EMPOWERING AND ENCOURAGING WOMEN INTO FINANCE
Evelyn Simpson is a former investment banker. During her tenure with JP Morgan Chase and its predecessor banks, she was corporate finance specialist in London and New York and Hong Kong working with ocean-going shipping companies. During the Asian financial crisis, she worked on corporate restructurings throughout South East Asia before being appointed Chief Operating Officer and board member of Chase Manhattan Asia Limited.
Evelyn currently mentors female entrepreneurs and is an investor in early stage companies. She is a member of Investing Women Angels where she is part of the group’s investment screening panel. You can find out more about Evelyn here.
How did you get into this? Did you attend university, and/or fall straight into a role or was it a more roundabout journey?
My career in finance comes in two parts. My initial landing in finance came after I studied economics and law at the University of Edinburgh. I ended up being hired by a US bank called Manufacturers Hanover which no longer exists as it merged and merged to eventually become JP Morgan Chase. I had a variety of roles mostly doing corporate finance for ocean-going shipping companies, but then did some bankruptcy restructuring work in SE Asia and finally moved into a business management role. After my daughter was born, my husband and I found it too difficult to maintain two globally mobile careers and stay in the same place. I was ready to do something else, so resigned from my banking career.
Part 2 came quite recently after several years out of finance. I repatriated to the UK and started to go to some of the phenomenal events here in Scotland around entrepreneurship. I got connected with and all-women angel investing group and found that I really enjoyed the process of learning about and, in a few cases, investing in early stage companies. I’ve also been helping some early stage companies and have been doing some screening and set up for the angel group.
Can you explain what a typical day for you would be?
In investment banking, the environment was very intense, particularly when there was a deal in the works. It wasn’t uncommon to “pull an all-nighter” as we used to say to get a transaction done. Personally, I loved the clients and the work that we did to help them grow and sustain their companies. We also did some pretty innovative (at the time) transactions which weren’t being done by other banks working in that industry segment. As someone who was working with clients to win and structure transactions, there really wasn’t a “typical” day. Some days I’d be travelling to meet clients, other in the office working on transactions, and sometimes, as an expert in my field, I’d get to speak at conferences or would write articles for industry press.
Now angel investing is just one thing I do in a portfolio of activities, including coaching. Today, I met with a fellow investor to discuss and investment we both made which needs a bit of course correction. I’m also talking to an entrepreneur who is seeking out investment funding and later in the week, I’m chairing a conference that I got connected with through my angel investment activities. Having not held an office job for a long time, there’s no way I would want to expose myself to the old investment banking deal environment, even though it was great fun at the time.
What’s your experience from a woman’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?
Investment banking is a notoriously alpha-male environment. Its been many years since I was in it and I hope its a bit better now but I think its got a long way to go. Though it was a tough environment in which to establish myself, I found that, once I proved that I knew what I was going, being a woman worked to my advantage as 1) I stood out in an industry sector where most of the bankers and the clients were male and 2) some of my older clients were almost fatherly in the way they dealt with me (maybe I made them think of daughters making their way in the world of work) and I was able to get a hearing when competitors couldn’t. Where the rubber hit the road for me was when our daughter was born. Even though I wasn’t doing deals by then, I was working for a US bank in Hong Kong and was expected to be available for calls at all hours of the day. When I talked to my boss about working part-time, he said it would be OK if I worked in the office 4 days a week and from home on the 5th. That’s when I realised it was time for a change.
With regard to angel investing, its not really a job but it’s great fun. It’s also a pretty heavily male environment – in Scotland, only 5% of angels are women. I’m a member of Investing Women Angels (the only all-female group in Scotland) and though we see and invest in all sorts of companies, we do tend to work with more female-led companies than other groups. I was initially put off by my perception that to be an angel investor, you had to be a squillionaire. However, it turns out that it’s much more accessible that I thought, though it’s very high risk so you can’t invest money you can’t afford to lose.
What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering this profession?
Investment banking – if you like a fast paced intense environment, go for it. It’s a great way to learn a lot about a wide variety of companies and give you a great perspective on how businesses work. It great fun but it’s not for the feint of heart. I hope that investment banks are better now at providing paths for women to be able to continue to advance after children but the deal environment is brutal and doesn’t leave much room for balance.
Angel Investing – find a supportive environment to learn in. Many women I speak to about angel investing are reluctant to ask questions in front of predominantly male audiences, particularly when they are new to angel in investing and are perhaps not familiar with the jargon or the process. I’m part of a group called Investing Women Angels which is all female and we pride ourselves in providing an environment in which women can learn. There are all-women and women-led groups all over the world.
What’s your best financial advice for any woman?
Money is power. Whether you are talking about you personal finances or your business finances, being on top of your money; where it comes from, how you spend it, how you invest it etc. gives you power and control. As an expat, I came across many women who left control of the family finances to their husbands and didn’t really worry about it at all. For most of them it wasn’t an issue but for some, divorce from or death of their partner meant they were incredibly vulnerable. Money often feels scary and, in business and personal finance issues, it is easy to be reactive, goodness knows we’ve all been there! However a proactive approach to money is a powerful planning and learning tool.