Day in the life of Halima Butt
This article is part of the 2023 Winter Magazine, which can be accessed here.
Global Investor Group is proud to introduce a new feature in our quarterly magazine: “A day in the life of…”, where we shine a spotlight on inspirational women and trailblazers in the financial industry with the hope to further break barriers and crush glass ceilings. For our first feature, we have spoken to Halima Butt, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at fast-growing New York-based fintech broker-dealer Provable Markets, and winner of the 2022 Markets Media U.S. Women in Finance Award for Excellence in Fintech.
Halima Butt is known to be a strong advocate for women in the industry, especially for those in minority groups and for those who come from less privileged backgrounds.
When did you start working in finance and what was your idea of the industry at the time compared to how it is now?
From a very young age, I was fascinated with financial markets. I was drawn to the seemingly endless possibility to design and control your own future at a fast pace, and in an intellectually stimulating environment. I thought that was incredibly exciting, and that the energy was intoxicating.
I had worked a back-office job at ING Bank in the summer of 2005 and thought “Yes! I like this!” But when I got my first real job in liquidity management at ABN AMRO Bank, fresh out of college the following year, I was not impressed. I found myself slightly shell shocked by my first glance inside the machine and realising that a lot of what goes on is very outdated and lacking both the drive and the leadership for innovation.
I quickly became bored, and it didn’t take me long to find myself a job on the trading floor. This is where I was fortunate enough to meet my first real mentor and advocate, who helped me tap into my natural drive for change and advancement, whilst maintaining a high level of integrity and a laser focus attention to detail and structure.
Up until this very day, I still work according to the foundational principles that he taught me during that time, with the most important lesson being that this industry, like any other, is only as exciting as you make it. As long as you continue to tap into those things that drive you, you will find the excitement.
For me, things that excite are ‘growth’ and ‘advancement’, but also ‘structure’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘ethics’, and it just so happens that the financial industry is at this pivotal moment right now, where widespread technological innovation has created new business opportunities across a broader group of market participants, to a point where there is greater need for more industry alignment and pragmatism in order to collectively level-up.
What changes have you noticed – if any – in work/office/client relationships?
The biggest (and very welcome) shift that I have experienced in the financial industry is in the underlying cultural dynamic. As a young female in the industry, I certainly encountered and witnessed numerous situations that nowadays would not be tolerated for even a split second.
Gender biases, social stigmas, bullying and harassment in the workplace have thankfully become prominent subjects within the boardroom and beyond, and an increasing number of people are willing to stand up for themselves and for others.
Now, more than ever, there is an almost relentless focus on diversity, inclusion and humanity in the workforce. Being a bully is not cool and it doesn’t pay off – not for yourself, not for others and not for the company.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life as an executive?
Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is non-negotiable for me. If I don’t do this, both my happiness and cognitive functioning (and thus my presence in my work and personal life) severely diminish. Like a lot of other people, this is something I have become more aware and accepting of during COVID.
Maintaining this balance naturally requires a bit of planning and structure in the sense that I try to be incredibly clear on what my goals and objectives are on any given day, I maintain a regular work and sleep schedule, and I prioritise my physical and mental well-being over anything else.
Over the years I have also learned how to be a lot more forgiving towards myself and to recognise that sometimes I just have an off-day and that this is totally fine.
You are part of the Women in Securities Finance (WISF) group, what motivated you to become a member and how has this initiative been beneficial for the industry?
The WISF Group is an exceptionally well organised, strong and inspirational network of people (women and men), who strive for more equality and diversity in the workforce. I was driven to become a member of WISF at the recommendation of several men in the securities finance industry who were inspired by the level of
engagement and education that this group had provided.
As soon as I applied for membership, I received an incredibly warm welcoming email from the founding members and global chairs: Elaina Kim Benfield, Arianne Collette and Jill Rathgeber. The level of honest, vulnerable, and pragmatic support that this group has provided to me and other women in the industry in general is unlike any female in finance association I have ever been a part of. I am beyond excited to see what else this group is capable of.
What advice would you give to new joiners from minority groups?
It is difficult to give generic advice on specific work principles, because everyone is different, with different backgrounds, interests, brain chemistry, etc. However, three core principles that I have learned throughout my life and career, and that may be worth sharing in this context, are:
1. Be ruthlessly self-aware; try to spend as much time as you possibly can to figure out who you are, what sets you apart, what drives you, and what drains you, and try to steer clear of the latter.
2. Trust your intuition above anything else but learn to differentiate between what is your gut, and what is your ego (which includes your insecurities).
3. Never let the labels, judgements or stigmatisation of others define who you are and what you are capable of. You define who you are, and you determine your own success.
What is 2023 looking like for you?
2023 is going to be an incredible year! We have a number of exciting developments coming up with Provable Markets, and it is a true joy to be working with such an amazing, and brilliant group of human
More broadly speaking, I am looking forward to seeing the securities lending industry, as a collective, picking up steam in defining new standards for operational efficiency, and market structure.
On a more personal level, my focus will continue to be on supporting women in the financial industry, and particularly those in minority groups and those who come from less privileged backgrounds with the hope of shining a brighter light on these communities in the near future.
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