Woman in finance

Mariolla Baffour Asare, Executive Director at Goldman Sachs

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Mariolla is responsible for the electronic trading business in EMEA for the Multi Asset Platform Sales desk at Goldman Sachs. In this role, she focuses on deepening client connectivity by leveraging technology, bolstering cross-product coverage intensity, and achieving greater operating scale on a cross asset level. She also serves on the steering committee of the EMEA Firmwide Black Network at Goldman Sachs.

Mariolla is also a Partner and Finance Director at Cornerstone Partners, the first Angel Investor Network focused on investing in businesses owned and run by black and diverse founders in the UK . Cornerstone aims to remove barriers to funding for individuals from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the UK business market today.

Please tell us a little about yourself/ your journey from graduate to now?

I was born in Accra, Ghana. I spent all of my formative years here and moved to London in 2011 after graduating from the University of Ghana business school to start as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. I am currently responsible for the electronic trading business in EMEA for the Multi Asset Platform Sales desk at Goldman Sachs.

What are some of your challenges/ experiences of glass ceiling you faced and how did you manoeuvre your way around it?

For me the biggest challenge has been dealing with the (un) conscious bias. This is not always obvious, and more often than not subtle. The impact is the same. This was properly compounded by my own self-doubt initially. I didn’t attend a well-known university, and at the start of my career battled with fitting in, and believing I was good enough to be in the room. I had tremendous support from my manager at the time, and some amazing mentors who helped me transition properly into Goldman. As I have advanced in my career, there are moments this doubt has crept back in, especially as I have struggled to see people who look like me above me. What I do now is look back at the commercial successes I have been able to achieve, some well above my peers, and remind myself I am just as good, if not better. And that I may very well be the person the next generation will see when they look up, that someone who looks like them could achieve a certain level of success.

What are you most excited about in the industry?

I am excited to continue to leverage technology to achieve greater operating scale in our business, particularly on a cross asset level. It has been interesting to see the different product worlds - previously operating in silos - come together this way (foreign exchange, rates, credit, commodities and equities).

What are you doing in the D&I space?

I serve on the steering committee of the EMEA black network where I actively engage with senior leaders sharing my thoughts on the current landscape and the part the firm can play. I am so proud of the work we are doing at Cornerstone partners (the first Angel Investor Network focused on investing in businesses owned and run by black and diverse founders in the UK). While I acknowledge this is not the only answer, we believe empowering our community through investing in the most innovative, inspirational black entrepreneurs helps creates influence, and economic influence is a language many understand.

How did you make sure you stood out of the crowd?

I think taking a stand, and being known for that is always a good thing. I have always been very passionate about all things diversity. Everything I do or say strongly reflects my beliefs. I think this consistency has helped build a strong narrative about the work I do and has allowed my name to be mentioned in rooms I still do not have access to.

What was the most important thing that helped you land your current role?

Sponsorship. I have learnt to let sponsors speak for me in rooms I don’t have access to. I have learnt to rely on the relationships my sponsors have and trust them to do right by me. And perhaps, most importantly, I have learnt to do the hard work to achieve strong commercial success, and by so doing properly equip my sponsors to have difficult conversations on my behalf.

What advice would you offer to others interested in doing a similar role as yourself?

I can never overemphasize the power of relationships in the business I do. Network. Nurture meaningful relationships. Do your homework. Get the basics right.

With the current climate spotlighting racism, what advice would you give to ladies who may have experienced racism in the workplace?

Racism should never be tolerated. My advice is to escalate this quickly to leadership, and document this properly in the unlikely case no action is taken. I would also encourage people to speak up, to tell our stories, and encourage difficult conversations to take place.

How can allies both learn more and actively do more to make sure the black community always feel welcomed?

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

This statement for me summarises my expectation of allies. We can no longer say i didn’t want to offend, or didn’t know what to say, and so said nothing at all. I don’t presume to speak for all black people, but I am exhausted, angry, frustrated, sad, scared and mentally worn out. And the burden of maintaining ‘professionalism’ as well is now overwhelming. A kind word, a ‘mere’ acknowledgement that what is going on is not ok, goes a long way. Silence is no longer acceptable. Silence is betrayal. Your black friends and colleagues are not ok. Reach out to them.

Additionally, we all need to educate ourselves on current issues affecting the black community, and the historical context within which this falls. We need to equip ourselves with facts to better enable us have the difficult conversations on race. I am not kidding myself, we still have a long road ahead of us, but it has been very comforting to see people of all races, backgrounds, nationalities, religious beliefs, etc speak out at this time.