Amanda Marsted: Being a Female in Finance

Amanda Marsted is a Managing Director at CIBC Private Wealth Management in New York. In this capacity, she has been a senior relationship and portfolio manager for the last seven years. After more than 20 years working in the industry, Marsted reflects fondly on her experiences at Sciences Po. Although her time at Sciences Po was relatively short, she remarks that it granted her some life changing opportunities. 

Marsted participated in the European Union Study Program at Sciences Po during the summer of 1994, following her first year in the Master’s Program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). “I was studying International Political Economy, with a concentration in the European Union, so it was a natural decision to go to Sciences Po for the summer.” Marsted had lived in Paris for about four years before completing the program— “I was always looking for excuses to be back in Paris,” she says.

As a student in Sciences Po’s European Union Study Program, Marsted valued both the rigorous academic work and the accompanying opportunities to meet with corporate executives, academics and politicians. “The wonderful thing about the program is that exposure to possible career opportunities and internships were an integral part of it… Senior business leaders from many different types of companies would come in and talk for a day about a specific topic or we would visit their company”. Her summer studies focused on the European Union and economic research, but Marsted remarks that “Sciences Po is very meaningful to me, for many reasons”. 

The current CEO of CIBC, Victor Dodig, was also a member of the European Study Program that summer, as was Marsted’s now husband. Both the people she encountered and the education she gained remain valuable. Her time at Sciences Po, Marsted reflects, “was one of the first things that led me to think I wanted to be in this business. It has had a huge impact on my life.”

After that meaningful summer at Sciences Po and completing her degree from SIPA, Marsted returned to Paris to work with the OECD, before returning to New York to pursue a career in finance. “I knew in large part because of the summer I spent at Sciences Po that I wanted to do analytical work, and found I was drawn to the investment world because of the immediacy of outcome”. In New York she worked as an equity analyst with the hedge fund New Frontier Capital LLC before eventually transitioning into private wealth management first with Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. and now CIBC, where she works directly with individual investors and families. 

Reflecting on how Sciences Po played into her professional trajectory, Marsted recalls that “Professionals from industry were integrated into every aspect of the curriculum. We met people from across the corporate spectrum. In spending time with individuals who worked in the investment arena, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the markets. The fact that Sciences Po has relationships with all these companies in Paris was just huge.”

In her current role, Marsted works primarily with U.S. clients. However, her relationships with her clients benefit from the international perspective she gained at Sciences Po. “The tremendous benefit of attending Sciences Po is the exposure to global thinking that I would not have gained anywhere else.” Marsted works primarily with families, managing their investment portfolios and overseeing their overall wealth picture. Her job requires not only portfolio analysis, but also big picture wealth and estate planning.

When reflecting on challenges she encountered in her career, Marsted remarks how few women are in the industry. “Meeting after meeting after meeting, there were no other women around. In finance, to this day, there aren’t enough women, especially in wealth management.”

“I think if women knew just how fabulous a job it actually is, more women would come into the field. Because of the flexibility inherent in the business and the fact that we work in teams, I’ve been able to make it work with my two kids, and my husband who travels quite a bit for his work with the United Nations. I think [this field] is much more amenable to women than they realize.”

Marsted discusses why women are not as prevalent in finance as in other fields. Firstly, the field is primarily dominated by men, which can turn females away from entering the industry in the first place because they may not see enough role models. Secondly, especially women from Sciences Po who may be studying political science, they often are discouraged by the perceived focus on mathematics. “I hear it all the time. Women need to realize this business is not just about math. You don’t need to major in business or finance. In fact, bringing other experiences to the table is vital. The relationship element is incredibly important in this business, and women tend to excel at making those connections”. Marsted majored in French in college (and minored in Economics), and remarks she was never a big fan of math classes in high school. “The work that I do is more analysis… if you are good at research, you’ll be good at analyzing a portfolio. You’re looking at it as a whole and thinking about it from an analytical perspective, more than just crunching numbers or doing math in your head.”

Marsted leaves advice for female students at Sciences Po: “I have sought out other women in the business, and it has helped me immensely. That’s one thing I really recommend. They don’t necessarily have to be at senior level. Having other women to bounce ideas off of is really helpful, having other women to rely on.”

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