Taking the lead: Anita Karppi

From starting a buy-side trading community to thoughts on leadership, Anita Karppi is pushing for the changes she wants to see

People 16 Feb 2022

Anita Karpi

Anita Karppi

Tell me a bit about your background and how you started your career?

I went straight on to do my post graduate diploma after my European Business university studies which involved two work placements and two years in a host country. I had an opportunity to be one of the first Erasmus Programme students and did my final exams in the Spanish language. I consider myself lucky that there were a lot of job opportunities when I graduated, and I was able to choose what I wanted to do. My first job role was leading a portfolio of research reports in finance in a joint venture company between Reuters and Datamonitor. Thereafter, I was offered a position at Goldman Sachs Asset Management as an analyst.

What motivated you to create your own buy-side trading community from scratch?

Having worked in the industry for a number of years, I wanted to do something that would make an impact. It was quite hard to come up with the right angle and I am very glad that I persevered. The buy-side traders were a group that needed to have a ‘voice for change’ but creating that trust with them was an uphill struggle as they did not know me before I started my quest. I am very grateful for all of their support as well as the backing I received from exchanges, sell-side banks and vendors. Our community is built on solid credibility and reputation. Time is a big testament, and I am very grateful to still be leading the community 13 years later.

Why is it so important for you to promote the representation of women within the buy-side trading sector? 

On our 10-year community anniversary, I wanted to champion a topic which resonated with our ethos. #buysidewomen was created to shine a spotlight on how few women traders worked on the desk. I wanted to understand why this was and to break the bias and raise this important topic. I was astounded by the response. It was a proud moment when the Buy-side Trading Community’s research was leveraged in the Investment Association and Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME) consultation to lobby the world’s largest stock exchanges for shorter hours. It is a fond memory to have contributed to this good cause and that the campaign reached the highest level.

As for so many of the buy-side men and women who backed this campaign, I am also a mother to a daughter who will one day have a career. The more I can do to #breakthebias, the better. It is irrelevant to me whether she works in capital markets, fashion, medicine or in whichever industry that she chooses, but that opportunities are there for her and gender bias is less dominant. 

What were the main challenges you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

Having your own business in the financial markets challenged me every day. I always wanted to keep my clients at the centre of our vision, and I worked incredibly hard, often with no direct financial return, to make them happen. Building trust, credibility and a solid reputation is not easy but that takes time, grit and determination and an attitude of ‘never give up’.

I am lucky that I have a lot of grit and determination. I don’t give up easily and when knocked back I kept going. Having a supportive partner and family was also imperative to me. I know a lot of mums who leave employment to raise their families and then are unable to get back to the level that they were at before. This needs to change. There is a lot of talent which could be utilised if they were given the flexibility and hybrid working to be able to do a great job.

What do you believe is the key to effective leadership?

  1. Lead by example. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and lift the boxes as well as set the strategic vision and lead the team.
  2. I count myself incredibly lucky to have a career in the financial markets, have a strong network and to have kept going. Leaders need to understand how the whole organisation works, make changes and not be afraid of taking calculated risks. Companies that just think of their profit margins will not win by default. People are doing business with people.
  3. There is no such thing as overnight success – you have to have a clear vision and strategy to succeed.
  4. Be a role model, try and balance working smartly but be prepared to put in the hours. Slow and steady always wins the race.

What advice would you give specifically to women in leadership roles?  

Just be yourself. You don’t need to prove yourself, be liked by everyone but show your vision, your character and your USPs (Unique Selling Points). Don’t be afraid to use your voice, stand up and believe in yourself.

If you make mistakes, rectify them quickly, have a clear vision and move on. Everyone is a human being. Care about your team and show them that you do.

Credibility and reputation are the most important factors as a leader and what I personally have as my core values.

Take care of your team and have empathy. Make time to be an effective leader and make sure you invest in your team. Show them commitment and effective, efficient leadership.

 The City is constantly evolving – what are some positive changes you think should be celebrated, and what areas still need more work? 

Covid-19 has accelerated change in the workplace and the old-school “face time” culture has been diminished somewhat due to the length of time that the pandemic has been in existence.

Offering opportunities for those who may not be able to commute physically to an office due to various reasons such as disabilities, childcare etc or those that want to work remotely permanently is going to be the challenge for most organisations. Flexible workplaces must be examined and there must be opportunities for all. A clear strategy on trying to create an effective, efficient workplace – keeping customers at the forefront of their organisation’s mind but keeping the personnel happy – is very important.

Having featured on Brummell’s Ones to Watch list in 2019, what has been your biggest achievement and your biggest learning in the past 2 years?

 In my career, without a doubt it is the #buysidewomen and #buysidementalhealth campaigns from my Buy-side Trading Community. Addressing key issues and vocalising what many are often afraid to articulate out loud is very important to me and I believe I have a unique position to help and to keep important topics at the forefront of everyone’s mind. These two campaigns champion essential topics for the financial markets and really help to shine a spotlight into much needed areas.

On a personal level, the global pandemic was an unprecedented change. I likened it to the “World War Three” in my lifetime. I did what I could to help those who needed it the most: the front-line workers at my local NHS hospital trust. I knew I had to do something to help and I quickly became a trusted go-to person despite not knowing any of the staff, executive team or knowing any of the policies and procedures. All I knew was that I was able to help and had bandwidth to do so. At 11pm at night I was helping source PPE, but I did my best. I am glad that I did this and raised £15,000 to help by setting up a website and JustGiving page and reaching out to the local community.

None of these projects are led from a commercial or professional career angle but instead I aim to help and influence, which I believe everyone should feel empowered to do. I have many plans for the Buy-side Trading Community this year, which will continue on the same ethos.

Anita Karppi has over 20 years’ experience in the global financial markets. She is the founder of the Buy-side Trading Community, sits on the executive team at the Plato Partnership and is chief revenue officer and head of ESG at Plia.

Anita’s work as founder of the Buy-side Trading Community which champions senior, heads and global heads of trading globally has won her multiple awards and highly ranked accolades for her dedication and incredible commitment to the community.