Trang Nguyen. Photo courtesy of Trang Nguyen
Trang Nguyen and her colleagues at SMBC Nikko Capital Markets Limited, a Japanese investment bank, have sealed five deals worth over $16.45 billion so far this year.
The largest was a $10-billion deal with AB Inbev of Belgium, the world’s biggest beer company.
Trang is a director at Nikko, and her role is to advise clients on bond issuance. Last year she closed two deals for the firm worth over $2.6 billion with TenneT, a Dutch power company, and Airbus.
Trang tells VnExpress with a laugh: “It seems I am destined to be in the financial industry. I used to run away because there was way too much pressure.”
In 2000 Trang left her hometown Hanoi to study in Connecticut College in the U.S. After graduation she spent five months as an intern in Singapore and then joined Barclays bank in London because it offered “a higher salary than in the United States.”
For the next three years she was constantly in a state of stress, mentally and physically exhausted and without even the time to date.
She decided to “run away.”
She resigned and moved to Tokyo to study at the Graduate School of Business Administration at Hitotsubashi University.
After graduation, she got plum jobs at Bloomberg and a technology company, and was hanging out with friends from fields like marketing and manufacturing, and life was altogether more relaxed and far removed from the high-pressure world of finance.
But it wasn’t to last for long: one day she met her former boss at Barclays and he persuaded her to join Nikko. It had been set up in 2009 by Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Japan’s second largest bank.
Since Nikko was quite small then, with just 20 people, she quickly assumed a leading role there. Now it has 300 employees, making it the second largest Japanese bank in London.
Dealing with tough clients
The job takes a huge toll on her. Often she comes across difficult clients who would only give her two minutes to make her pitch.
“There have been people who did not like me. They would listen to two sentences and hang up. It is not unusual for me to burst into tears.”
Gradually she learned to understand the client’s mindset, gather information to identify their difficulties and make appropriate recommendations.
Trang is now one of Nikko’s key personnel, regularly flying around the world to meet clients and close deals. She estimates she spends six months a year away from home.
Trang and her colleagues with awards they received from the International Financial Review (IFR). Photo courtesy of IFR.
‘Doing laundry makes me happy’
Her work no longer overwhelms Trang, and she has managed to strike that critical work-life balance, finding enough time for her husband and their two children. Her daily schedule when in town is clearly drawn up with time allocated for work, eating, sleeping, and exercising.
She has had to make minor sacrifices for this, of course. When at home, she never checks email or text messages, she even leaves her phone in another room, and does not watch TV. Trang and her New Zealander husband scrupulously stick to their schedule because they have two young children, a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy.
“We have to make to-do lists. We don’t set the bar too high. For example, finishing the laundry can make me feel super proud.”
In her me time, she plays the piano, does yoga, plays tennis, or goes for a jog. She does not eat fast food and tries to make sure she gets enough sleep.
Trang also sets minor goals for herself such as being able to play a new song on the piano within a month of learning it.
Jade Green, Trang’s husband, also an investment banker, says he is extremely proud of his wife because she is disciplined and never lets unnecessary distractions come between her primary goals.
Recalling the early days of their courtship, he says what struck him most about Trang was her confidence and strength. They hit it off almost straightaway, he says.
He calls his wife’s frequent absence from home a “great sacrifice” and “not easy” for her considering how much she loves their children.
When she is away, he has to take care of the children. He has had to give up his hobbies. When she is at home, Trang spends all the time she can with her kids, speaks with them and takes them to the park.
Jade says: “We have a happy family that I’ve always wanted to have. I have a busy and fulfilling life.”
Trang says they have had their fair share of arguments, but feels very lucky because he understands what is required of her professionally and is willing to help with housework. Even during their courtship of four years, she would speak to him about workplace problems and ask for his advice.
She plans to prioritize her family soon since the kids are set to reach school age soon.
“I’m considering my work. Maybe I will move to a job requiring less travel so that I can have more time with my children, teach them Vietnamese or take them to Vietnam more to see their grandparents.”
Trang Nguyen with her husband and two children in Lunar New Year costumes last year. Photo courtesy of Trang Nguyen.
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