Monika Rast tells us about her role to support businesses in Germany and how it takes courage, determination, openness and last, but not least,a good dose of hard work to succeed in the financial sector and beyond.
UniCredit’s series Women in Leadership highlight the roles, expertise and commitments of some of its female executives operating in the different countries and areas of the business in which the bank operates.
Today our interviewee is Monika Rast, Head of Multinational Corporates Germany and Deputy Head of Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB) Germany, who tells us about her career in the financial sector, gives us an outlook of the current situation in Germany and how the bank is supporting companies and clients in its constant commitment to being part of the solution in these challenging times.
What is the current economic situation in Germany and how are companies reacting to the crisis?
Our customers are affected very differently by the crisis depending on the industry they are operating in. While for some hitherto proven business models face severe challenges in the wake of the pandemic, for others new opportunities arise. For me it is important that we continue to support all our clients, each on their individual merits and jointly develop appropriate solutions. In this way we should be able to not only provide support with their current challenges but also to seize the new opportunities on the horizon. For many companies, the current phase presents an opportunity to (re-)set the course for the future. These clients are adapting their business models especially in terms of sustainability and are investing further in digitalisation. In addition, they continue optimising their balance sheet structures.
Could you share with us the solutions the bank is putting in place to support corporate clients in terms of financing, liquidity management, investments, etc.?
On the one hand, our customers are currently developing a stronger focus on topics such as supply chain finance and working capital solutions. On the other, ESG-aspects increasingly dominate all our client conversations across products and geographies. Both of these topical areas provide ample discussion grounds for our comprehensive advisory approach in which we do not just offer individual products, but also develop tailored solutions. This is the basis of our strong position in German corporate & investment banking and the corresponding league tables. We intend to expand this even further in the future.
As a woman in an executive role what advice would you give women working in the financial sector?
It’s been quite a journey for women around the world to try to achieve gender equality. This applies not only to the financial industry but literally to all economic sectors and will continue to be an ongoing journey for many years ahead. It takes courage, determination, openness and last, but not least, a good dose of hard and successful work. Beyond that, the same prerogative applies equally to all genders, however, at some stage, you need to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right moment.
The financial services sector has been unpredictable, cyclical, and greatly influenced by the extraordinary march of technology, regulation and changing business practices. Careers in financial services have long required constant adjustment, changes of course and an ability to rethink the “master career plan”.
The most important element in shaping a career has been the same across time and genders: other people. It is crucial to cultivate the right sparring partners and mentors for advice and support, potentially even coaching. Then there also need to be sponsors who can advocate promotions and other career development in settings where you cannot represent yourself in person. It is management’s job to encourage women to embark on the journey to make the most of their careers, both for themselves and for the organisation. There always have been strong women who made their way up but many more still hesitate too long when it comes to stepping-up and actively pursuing a higher position. Our goal is to cultivate the first group and make as many women join these as role models for future generations of female leaders.
Can you tell us more about your career journey and your current role?
Following an internship during university, I joined Bayerische Vereinsbank - one of UniCredit’s predecessors in 1998 - as a graduate trainee in the corporate banking team. At the time I was particularly attracted to international corporate banking (the precursor of today’s MNC) in Munich and Paris. After my traineeship, I became assistant global account manager and later global account manager in Multinational Corporates (MNC). After a couple of years in corporate banking I took the opportunity to move to the investment banking side in debt capital markets. While this meant relinquishing my hard-earned corporate client portfolio, the call for new challenges, product skills and an unknown client base was stronger. In the long run, this broadening of skills and client experience paid off perfectly. After 10 years in capital markets in different managerial roles and an ever expanding geographical responsibility, new opportunities arose and kept coming: Firstly, I was nominated to take responsibility for the creation of the Joint Venture between CIB and Corporate Commercial Banking to boost the cross-selling of investment banking products for our German SME franchise. Following this, I could count on my experience set by rejoining Multinational Corporates Germany in November 2019, only this time as Head of the division that got me started in the organisation. In March 2021, I was further entrusted with the additional role as Deputy Head of CIB Germany.
What are your expectations for the future?
In a nutshell, I expect change and disruption to continue and to gain speed not only in the financial services sector. As a very adaptive species, we need to anticipate these developments and adjust to the best of our capabilities. We all need to ensure we are not yesterday’s expert in tomorrow’s world. Those of us who can manage this well are likely to succeed beyond their highest expectations. In this respect, our world hasn’t really changed. Seeking new skills, anticipating change and expecting the unexpected has been and will continue to be the high road to career and to personal development. Beyond that overarching theme, the strong advance of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) considerations will undoubtedly influence markets going forward as companies strive to combine positive sustainability with financial impact. Regulatory developments in this direction are already at hand and will likely continue to exert an ever-greater influence on our daily lives – not only in the workspace.