Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury Spotlight: Barbara Harrison, Citi

Published: Jul 2020

With a long and distinguished career, Barbara Harrison has a wealth of experience both in banking and as a female in the finance industry. She spoke to us about diversity in the workplace, how to get noticed, and the importance of dancing.

Barbara Harrison

Managing Director, EMEA Sector Head, Energy & Power, Treasury and Trade Solutions

Citi logo

Tell us how you got to your current position.

I started at Midland Bank International, which was later taken over by HSBC. At the time, you didn’t see many women managers, let alone women in the boardroom, but I was determined to make my mark.

I moved to Citi afterwards, and I’ve been here for 20 years now. Ten years ago, I was appointed Managing Director, and today my role is to manage the energy and power sector in EMEA in the Treasury and Trade Solutions sales part of the bank.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing at the moment?

In the energy and power sector, it’s the dramatic fall in oil prices and reduced demand. It’s completely re-writing the playbook for both energy and power companies. We’ve also seen a lot of fraudsters being very active due to supply chain disruption, so we’ve been helping a lot of clients be more aware of that activity.

On a more general, professional level, working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of connection with people, the inability to have a chat around the coffee machine, or just have a quick brainstorm with someone. We do use video-conferencing, but the informal interactions are much more difficult. Our juniors are also finding this challenging, as you simply can’t learn business over Zoom.

What has been your experience of diversity in the workplace?

I’ve been in meetings at Citi where there have been about 20 people around the table, with 20 different nationalities and cultures. Citi has a very open attitude to diversity, which I think probably comes from being such a global firm. I also see that there are more women MDs now, and I didn’t really see that when I first started work.

What advice would you give to women in finance in terms of establishing and developing a career?

Put your hand up and get involved in any projects or initiatives outside of your day job and your comfort zone.

You’re not going to get anywhere by just doing the bare minimum; your profile is important and you have to be noticed. Part of that is having an opinion and being open, but there’s an old saying: “Two ears and one mouth: use them in proportion”. So have an opinion, but also listen in proportion and be open to new ideas and initiatives.

Also, always do your best. Put 120% into anything. And of course, make sure you’re enjoying what you do. You’re at work more than you’re at play, so it’s important that you actually like what you’re doing.

What is your motto in life, or your greatest inspiration?

Two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. For me, it was a big reset button. But I learned that there is a future after diagnosis, and you have to really get the most out of life and do things you really enjoy.

My greatest inspiration is my Auntie Lily. She’s just turned 90-years-old, and she’s still dancing! Her attitude is be positive, and keep a sense of humour, so that’s always been my motto, really.

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