Five Tips for Business Success from Five International Women in Finance

What advice do the top women in finance have for those trying to make their way in the sector?


Last year, I interviewed 50 accomplished women from around the world for my 2020 research paper “Top Tips for Business Success,” released on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2020. 


As it turns out, five of the women are CFA charterholders and all hail from different countries. They each have charted unique paths to get to where they are today. And in celebration of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share some of their top tips and insights about what they see as the ingredients to their success.


1. Be curious!

Cathy Hwang, CFA, principal, Zumaya Equity, Taipei.

“In the early years of my career, I decided to pursue an analyst job with one of the big banks (on a whim!) even though I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been for the interview. I recall having an out-of-body experience during the interview and thinking ‘Oh my God, this is going really terribly!’


“The recruiting team conducting the interviews was seeing 12 candidates a day and they expected everyone to recite all of the standard answers to investment banking interviews. During my interview, I somehow ended up talking about the book Freakonomics that had inspired my decision to study economics. For some reason, my story resonated with the guy who was interviewing me.


“Although I wasn’t hired for that particular job, he liked me enough to set me up with someone who could help me prepare for future interviews. I stayed in touch with both of these contacts and our paths have crossed many times over the years. We share information. I have always been generous about sharing because, if you think about it, What does all of that information actually do for you if you keep it to yourself? I love that Derek Sivers quote, ‘If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.’


“My advice is definitely to stay open-minded, share information, and most of all . . . be curious. Especially if you are in the business of investing. Be fundamentally curious about the world — whether it’s about travelling to interesting places, interacting with different types of people, seeking out new experiences, or being disciplined about reading diverse publications. You need to have a wide lens for information flow.”


2. Your network matters!

Blair DuQuesnay, CFA, investment advisor, Ritholtz Wealth Management, New Orleans.

“Business turned out to be a great fit for me from the time that I started. My first job was sales assistant at a brokerage firm in New York. I felt frustrated trying to get ahead and sometimes wondered if a man would have had the same experience. I was looking for ways to improve myself and prove myself and as a result I decided to a) take the CFA designation and b) try hard to find a better opportunity for myself within the investment industry. Along the way I also became a blogger and this opened up a wonderful network.


“I have had some amazing career opportunities and one of the things I’m most proud of is when 40 Under 40 Investment News included me on their second inaugural national list in 2015. The other people on that list are so distinguished. . . it was a real honor just to be part of that group. When I walked into the ‘40 Under 40’ event, Josh Brown (the CEO of the firm I’m with today) was holding court and he stopped his talk and introduced me to the audience. This certainly helped to further raise my profile and fast forward to today . . . I’m happy to be working with him at Ritholtz.”

3. Pay attention to social media.

Aline Reichenberg Gustafsson, CFA, editor in chief,, Stockholm.

“Every day I focus on creating ‘business karma.’ Often, I meet someone interesting and highly competent, but we don’t see any immediate and concrete opportunity to collaborate. These ‘unusable’ contacts still make it onto my mental matchmaking list, because I don’t want our interaction to go to waste. Why do I care about this? First, I (selfishly) enjoy being the source of successful introductions. Second, I am paying forward those past introductions that have benefited me throughout my career. Last, but not least, I know that the more I help people, the stronger our relationship will be. They will remember me, talk about me, and generate a positive buzz around me and my business.


“A great way to accelerate karmic situations? Pay attention to the power of social media. Over the years I had often heard how important it is to take care of your social media profile and following. I can’t say that I went straight into posting updates and growing my contact list. I knew I was supposed to do it, but I didn’t understand how crucial it was until I discovered the power of social media, much later. As I ventured into the world of media, I started reaching out to people on social media more and more frequently, and posting updates and articles I wrote to generate traffic. Nowadays, I find that my reputation precedes me when I introduce myself to someone I just met: ‘I know about your business, I’ve been following your posts!’ they may say. Potential clients even reach out to me, whereas it would have taken me ages to get through to them otherwise. The results are worth multiples of what I spend taking care of my feed! ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me before?’ I asked myself. Well, of course they did, but not at the right time.”

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