Women's Network

Chicago Booth Alumni Special Interest Group

Anya Gezunterman, '01

Meet Anya Gezunterman, an alumna from the 2001 full-time MBA program. Focused on finance from the get-go, Anya has progressed her finance career from a debt capital markets analyst to a derivatives originator and marketer providing risk management and financing solutions to institutional and high net-worth clients.

With this year’s Spring Summit focused on “Women in Tech,” we wanted a woman’s perspective of how technology has impacted and affected her career path and the capital markets industry at large.

Anya, tell us a little bit about your career path: where you started, why you went to Booth, what you’ve done after Booth, and where you are today…  

I started my career as a capital markets analyst at Deutsche Bank. Back then, it was still very much an old school trading floor environment: a lot of type-A guys and only a few women – some traders still had pictures of Victoria’s Secret models at their desks! After completing the analyst program, I wanted to get my MBA and continue working in capital markets. Booth has always had a fantastic reputation for finance, so it really was a no-brainer – Booth was my first choice. Fascinated by the world of derivatives, I went back into capital markets after Booth with a focus on originating and structuring equity- and fund-linked derivatives. In this role, I work with alternative asset managers such as hedge funds, private equity funds, and real estate funds and help them with risk management and financing solutions.

It’s been several years since you got your MBA and returned to capital markets. What major changes have you experienced in the capital markets industry over that time? What role did technology play in these changes?

When I started, there were long rows of desks with people constantly on a phone or looking at a screen, talking to clients and executing trades; trading activity was almost one hundred percent human-powered. Slowly but surely, technological advances were introduced and, increasingly, execution was being done electronically, and this was changing the trading floor dynamics.

Then the 2008 financial crisis hit and that was a game changer for the industry. Banks were being discouraged from proprietary trading and risk-taking, so a lot of the traditional trading functions were scaled back and having a multitude of traders on the floor was no longer necessary.

Nowadays, the industry is very different. Whereas previously an MBA or a degree in finance or economics would open the door to a capital markets career, in today’s world one might be better off with a PhD in physics or mathematics. In large part, this is because a lot of investing decisions are now made via algorithmic (“algo”) trading strategies, where computers are programmed to follow a defined set of instructions for executing an investment strategy. Thus the cycle continues: efficiencies and the availability of ever increasing computing power are fueling the industry’s embrace of technology, which in turn creates more efficiency.

How have these technological changes impacted you personally?

When I returned to capital markets after Booth, my hedge fund clients followed investment strategies that were much more reliant on human analysis and execution. For example, if they specialized in healthcare, an analyst would cover maybe 20-30 companies. The trading frequency, the portfolios, the investment theses – all of it looked very different from how it looks today. Now a lot of my clients rely less on human interaction and more on utilizing technology, and they are able to cover a lot more companies, markets, and products. This is happening all across the client spectrum – from small hedge funds to large institutional investors; many are turning away from actively managed funds and going more towards indexed or algo funds.

What do you see as the newest technology to impact the capital markets environment?

One interesting theme that I think is going to have a huge impact on our industry is the advent of blockchain technology: an encrypted digital ledger system that records transactions in a secured way such that retroactive alterations are not possible. In other words, it’s a way to document a transaction or store a digital record or value in an encrypted and secure way so that the data is “frozen in time.” It will have huge implications for how we settle trades, conduct anti-money laundering procedures, prevent fraud, etc. It’s very much in early stages and a “proof of concept” is still being developed, however this technology has incredible potential to dramatically speed up many of the human-powered processes required to execute the extremely high volume of trading activity that occurs every day. Can you imagine the efficiencies that would happen as a result, especially if we can decrease the potential for human error?! It’s all incredibly exciting!

Wow, big changes coming! Knowing what you do now and after experiencing the impacts of technology to your work, what advice would you give today to the younger you who was considering MBA programs once upon a time?

To be technology-literate is hugely advantageous; learn how to code and how to use data. The field of Analytics is becoming more and more influential across all industries. It is being used everywhere – from creating targeted marketing campaigns to scouting in sports. Women, especially, should be encouraged to look into it. The field of Data & Analytics is still relatively nascent and a great opportunity for women to get in early. 

To anyone considering Booth, I say absolutely do it! Booth does a great job equipping people with cutting edge skills. When I look at the new and exciting classes they are adding to the curriculum, it is clear that Booth keeps a finger on the pulse of the constantly changing environment and continues to prepare students very well for a post-MBA career.

Editor’s note: Though not discussed above, we want to point out the bad-assery of Anya’s perseverance and progression within the traditionally male-dominated capital markets industry – perhaps owing somewhat to her flexibility and adaptability to technological advances?