By Jessica Titlebaum (Chicago)
“You should hear some of the stories we share,” said Charlotte Crosswell, President of NASDAQ OMX Europe, about discussions she has with other senior level women.
“Like staying up until one in the morning making cupcakes with New York [executives] on speakerphone from my blackberry. You have to really want a career and children.”
It is a Tuesday morning and Crosswell is sitting across from me at a coffee table at the Hilton hotel in Chicago. She flew in from London that Sunday night, had plans to fly to New York the following day and then back to London on Thursday.
While being a mother is somewhat new to Crosswell (her daughter is three years old), the business travel is something she has been doing for most of her career. Crosswell has been all over the world from China to Israel developing business for two prominent Exchanges.
“Do you know where Stonehenge is?” she asked. “I come from a small village of 500 people about 30 miles from there.”
Crosswell explained that she starting working locally in the village when she was 14 while at school but always envisaged moving to a bigger town. She was shy as a teenager but found confidence through part-time work as a teenager. While growing up she would take the bus to nearby towns to go shopping and at 18 started doing office work to get more experience.
She graduated from the University of Southampton with a degree in French. She took courses in politics and economics and even spent a couple of years in France. After school, she moved to London where her sister helped her get a job in fashion.
“I did that for about 9 months but it didn’t pay the bills,” she said. “I wanted to get into finance.”
Crosswell resigned from her role in the fashion industry and went to a temp agency. It happened that Goldman Sachs was looking for someone who spoke French and she was placed at the investment bank two days later.
“I was at Goldman for one day, one day turned into one week, one week turned into one month and before I knew it, I was working there full time,” she explained.
She started on the European equity sales desk talking to Japanese investors in London and Japan in pan-European equities.
About two years later a position came up at the London Stock Exchange.
“Most people wouldn’t move from Goldman to the LSE but the Exchange was offering me opportunities to meet with heads of trading and develop the markets,” she said. “I would have to spend a long time at the bank to have opportunities like that.”
Crosswell moved around a lot during her six years at the Exchange. She worked in market development, market regulation and trading before moving into an international business development role. One of the things she did at the LSE was help re-design the closing auction, which is still in place today.
“I also worked with a lot of private and listed international companies so I flew to the US, Canada, Europe and Asia,” she said. “The Exchange was going through a lot of structural changes and it was an exciting time to be there.”
Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Stock Market was looking for someone based in London to help with companies looking to list in the US. A headhunter contacted Crosswell.
“I always said that I wouldn’t work for another exchange but I really liked how focused Nasdaq was in terms of their marketing efforts and it was a great role running their international business. It was also a much bigger game,” she said.
Crosswell started at Nasdaq in 2003 and continued in a business development position raising capital for listed companies around the world.
“Each month, I would spend more than a week in Asia, a week in New York, a week in Russia, Israel, Korea,” she explained. “I spent about 25 days a month traveling but that starts to take a toll on you.”
About four years later, Crosswell left Nasdaq to work in the private equity sector in pensions but like her fashion career, her time in private equity was short lived.
In April 2008, Nasdaq called her and told her about the Multilateral Trading Facility (MTF) they were working on. They asked her to come back.
“I said, ‘well first of all, I just left eight months ago and second, I am eight months pregnant,’” she said. “They didn’t seem to mind! I resigned four days before my daughter was born so my garden leave ended up being my maternity leave. I went back to Nasdaq 10 weeks later.”
Second Time Around
“We started the MTF in September 2008 but the world had moved on by then and margins were being squeezed at MTFs in Europe so we eventually had to take the tough decision to close the platform in July 2010.” she explained.
Since then Crosswell has been focused on various projects at Nasdaq including new opportunities, strategy around their European business and planning for growth on the back of regulatory changes.
“We tend to have a few different tracks and you have may have Plan A but that can change on the back of what’s happening in the market and what’s happening with consolidation and regulatory change so we always try to stay one step ahead.” she said.
She explained that one of the hardest parts of her job is being the only person of her level in London.
“I report to someone in New York but I am the only person that is based in London looking at these opportunities,” she said. “There are many people that look at opportunities for the Nordic markets but that might be very different to the UK markets.”
She said that she will send her ideas to her counterparts and they will ask her why she comes to that conclusion.
“As a result, I take this part of the job very seriously,” she said. “At the end of the day, I am spending the company’s money and I need to be able to justify these decisions to the shareholders.”
Women In The Markets
On a final note, Crosswell wanted to comment on women in the markets.
“I always had this mentality that you should work harder than the person next to you and chances are you will get there eventually but the female factor is really gathering pace in Europe.”
She said that the amount of events and networking groups geared towards women in Europe is growing.
“It is quite interesting how we can help women in their teenage years by telling them the right mindset can get them anywhere,” she said.
She commented on maternity leave in the Nordic region and how either the man or woman can take parental leave, leading to more equality potentially and less discrimination.
“You do really have to be organized when you have a child if you’re going back to work full-time,” she said. “There is an ever increasing focus in terms of women on boards now but it is an issue for women who may be juggling more than two or three children and a full-time job already. These women sometimes think they don’t have the capacity to take on anything else without compromising their existing work-life balance. We have to make sure we’re not criticizing women who decide not to pursue non-executive positions as a result of that.”
“They are potentially talking about putting quotas in for women on boards in Europe which I don’t agree with but recognize the need for more focus on the issue and more willingness to look at people who don’t have pre-existing board experience otherwise it will be difficult to increase the number of women on boards. There has been a lot of noise about this. It’s good to get involved and be part of the discussion rather than watch change taking place.”