Restructuring of the versatile student of the former Croydon Credit Suisse

When Credit Suisse announces a new strategy for its investment banking arm on October 27, one woman will be at the forefront of its implementation: Francesca McDonagh.

McDonagh joined Credit Suisse earlier this year. She was first hired as CEO of EMEA, but was appointed Group Deputy CEO before you even start. As Credit Suisse fights against this KBW analysts described as a “negative feedback loop” surrounding concerns about its capital position and liquidity, it is McDonagh who will be tasked with administering the operational remedy.

In an industry notorious for hiring members of the public school-educated elite (The Sutton Trust say that, although only 7% of the general public had a private education, 60% of London’s financial services executives went to a private school), McDonagh stands out as being a bit different.

The daughter of an Egyptian refugee and an Irish policeman, McDonagh was educated at a Catholic school in Croydon and at Greyfriars College, Oxford (which she joined after being turned down by three others), where she studied PPE.

After graduating, she joined HSBC’s retail banking and wealth management businesses and held a series of positions in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. She eventually took over as head of the entire RBWM division of HSBC before leaving for Ireland, where she took on the role of CEO of Bank of Ireland, the country’s oldest financial institution. In Ireland, she lived in the seaside village of Dalkey. Her French husband ran a pastry business.

McDonagh spoke at length about his unusual background. The lessons, she says in an interview with EYwere understanding “the importance of hard work, because nothing is given to you on a plate”, and getting used to “feeling comfortable being different”.

She says her background and her frequent status as the only person of a certain background in a room “gave [her] an advantage”, and that she wants “[level] the playing field for other people who want a career, whether in banking or other professions that are historically considered not for people like them.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, McDonagh also said she felt very different from those around her throughout her time at Oxford and throughout her financial career. “It’s good to step out of your comfort zone and I’ve lived with that throughout my career, trying things where you kind of feel like the intruder is growing.”

It helps to not plan your career too closely, she added. “I always encourage people to have a development plan…I wanted international experience and I wanted investments but I also did a lot of retail banking. I had a development plan and I I encouraged all my colleagues to do it but I never had a plan to reach x level at x age or x year.

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