By Anjuli Davies and Sophie Sassard
LONDON, March 7 For top Morgan Stanley financier
Cecile Houlot-Hillary, every day brings pressure in the form of
complex bond deals, intense competition and demands from high
But, says the 17 year veteran of investment banking, the
most challenging part of her career so far has been navigating
her three spells of maternity leave.
"It was clearly the crunch point - coming back and making
sure I was still on track and nothing was going to stop me."
Her successful return to work was largely down to the
support of her managers, says French-born Houlot-Hillary, who
believes such coaching is key for banks and their female
The 39-year-old, co-head of debt capital markets for
financial firms at Morgan Stanley, is now a key player in the
bank's diversity programme, which includes coaching for women
returning to work after having children.
"Whether you call them mentors or sponsors, I think it's
helpful to get independent advice from senior people, helpful to
bounce ideas off someone else, it's helpful to have someone
senior who looks out for you," she says.
"It seems simple and obvious but it is very important to
have these processes."
RESILIENT AND PASSIONATE
Houlot-Hillary did not set out to be a banker, considering
careers in medicine and politics first. But after attending
business school she embarked on a career in investment banking
at JPMorgan, rising from intern to managing director during a
13-year stint. She moved to Morgan Stanley in 2010.
Her proudest professional achievement to date, she says, was
winning the mandate with her team to help the Bank of Ireland
return to money markets - raising 500 million euros worth of
bonds after the bank was locked out for two years in the wake of
an international bailout.
"In this job you have to be resilient, motivated and quite
passionate about what you are doing," she says.
"There's a thrill to pitching and knowing that you're in a
very competitive environment, sometimes you lose and you feel
very sick and sometimes you win and you feel super excited."
This same attitude is winning Houlot-Hillary results in her
role as "gender champion" on Morgan Stanley's Diversity Advisory
Council: In 2014 27 percent of the people promoted globally to
managing director level at the bank were women.
"Retaining employees with high potential is obviously a
priority for us," she says. "Moreover, Morgan Stanley sees
diversity as an opportunity to better serve our clients by
bringing diverse perspectives to the table."