In the newest installment of our Women in Trading series, we speak to Emma Hawkins. She has over seven years of experience in the FX deliverables sector, and is the founder of Fortuna FX, a women-led FX company started during lockdown. We chat about how trading can be more accommodating to women, the benefits of remote working, prioritising relationships over profit - and transforming the workplace.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Women in Trading: Emma Hawkins
You started your women-led FX company during lockdown. Could you tell me a bit about the company and what your vision was?
After 2019, I decided 2020 was going to be the year for a fresh start, so at Christmas I decided if anyone was going to change things it was going to be me! I knew I wanted to work for myself and make up my own rules, and that I wanted to earn revenue for me and my family instead of lining shareholders’ pockets. 12.2% of women hold positions like me globally. I decided I wanted to try and change that statistic for the better and give other women a chance, regardless of age, gender and experience.
Michelle Obama put it beautifully in one of her statements. She said “if you open the door to any opportunities, hold the door open for people to follow” I plan to do just this. My brokerage is based purely on client relationships over profit - but all of the men I’ve worked for, and with, have a different ethos, very much a ‘make hay while the sun shines’ attitude – but I’m a relationship builder for the long term. The world of FX is so male-heavy and has a bit of a ‘cowboy’ reputation. People have said to me, “Why would you employ women?” And I’ve said, “Why not? Regardless of gender we all deserve a chance.” I’ve definitely worked with people who haven’t seen the point in working with women - they saw no value in their relationship building skills and think the only way to drive business forward is to have a cold-calling ‘sweat room’ environment.
I told a recruiter that I was starting up a female-led company, and wanted to recruit women, so they gave me 19 women - but their CVs were just being shredded by all other brokerages who wanted young men to cold call. These ladies were a very clever bunch: some had business degrees, one was trading stocks and shares with her own money. I couldn’t believe the calibre of candidate - they were incredible. I whittled it down to five, and it was so strange that nobody would even give these women an interview.
Why do you think there are so few women in the trading industry?
Well, first and foremost they don’t even get an interview, which is the toughest bit. This is the stereotypical part of FX, which is what I’m steering completely away from. One member of my team told me she’s always wanted to work in FX, and always wanted to be a broker. And I asked her why she wanted to be on this journey with me, and she said, when the recruiter told me about you and your vision, I couldn’t not be involved because I felt like it was a changing time. And that to me gave me much more of a push to think that this had legs.
How did you begin trading in the first place - what interested you about it?
Seven years ago I had enough of where I was working. I wasn’t enjoying it and at the time I was chatting to a friend of mine who owned a brokerage, and he said he was looking for somebody like me - and I said, “I don’t know anything about FX,” and he said, “I can teach you FX but I can’t teach you work ethic or relationship skills.”. I’ve never looked back and I’m truly thankful to him for the opportunity - I feel like this is what I was put on earth for now. I feel happy in my own skin, happy that I’m working as hard as I can for clients, and doing it in the right way, very ethically. I like the fact that I can make the decisions now, and if I want to be honest and transparent nobody is going to tell me off.
Could you tell me a bit more about how you run your business now?
My whole team works from home across all areas of the UK and we communicate on a daily basis through phone, Whatsapp and Zoom. We’re all there to support and help each other to build the business. Lockdown happened at just the right time for us. It meant that I could Zoom clients, instead of going to meet them, which meant I could be three times as productive. It allowed me to be with my family, bearing in mind I was homeschooling at times - which you can imagine was a complete nightmare until my kids went back to school and college.
You’ve got the fact that people are being noisy and you’re trying to pitch to clients - and in all honesty it’s meant that I’ve become a personable person. People have seen my kids walking around in the background or my dog barking and I think it’s enhanced what I’ve done because it’s given clients the real me and not the corporate me. So people have bought into Fortuna’s journey much quicker than I ever dreamed.
Technology has helped my business growth, definitely. When I resigned officially at the end of May, I said to the company that I was stepping out on my own, and they told me I was mad. I know I’m not mad. I wanted to earn more money. I don’t need to be in London for nine o’clock to sit at a desk and pay £10,000 a month for my offices. We will never have an office, because we don’t need one. My team all have access to a private members’ club in London, because if we want to meet clients it’s a much nicer environment. No client wants to sit in a boardroom and drink Evian water.
I’ve really prioritised my team's mental health, and I say to my girls I’m not bothered what time you get into London. If you want to get the 9:30am train because it’s cheaper, do that. If at 4:30pm you say you’ve got parents’ evening, no problem. And what it does is it makes people want to work for me because they have total flexibility. I know for a fact that if I said to my girls that we’re staying in London till 10pm to finish something up, not one of them would tell me no. We’re all amiable to what the business needs.
I work harder because I’ve got three children and I’m the sole bread-winner, and I have to work my day around them. I get up early when they’re asleep, I’m around for school runs, bus drop-offs - whenever they need me. I finish work at five, and then I do dinner, and I finish off my day after. Having a strong work ethic is all you need to succeed - I told a member of my team the other day that if she told me she was pregnant, that would be absolutely fine. I’d still pay her - and not the statutory so that she couldn’t live, but what she was paid all along, because I’ve been there. Looking after your staff is key because they will naturally look after your business. I really want women to feel like they can join my team - even if they don’t have experience. I have four team members who range in age from 18 to 52, and each one is hardworking and driven. That’s all I ask for.
Is there any advice you would give to other women looking to start a career in trading?
To call me! Eventually once the economy stabilises and I feel like the business is where we need it to be, I'd like to hire a PR agency to help me talk to young women about their dreams and career goals. I’m part of large networks - the Women in Business Network and City Women Network. I’d tell young women looking to start a career in trading to use Fortuna as a stepping stone: I feel like my journey would be inspiring to young women to make them feel like they can join a male dominated world. I’ve got two daughters and I’ve always said to them that there’s nothing they can’t achieve if they truly put their minds to it.
Looking for more inspiration of success stories? Read our interview with YouTube trader Andie Zona.