Ringing in the changes: LSE’s Julia Hoggett on getting women on to the trading floor
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Ringing in the changes: LSE’s Julia Hoggett on getting women on to the trading floor

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This month marks 50 years of women at the London Stock Exchange

Julia Hoggett is both the first female and first openly gay CEO of the London Stock Exchange. Having joined in April 2021 from UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority, where she was last director of the market oversight division, Hoggett has had a varied career. Previous roles include time as a trader at Bank of America and JP Morgan in London, across a number of sectors within the capital markets.

As CEO, Hoggett celebrated an important milestone for LSE this month, the 50th anniversary of the admittance of women on to the trading floor in London. Bringing together some of those women, the exchange recognised the hugely important role that those original pioneers played in equalising the financial markets.

The women in that first cohort "fought prejudice, some outrageous comments and a questioning of their ability and contribution," Hoggett said. "We owe those trailblazers a huge debt: they imagined a world where women could become members of the Stock Exchange and then stuck it out to both make it happen and just as importantly, make it stick."

GlobalCapital spoke to Hoggett about the important milestone, what is being done to further bring about equality in the industry and her experience as a gay woman rising to the top in the capital markets.

GC: Thanks very much for joining me today and congratulations on the milestone. How important was that decision and what has that changed in the capital market sector during that time?

Julia Hoggett: When I talk about both business and inclusion, I always say that you can't expect to achieve different results by doing the same thing over and over again. You have to do things differently, and ironically the members of the Exchange did something differently when they voted to change the rules and admit women. There was resistance to it, some said that ‘it's a man's job’. At a luncheon hosted by Winterflood Securities and Goodacre to celebrate the anniversary, some of the original footage of the arguments against women being admitted was played to guests, the language was quite painful to listen to.

We have now realised that both women and men contribute hugely and very much equally to the financial services industry, and we are increasingly able to recognise that we bring different and complementary skills to the industry. We certainly bring a different perspective that makes the industry safer. When I was a regulator, and I know the regulator still very much thinks this way today, we had an enormous focus on the diversity of experience, perspective and background around the table in order to make good risk judgments. You need to go around all sides of problem and poke and prod at it to really make sure that you've understood where the risk is.

One of the greatest risks with a lack of diversity is that everybody agrees with one another whilst something is going horribly wrong. I hope that the industry and the financial services sector as a whole has improved in its quality and capabilities, as well as the nature of the products and services it produces, as a consequence of more diversity in its membership.

Creating systems that do not provide everybody with an equal opportunity to thrive is fundamentally poor resource management. We put an equal number of girls and boys through school, and nowadays we put as many women as men through university. But we find that when women get into the world of work, they don't have the same opportunities to contribute as their education has afforded them. This is not a very sensible and rational outcome for any economy in any society. We're now getting into the nitty gritty conversations about how we do things: a lot needs to change in order to really get to the true levels of productivity that the industry is capable of.

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You were at the FCA for seven years. What can it or any of the other regulators in the UK, or further afield, do to help drive this change?

I think the FCA is doing a lot. It's been increasingly front footed over the last seven years or so about its role in fostering diversity and inclusion in financial services. This is in part from a pure risk management and conduct management perspective, based on the belief that inclusive environments are safe environments. The simple reality is that workplace cultures that don't allow people to ask questions or to admit mistakes when they happen, and don’t take diverse perspectives into account, tend not to be as safe.

Regulators worry that poor workplace culture is the driver of poor conduct outcomes, and an inclusive culture is one of those facets. They would say that it is completely aligned with their regulatory agenda. There has been a big shift in the last decade, with the FCA increasingly setting standards around expectations for listed companies in the UK and producing discussion papers with the Bank of England on how it thinks about diversity and inclusion.

The London Stock Exchange recently released an International Women's Day report. What were its key findings?

When we held out 50th anniversary event, one of the most important things for us was to celebrate these amazing trailblazers; these women who walked onto the trading floor for the first time, received the brickbats, and proved themselves. Possibly having to do so more than the men who were already on the floor. They fought to get into the Exchange in the first place, they then made it stick. That's a pretty remarkable thing.

As an institution we are keenly aware of our history. It's a testament to everything that they went through. I had the privilege of speaking with some of the first women members of the London Stock Exchange [see picture and bio below]. What struck me that is how little they thought of themselves as trailblazers, and the hope is that what we've done over the course of the last few weeks to mark the anniversary has enabled them to realise how remarkable a thing it was. But this isn't just an exercise in looking back, it's an exercise of understanding where we are now and in trying to figure out where we go next.

Fifty years ago we didn't have any female members in the exchange, but where are we with female representation in financial services now? The report we published illustrates that it has actually declined over the course of time, the peak was in 1997 and it has gone down ever since.

One of the reasons is that women were disproportionately represented in more junior roles back then. And when those roles are digitised, the number of women employed in the industry declined. And that's why the focus now is very much on how you create a pipeline for women to move through to senior positions in the industry, and how you continue to focus on female representation on boards. The £1.12tr ‘gender diversity dividend’ delivered to the UK economy since 1997, by the incredible work of innovative, dynamic and dedicated women across the UK finance sector, should not be overlooked.

We are using the report as a pivot point for where we go next. We have discussed not only how you generate a pipeline of women coming through into senior leadership roles in financial services, but also how you address the massive inequity of female access to capital. Female led businesses get a tiny proportion of the total capital compared to the total amount of businesses. We are seeking to create as much of a level playing field as we can.

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What can the LSE do to encourage that?

Within the Exchange we can focus on our own hiring approaches, and we do. We set ourselves a target of 40% for women in senior leadership roles, which we have recalibrated over time. We met the target on time, which is a good sign, but that's not enough. We have good gender representation, a female CFO of LSEG, obviously me as the CEO of LSE, and 46% women on the LSEG plc board. We are trying to lead by example.

A lot of the discussions about understanding the journey that women take through organisations and working out at what point you lose them and how to make sure that the policies are in place to retain that talent.

The London Stock Exchange is a convener of capital. Our job is to bring together those who have capital with those who need it. I also think we have a powerful role as a convener of the conversation on diversity and inclusion, so we will stand up for what we believe in in terms of inclusion in financial services. And that’s exactly why we’ve been as public and vocal as we have.

One of the ideas we’re increasingly looking at is how to create the concept of a funding continuum — with venues to serve the full suite of companies looking for capital and liquidity. Venues have the ability to level the rules so that they are the same for everybody. The more that we can connect the funding continuum across private and public markets, the more that we hope we can contribute to enhancing the investment to women-led businesses in terms of access to capital.

Did you kind of have any gender related challenges across your career in getting to where you are today?

Sometimes I get asked what my plan was, but honestly I have never had a plan in my head about where I wanted to get to in my career. If I did, it would not have been this because at the beginning of my career the idea that I'd be sitting in this seat was frankly ludicrous. Sometimes when you set yourself plans you can find they are not helping you.

I have a very simple adage, which is that you will succeed if you do what you're doing right now to the absolute best of your ability and trust that good opportunities will come from that but don't close yourself off to those opportunities when they present themselves, however different they seem to be to what you're doing right now.

One of the things I've done in my career is moving in tangential ways into different parts of the industry, rather than thinking that the job required just moving up in one vertical stack, to the point where I've sat on pretty much every side of the table.

I often get rolled out as an example of diversity and inclusion, as proof that we have fixed things. I've been openly gay on trading floors for the last 25 years. I think it did allow me to possibly be a bit more direct, possibly even a bit more like my male colleagues and take a bit more control in meetings. I think people allowed me to be me because I was already different in a way that they possibly don't allow straight women to be. And the structure of my life looks more like my male colleagues than my female colleagues, because I've taken parental leave but have never taken maternity leave.

In a sense, my getting here is proof of all the structural obstacles that still exist in the industry for women navigating up the ranks. These are the things we need to focus on. How do we equalise the burden of the work of the office and the work and of the home between the genders so that women and men can equally contribute? Financial services, given the pressures, has generated those demands as much as any other industry. These are the things we really need to crack.

Is LSE doing anything to help with that? Is there anything that can be done?

Every institution can decide how they want to treat parental leave. They can make sure that the flexibilities that people need to live and to work can be accommodated. I feel very strongly that I have an incredibly dynamic and impressive team of people that work under a lot of circumstances. It shouldn’t be difficult to accommodate the way people need to work.

An awful lot of the flexibilities that very senior people in the city have taken for years to be able to accommodate have been hidden. Whereas I think women have always felt they needed to make it very public, that they needed to leave work at a certain time to do the school run, etc. And I think the onus is on men and women equally to illustrate the flexibilities that they have always had to accommodate in order to make both life and work work, and it requires very senior role.

Biographies of the two first women members of the LSE trading floor, Susan Shaw and Hilary Pearson (nee Root), both pictured above.

Susan Shaw

Susan first began her career in the City of London as a tour guide for the London Stock Exchange in the 1960s. The work bought her in contact with multiple stockbrokers, one of whom hired her to work in his back office filing paperwork outside of trading hours.

The firm, Williams Mortimer, and the deputy chairman of the LSE later sponsored her to become a full member. After women were admitted in 1973, she became the first women to walk on the trading floor. Following her admission into the stock exchange she went on to works as a private client broker for the next 10 years before she left the sector following the Big Bang in 1986.

Hilary Pearson (nee Root)

Hilary was one of the first women was admitted to the London Stock Exchange, in 1973, having joined stockbroker Sheppards and Chase in 1969. Hilary was offered a partnership in 1976 — making her the only female partner in the firm's history before it was taken over in 1986.

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