Sai Jawanmardi: What a career is like at UBS

We caught up with Sai, a Managing Director at UBS, to find out how her career has progressed over 13 years. She shares her advice on how to be successful in your career and what key things she's discovered in the process.

How did you come about your role and what aspect do you enjoy most? 

Initially I studied modern foreign languages and then law at university. I took on various roles within Compliance prior to working for UBS. I was previously at HSBC and ING. I now work in Compliance and Operational Risk Control heading up Corporate Client Solutions globally, so I hold a lot of responsibility within my role. My favourite aspect is definitely the people and the team I have built around me, they are loyal and supportive which has a hugely positive impact.

What does your role involve?

My focus is on traditional investment banking and M&A. Day to day we advise the business on regulatory and reputational issues - in short, we exist to safeguard the business' reputation. For example, if we were dealing with either a client located in a high reputational jurisdiction, like Angola, or a prospective client with negative press, then we would research and advise UBS on the benefits and disadvantages of doing business with that client. The focus on compliance has really changed over the past five years. It was previously seen as an internal police force but now we're seen as a partner to the business. We have a strong rapport with the business and there is a responsibility on us but we do it in a partnership. Our main focus is training, monitoring and advising/educating. 

What has been your greatest career challenge to date? 

I have had two major challenges in my career, the first was around six years ago when I accepted a role in Fixed Income Compliance. This was a challenge for me as I knew nothing about Fixed Income products. I was fortunate that the team I was working with had a wealth of technical expertise. It was daunting going into something I knew nothing about but in the end I really enjoyed the experience and it became less challenging because of the team I was leading - we learned so much from one another and I soon got up to speed. My second challenge is balancing motherhood with my current role. I have an eight year old son and it is definitely a challenge balancing work and life commitments, however it has been a great lesson in prioritising appropriately.

Who is your role model and why? 

This is a tough question as there are a lot of great individuals out there who have achieved great things however I am going to pick my mum. She sacrificed her career for me and she is my role model. She studied medicine and went on to practice as a doctor but gave it up to spend my childhood with me. My mother inspired me to balance my priorities in order to focus on the important things in my life. At the same time, it has driven me to be the mother that I want to be to my son, while maintaining a successful career. 

If you could start again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? 

I would have been more vocal about my opinions and what I wanted in my career. I wouldn’t have shied away from any opportunities. A common female trait is shying away from expressing ambition or thinking we aren’t good enough so I would have worked on that.

What advice would you give our members to help them on their journey to being a leader? 

Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Reach out for them, take a risk and above all, learn from every experience. Give everything a go and find out if it is right for you or not. You have nothing to lose: trust your instincts. 

Why is UBS a great place to work for women and how does it support women in the workplace? 

UBS is a hugely flexible work environment for women. There are a number of female forums, mentoring opportunities and on top of it all, UBS promotes flexible working arrangements. Overall, they support diversity and there are so many initiatives to facilitate this. 

What are your key ingredients for success?

Make sure you demonstrate that you have drive and commitment. Show your enthusiasm and convey that to your peers and line managers. Good communication is essential and focusing on interpersonal skills and the ability to have open discussions at all levels is the key to success.

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