involvement of your partner, who is also in finance, affected his career?

It’s hard to say but I know he would get involved in family life like he would no matter what, that’s just the way he is. With our second child, his N+1 was also female and I know that helped him, she was more understanding.

Do you perceive any differences in mentality on these topics between France and the UK?

Yes, I find the world of finance in the UK more traditional than in France. In this environment, the fact that the woman does not work in the couple is a symbol of prestige. They once told an acquaintance of mine: “Don’t you earn enough? Is that what your wife works for?”. When I went on maternity leave, I felt that many of my colleagues expected me to leave for 12 months or never return. Their “goodbye” sounded a bit like goodbye. I don’t think that’s the case in France. I also noticed that there are a lot more women as portfolio managers in France, even at very high levels. In the UK I can almost count them on the fingers of one hand, the maximum share is 10%.


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