Dr Kim Heyden is Senior Sales Manager at Fidelity International. She previously worked in the scientific field. We talk to her about what it's like to work in financial sales as a young woman and which aspects played the biggest role in her choice of job.

Kim, we met in 2022 at the meeting of Nobel Prize winners in economics in Lindau. How did you come to attend this prestigious event?
The fact that I took part in the event in 2022 was due to a chain of different circumstances. When I did my doctorate in 2019, my professor suggested that I take part in the conference. Unfortunately, the event had to be postponed twice due to the pandemic, so I was only able to attend in 2022. Even though I was no longer academically active at the time, taking part was an exciting experience for me. I found the exchange in an international atmosphere very inspiring.

So you initially aspired to an academic career. How did it happen that you then became interested in a job in the financial sector?
During my dual study programme, I worked at a regional bank. Only then did I go into academia to do my doctorate. I focussed my doctoral thesis on investment funds and examined their performance and cash inflows as well as the sustainability and activity of fund managers. I then decided to look for a job in sales at an asset manager.
I can still use some of the things I learnt during my doctorate in sales today. In science, for example, it is important to be able to convince your audience when you present your research paper at a conference. The same applies in sales. I have also developed a great deal of stamina through my scientific work. A doctorate can be very tough at times; I had to stay on the ball for 3.5 years. I now also benefit from this stamina in sales.

You are a Senior Sales Manager at Fidelity International. Can you tell us what you typically do and whether this job actually involves as much travelling as many people assume?
I work in the wholesale business, where I look after private and regional banks. One of my daily tasks is to discuss the current market environment with those responsible at the banks and present potential solutions. The banks then either include our funds in their asset management or become sales partners.. I am also responsible for various ESG activities and organise web seminars and customer workshops on the topic of ESG, for example. Before the introduction of the sustainability preference survey, which has had to be included in investment advice since last year, we drew up guidelines, for example. This was intended to support our sales partners in implementing the requirements and we received a lot of positive feedback. To summarise, I can say that my sales job is incredibly varied and I can't really imagine a more interesting job.

Do you have to or are you privileged to travel a lot?
In general, you have to be prepared to travel if you want to work in sales. However, it depends very much on the regions in which your customers are based. More and more meetings are also taking place digitally these days. I would estimate that around one in four of my meetings currently take place virtually. Virtual meetings save a lot of time and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time. This also supports us in our goal of achieving Net Zero in our operational business by 2030.

Do you have any idea why there are fewer women in Sales, at least much fewer than in Marketing?
Some women work in sales at Fidelity. In our wholesale team, the ratio is actually quite balanced. But you're right, of course, that there are more men in sales in the financial sector overall. One reason for this is certainly the many prejudices that still prevail. Many women probably assume that in sales you spend the whole week travelling and that a sales job is therefore difficult to reconcile with family planning. However, as mentioned earlier, it is now possible to hold some meetings virtually. Many companies also offer measures to improve the compatibility of family and career and the work-life balance in general. At Fidelity International, for example, we offer flexible and hybrid working. This means that all employees can organise their working hours flexibly and can work from home. All employees also receive five days of Family Care Leave if required. These are additional days of leave that can be used to look after the family. And these are just two of the many measures that we implement at Fidelity International.
Gerne möchte ich Frauen dazu motivieren eine Vertriebstätigkeit als mögliche Karriereoption zu betrachten. Denn viele von uns Frauen bringen wichtige Eigenschaften, wie Kommunikationsstärke, Empathie und Organisationstalent mit, die im Sales sehr wichtig sind.

Have you ever had a strange situation in your sales work due to the fact that you are a woman?
Overall, I think that the industry is now taking the issue of diversity quite seriously. In the academic sector, for example, I see a lot more work to be done about that. As a result, I haven't experienced any strange situations. However, I do remember one situation: at the time, I was the contact person for a bank. The bank representative kept asking me if he could speak to my colleague. I clearly realised that he would have preferred to have a male contact person.
However, I would also like to tell you about a positive experience: I recently gave a presentation at a bank and the entire audience was male. That does happen occasionally. The manager then said that I was the only woman in the room, as unfortunately they hadn't been able to recruit any women for the department so far, and then jokingly made me a job offer. The fact that I was the only woman was immediately perceived as a "problem" here. So the awareness is already there.

What were the two most important criteria that made you apply to Fidelity International?
I recognised Fidelity International as one of the major fund providers and I was attracted by its international presence and broad product range. But the soft factors were almost more important to me. Fidelity is strongly committed to diversity and the associated gender diversity and actively promotes women. I had already noticed this before I started working at Fidelity. For example, Fidelity has signed the Women in Finance Charter and has set one of its explicit corporate goals as bringing more women into the entire workforce and into management positions. This summer, we have already come very close to our goal of having around 35 per cent female managers by the end of 2023 (34.1 per cent as at June 2023). Fidelity also offers attractive social components, such as integrative parental leave for men and women. Fidelity also carries out regular gender paygap analyses to ensure that salaries are gender-balanced.

And in professional practice, what are the most important advantages that make working at Fidelity International interesting and enjoyable?
In my previous jobs there were more hierarchical structures. At Fidelity, on the other hand, the hierarchies are flat. I like this flexible and modern corporate culture that we all really live here. All colleagues are approachable; the focus is on the result. I particularly like the international atmosphere and I get to work on various projects with colleagues from all over the world.
Es werden auch regelmäßig anonyme Umfragen durchgeführt, bei denen unter anderem Verbesserungspotenziale und das Befinden der Mitarbeitenden abgefragt wird.
Zusätzlich fördern natürlich auch Veranstaltungen wie Sommerfeste oder Get-togethers die Arbeitsatmosphäre.

Companies and organisers often complain that only a few women can be found for jobs or panels. You have applied for jobs in the financial sector and often speak on panels. What is your advice on how best to approach women to speak on a panel? What could be different when addressing women than men?
As a first step, our entire industry should contribute to making the financial sector more tangible for young professionals. The financial sector does not have an overly positive reputation, especially among the younger generation. Guest lectures at universities can help to get more young people interested in the financial sector. The sector could also present itself better at careers fairs and show how diverse it is. The compatibility of career and family could also be emphasised more strongly there.
Was die Ansprache von Frauen betrifft, glaube ich nicht, dass diese sich inhaltlich unterscheiden muss. Worauf Veranstalter jedoch achten sollten ist, dass sie nur Expertinnen ansprechen, die gut zum diskutierten Fachgebiet passen. Sie sollten einer Expertin nämlich nie das Gefühl vermitteln, sie nur anzusprechen, weil sie weiblich ist.

How important is it for you to have a network?
I personally think that's very important. I'm glad that the pandemic has subsided and that I can meet people at events and trade fairs again. This personal interaction is particularly important for a job in sales.

Thank you Kim for this inspiring conversation!

Profilbild von Anke Dembowski

Anke Dembowski

Anke Dembowski is a financial journalist and author of various investment fund-related and other financial books. She is also a co-founder of the "Fondsfrauen" network.

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