Suvi Chi's tips for women to get ahead in the City

03 March 2020

  • Suvi Chi is part of Like Minded Females that supports and empowers women
  • The Warwick alumna says women need to find the right environment to thrive
  • Working in the City didn't stop Suvi finding strong female role models
  • The 34-year-old has now founded a start-up for people on career breaks

Suvi Chi believes finding the right managers to work with is key for women to progress their career.

The half-American half-Finnish straight-talking 34-year-old has had a far from straight forward career, never being afraid to leave a job and start afresh.

And after taking plenty of ‘career breaks’ along the way Suvi has now founded Koa Collective, a community and network that offers support, advice and inspiration for those taking time out from work.

“I have been fortunate throughout my career to work with some strong female managers, who have been great examples,” says Suvi, who was Chief Operating Officer at Fintech start-up Claimer before leaving to set-up Koa Collective. “I think the barriers are there for women, but I have been fortunate with the environments I have been in and I think that is because I have chosen where I work carefully.

“Never in my career have I been chasing money or prestige. My guiding principal has been about enjoying my work and finding good people to work with.”

As a non-executive board member of Like Minded Females, Suvi is at the forefront of trying to empower women, with the organisation providing women the chance to network and holding events and workshops to boost confidence, professional life skills and personal development.

The group also holds webinars and has built an online community while working with companies to educate them on how to boost females’ chances of progressing and bringing gender equality to their workplace. But that often means finding open-minded managers prepared to unpick their unconscious biases.

Straight-talker: Suvi Chi at a Like Minded Females event

I try to get to know the managers and company I might join and I prefer managers who are generally interested in me as a person,” says Suvi, who revealed she accepted a job at global investment bank Morgan Stanley after turning down a a similar role at an equally prestigious rival investment bank because it was not a good fit.

“I like having an adult conversation so they understand my strengths and seeing if that fits with the position, so they know where I can provide the most value and they trust me to do a good job. Then it is a win-win situation - both sides have to have respect for each other to do that.”

After studying law as an undergraduate at the University of Warwick, Suvi decided to move into finance and gained a summer internship at Lehmann Brothers only to see the global investment bank collapse as it was engulfed by the financial crisis.

She then moved to the Financial Ombudsman Service before taking on a role at Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), owner of the New York Stock Exchange, where she was promoted three times.

“There were very strong female role models at ICE,” says Suvi. “Also with my Finnish background I never saw being a woman as something that would hold me back, so having strong women there re-confirmed my belief that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.

“When I went to Morgan Stanley for a second time, there was a very senior lady who persuaded me to return. I worked on the trading floor with the risk management team and she was a great role model. It is traditionally a very male environment, but she was inspiring and there were quite a few women there, all showing we can work just as hard and as well as the men.

“It was a very interesting role, but I really wanted to sample the start-up scene so I jumped at the chance to be Chief Operating Officer at Claimer, which automates tax claims on R&D. 

“You realise your next pay cheque depends on you and your team - every decision has a real impact on the business. I really enjoyed the environment.

“I am very matter of fact, if something needs to be said I will share my opinion, regardless of who is in the room. If somebody disagrees then we can discuss it and the best idea wins. I have been very fortunate in that all of the environments I have been in have lived and breathed that philosophy.”

Now at Koa Collective and Like Minded Females Suvi is empowering a new generation of women to speak their minds.

Suvi Chi will be part of the Warwick Women's Professional Network event celebrating 50 years of Warwick women graduates at WBS London at The Shard on Thursday March 5.

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