“Take charge, never say no to a challenge” – meet Julie, Markets Country Lead Norway

While celebrating "European Diversity” month, we continue our “Work Life – Diversity & Inclusion” series, and introduce you to Julie, Markets Country Lead Norway. Hear why she's worked in Markets operations for +20 years, about bad repute, why D&I is essential, how to manage a top career and family life, and more!

Julie Ellneby (born in 1970, half Japanese and Norwegian), joined Nordea in 2010, and has since August 2020 been Markets Country Lead in Norway. Julie has had multiple roles in finance and worked most of her career abroad in London, New York, Copenhagen, and now Oslo. She started her career in 1996, and has worked at JP Morgan, UBS London and SEB.

In this blog interview, Julie tells about her career and work life in the world of finance – as female and mother of two. Tune in and learn about Julie’s career philosophy involving; picking your boss, taking charge and never say no to a challenge. See how Julie built her career alongside family life, took a sabbatical and got rewarded, and hear why D&I is high on Julie’s agenda – and more!

Julie, you graduated top of your class the final year, meaning you could more or less choose where you wanted to work. Why Markets?

Julie featured in the UK Magazine ”No 10 Careers for Graduate Women with Ambition” in 1996.

Straight out of university, I never considered working in a Markets operation, but rather in corporate finance or consultancy. Back then it wasn’t considered as an opportunity amongst graduates, probably because it was unclear what type of jobs were offered in a Markets franchise. However, during my interview rounds at JP Morgan, I met this impressive Italian saleswoman who “sold” Markets to me. The complexity and intensity of the financial markets, the entrepreneurial aspects of working in sales, and how quickly you get responsibility and your own customer portfolio, all of that, I found really fascinating. And that’s what led me to attend one of the best graduate programmes on Wall Street, at JP Morgan. Boom, I was sold to Markets, and have never looked back.

What’s the best thing(s) about your job?

What I enjoy the most, is working with amazing, clever people, both colleagues and customers. The pulsing energy and fast pace on the trading floor at Nordea Markets is captivating. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit, and it’s fantastic to be part of the dynamic cooperation between sales, traders, research and other internal stakeholders across countries – all with a common goal; to deliver the best service to our customers.

Furthermore, you’re on a constant learning journey, as the world of finance is affected by global events; Macro, Micro, Geo political, technological advances and regulations to mention a few, and its changing ever so rapidly. We have a purpose and an important part to play, making the wheels spin in society. To make a difference and be part of something bigger for the greater good of society, including our strong focus on ESG, where we advise our customers on ESG related matters as well as offer products like Green bonds, loans etc. These are aspects I love about my job.

Work in a markets division has a notorious repute of long working hours and not ‘family friendly’!  

In my experience, you can definitely do this job in combination with family life, as your working hours are very much defined by when the markets are open, at least here at Nordea Markets. I think the working culture varies from bank to bank – and then it’s also up to yourself to take charge of your work life. There are of course stressful and intense periods, as in any other job relying on the financial markets circumstances. In my experience, we have relatively fine working hours at Nordea Markets, typically from 8:00-17:00 at the trading floor.

 … and how about family flexibility – are maternity leave and sabbaticals welcomed?

At Nordea we respect family flexibility. Personally, I took a sabbatical of 18 months to support my children as they started school, and it didn’t have a negative impact on my career – in fact, when I returned, I was offered several senior positions at Nordea. I think it also boils down to who your manager is. I believe one of the most important things generally in the course of your career is to pick the right manager – an advice I got from a female CEO while working in another bank. I can truly say that I have had amazing managers throughout my career – in fact, this is the 3rd time I’m working for my current manager.

As Country Lead of Nordea Markets Norway, do you have Diversity & Inclusion on the agenda?  

Yes, I do. The D&I aspect is important to us – in all of Nordea – and we discuss it in our Markets management meetings. We focus on taking action rather than just talking about it. But it’s a long haul to change, to balance the diversity among our people. For one, we still don’t get a very diverse pool of applicants, but things are slowly changing. In Markets, and in our industry overall, there is a growing need for different skillsets. Nowadays, we also need more competences within e.g. tech/AI, project management, regulatory knowledge, compliance, modelling etc. We focus a lot on ensuring we have a culture where diversity and inclusion is valued. “Brilliant Minds & Personalities” is one of the key cornerstones in our Markets strategic direction.

What’s your view on the lack of females in finance in general – and does it make a difference to business?

I think Markets operations have an undeserved bad reputation of being macho and an aggressive environment with sharp elbows etc. as featured in movies, media etc. I think that unfortunate portrayal could discourage some females from applying for a position in a Markets division. We work on changing that image, and be more transparent in order to attract more females as well as personalities with diverse backgrounds, age groups and competences.

We have various initiatives in play; to mention a few, one of our female colleagues is starting a podcast series with focus on what it’s like to work in Markets. Most recently, I was also presenter at a Female Invest/ Finansforbundet event in Copenhagen.

Bottomline, there is no doubt, that we need more diversity. A high degree of diversity leads to greater innovation and creativity and it will have a positive impact on business and benefit our clients – that’s a proven case. Lastly, when it comes to finding the best talents there will also be more candidates in play. We believe that by having a workplace that caters for the individual, where you can learn from a diverse group of brilliant colleagues, we will also attract the best talents, bringing in new ideas, sparking our future development further.

Any last advice?

Reach out! My career philosophy is to pick your boss and never say no to a challenge.

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Read the previous blogs in our “Work life – Diversity & Inclusion” series:

“Meet Helena, Sales Manager, for a talk about career moves, work life, biases and more”

“Here i can be the best version of myself” – Madeleine, Management Partner

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