Women in Finance

“The field of finance provides you with so many opportunities.”

Nicoleta Ionita chose finance because she enjoys the rational and logical. But when she started her master’s degree at BI and came face to face with the challenges of the creative aspects of the field, she discovered new qualities in herself.

Text: Ingrid Asp
Photo: Geir Anders Rybakken Ørslien

Nicoleta is originally from Moldova and studied finance in Japan before she decided to move to Norway to take her master’s degree, which she completed in the summer of 2020 at BI. The same spring, she started at SEB at Aker Brygge in Oslo as an analyst.

After settling into her new job full time that autumn, Nicoleta learned that she had won the Norwegian Oil Fund’s annual award for the best master’s thesis in financial economics, together with fellow student Asja Bosnic.

Together, the two of them penned the thesis “The Cost to Carry: Investor Uncertainty and the Currency Risk Premia”, which received plenty of praise from the jury at the Bank of Norway’s Investment Management.

“I never felt particularly creative when I was younger and I was happiest working on more exact subjects. For this reason, I looked at study programmes in IT first,” Nicoleta explains when talking about her choice of studies. She learned about BI when she hosted a Norwegian delegation visiting the university she studied at in Japan.

“What they said about BI seemed interesting to me and I became curious, so I checked it out and decided to do my master’s degree in Norway.”

Gut feeling and creativity are also important

However, there were a few surprises in store when she started her master’s degree at BI. “I went into my studies at BI with the idea that finance was rational, predictable and ran like clockwork. But I kept hearing that we should listen to our gut feeling and use our creativity. I actually felt a bit confused when I first learned about ‘behavioural finance’! It felt unfamiliar, but it turned out I could apply creative potential I didn’t even know I had,” Nicoleta says with a smile.Nicoleta Ionita

While completing her master’s degree, Nicoleta was offered a job with the Swedish company SEB, where she now works as an analyst within corporate finance.

“I develop financial models, improve materials for strategy meetings with customers and work on both public and private transactions. The role is very ‘hands on’ and I have the opportunity to collaborate with many different organisations.

What would you say to someone who is considering applying to study finance?

“Finance is a really broad field that provides extremely varied opportunities. I can’t think of any other industries in which you will be exposed to so much variety. You will have the chance to work with people at the very forefront of their industries and you will see start-ups grow into market-leading companies. You learn so much from what you are exposed to! I learn about developments in the industry, the concepts people come up with and the wonderful ideas I would never have heard about if I wasn’t part of this industry. I find it really interesting,” Nicoleta says.Nicoleta Ionita

A gateway to a number of industries

Nicoleta is happy to recommend finance as a great way to start your career, including for those who are unsure what field they want to work in.

“If, for example, you think you want to become an entrepreneur, but you’re not quite sure - you will find that finance provides you with opportunities in numerous industries. If you need some ideas to figure out which industry suits you, finance is an excellent place to start your search.”

Nicoleta has recently started specialising in energy and infrastructure. This involves helping customers who want to start their journey towards greener business activities and those who are already well on the way to this.

“This is a huge and very attractive sector in Norway and represents one of the country’s great strengths. I have also always enjoyed precise and logical tasks and there are plenty of those in this field. At the same time, the subject is also rewarding, as the green transition is something we need now, not tomorrow. It gives meaning to my job.”

A need for normal female role models in finance

Nicoleta grew up in Moldova, but does not consider herself to be a typical Moldovan.

“Moldova is lagging well behind when it comes to gender equality. But I have been fortunate when it comes to the role models I had around me. My mother is a strong woman and, like her, I have never thought there was anything I couldn’t do or achieve.”

BI finds it difficult to recruit females for its study programmes in finance – what do you think might contribute to this problem?

“I don’t know what it’s like to be a young person in Norway around the age when you choose what to study. But I would think it could seem daunting to enter an industry that has a reputation for being male-dominated. Another thing that doesn’t help is that the women you meet in finance often work in HR or as receptionists and the positions of the few role models that are highlighted seem completely unattainable. It’s great to have role models, but I don’t find it particularly inspiring to only read about the women who have made it all the way to the top in some highly successful company. It’s not all that easy to relate to these people.”

What do you think needs to be done?

“The most important thing that needs to be done to attract more women is to normalise the industry for women. Show that there are completely normal women working in this field. I think this would make a career in finance appealing to even more women. I am extremely glad that half the team I work with at SEB is made up of women! I can relate to them and it makes me feel that I am in a completely natural place as a woman.”

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