Women in Dealmaking: A Chat with Jacoline Loewen, UBS Bank (Canada)

In this interview series, we profile trailblazing women working in M&A, private capital and finance who are driving deals. We highlight their experiences and achievements, and share their insights on what the industry can do to ensure that we see more women on deal teams and at the dealmaking table.

What one quality do you think is most critical to succeed in the investment world?

Having a thick skin. You have to be able to take abrupt feedback – such as “Nope, never, why are you even suggesting that?” and keep moving forward. If deal making was easy, everyone would be doing it. Good deals are not so obvious or good when they are being formed, but everyone sees the logic once the deal is done.

In your experience, what’s the number one reason that deals go bad?

Ego. Founders and their teams can really underestimate the importance of an opportunity. Instead, they may not believe they are being offered enough and keep looking for that ever-elusive bigger offer. I have seen founders and owners have a whole slew of obstacles they are throwing up (such as, they are American buyers, they will fire all my staff and move the business south). Each obstacle is manageable, but these need to be brought into the light and dealt with openly.

Ego management is tricky and this is the number one reason private company owners need to hire corporate finance experts, who are familiar with the human emotions that come into play throughout the deal process, and can keep the deal on track.

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?

Seeing the people years after deals have closed and seeing the success of their lives and their families. When you make sudden wealth, it is life changing for the owner and their families. Most do get expert help to work through to the next stage.

The industry is changing rapidly: what do you think the investment landscape will look like in 10 years?

Well, technology and AI…

It used to be that Investment Banking had an exclusive Rolodex (“What’s a Rolodex?” the Millennials ask). Doing the ‘calcs’ for 5-year forward forecasts was also an exclusive skill set. Seeing global opportunities used to be for the experts, but now this knowledge is far more accessible to all.

So, what can’t a robot do for the next ten years?

The deeply human connections. It will be more about the quality of the person and their integrity. It will be less about, “Which school or university did you go to?” and more about, “What can you do to help me? How can you advise me?” If you figure out that human element, there is less chance a robot will be doing 100% of your job.

Also, when ATM machines were introduced, it was thought that there would no longer be any bank tellers. But banks adapted and started using their staff to sell mutual funds and investments. So in 10 years, we will have morphed.

Did you have a mentor or role model that encouraged you to enter the investment world?

Yes. My father treated me as a person and had me work in mining for my summer jobs. I wanted to become a mediator in mining, and had focused on collective bargaining and industrial relations at McGill. When I tried to enter mediation, I was young and the thought of a woman getting into mining mediation was treated as a bit of a joke.

That was a long time ago.

When I shared these stories with my father back then, I was asking for his advice. But he surprised when he sighed and said that finance would be easier for a woman. It was the first time he had given me a view that mining would be too difficult for a female, and that I should change my goals. At this stage in my career, I can look back and say my father was correct, but I know I would have loved the mining world too. Life happens. The key is to, as the tech world says, pivot and deal with reality and make the best of the situation.

The investment world did prove to be a wonderful place, where I had many male mentors, and women too, who helped me achieve my track record throughout the years.

According to a leading financial services recruiter, when they post an entry-level investment banking or private capital job opening, typically only 8-10% of the applicant pool is female. What do you think scares women away, and what can be done to attract more women to the profession?

For me, it was the interesting work that attracted me to the profession and firms can put forward those details.

Society and popular culture have an influence. There are stereotypes of the “bro” culture. Hollywood and movies like The Wolf of Wall Street certainly do not help. There are also stereotypes of women not helping other women, but my CEO is female and the best leader I have had.

Firms are already doing the right things such as posting photographs of their workplace with women to show a diverse workforce. They are using inclusive language. I am amazed all the time by men using inclusive language. Having female role models in the firms doing the interviewing is good, and I think these female “Queen Bee” stereotypes of women-not-liking-women are fading too.

I talk to female students and encourage them to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandburg, Facebook CEO, always says. It is also the responsibility of the young women. I am an immigrant from Zambia and I am very far from my home, Chingola. I think when you are an immigrant, you can throw away the rule book – or at least I did. Young women can throw away some of their rule books too.

It also goes back to parenting – the dads can call their daughter “my little investment banker” and give a gift of a tiny briefcase instead of “my little princess.”  Also, mothers can make a huge difference in getting daughters into STEM subjects, and putting finance as a career into their heads when they are ten. It starts with changing up parent’s expectations, which in turn changes up girls’ expectations.

What do you see as the biggest barriers to gender parity in your profession?

The biggest challenge for women is managing having children and a career with irregular hours and crushing project timelines. There is a social revolution going on and I see women who have partners who are comfortable being at home to bring up the kids.

Does your firm have initiatives in place to encourage gender parity and diversity?

Of course, I am with a European bank and we have active education on how to work with respect. Not that we are perfect, of course.

Everyone wants to be treated well and to be able to put their skills to use. I have been amazed by men’s comments on #MeToo and it made me realize that most men want to be inclusive.

Our CEO is a woman which shows the results. We have women on our board. One-third of our clients are female. Our clients have daughters who want to be treated with respect. It is a way of being, not a way that is mandated.

How is more female representation changing your industry?

The culture is changing. Profitability and growth are just as important, but I am seeing a far more transparent workplace. Maybe it is the Millennials’ influence on transparency.

What positive changes have you seen since you started in your career?

I like hearing all the dads commenting on their children. I remember the first time a lawyer was late and he explained he was dropping his child off at daycare and making sure they were settled. I was astounded as I could never have shared my child issues when I was having young children while in the workforce. I hate to say it, but at the time, I did bring the judgment to that lawyer! I have chilled since then.

Are there encouraging signs that make you hopeful for the future?

Working for a wonderful female CEO makes me think that anything is now possible.

I am reading Bad Blood for my Book Club. This is the real-life story of a female founder in Silicon Valley who perpetrated one of the largest frauds in history. Ironically, when we have females as the big villains in business, it shows me she was taken seriously and leaned into the opportunities available. Just like men, women are good and bad, honest and rotten, too. I’m optimistic because the mix of yin and yang does seem to be happening and, hopefully, it will create a well-rounded outcome.

What advice would you give the next generation of women preparing for a career in M&A, private capital or finance?

Get the credentials and then some.

Yes, education will be the ticket to the party.  I also wrote books, sat on boards, chaired boards, ran conferences, invited myself into speaker spots, and much more. You have to be doing extra-curricular beyond charity boards, and get into the entrepreneur and business owner world. Where are they hanging out? Get there. Learn to say yes.

Do extra-curricular where the men go. I took up golf for business, and trained with lessons so as to be able to be an OK player. Take these things seriously. Golf got me in the business networking game. Play poker tournaments, but do learn the rules.  Show up as the best and expect nothing but the best from yourself.

I’m in a Finance club with an annual forecast competition. I have won it and after I got the trophy last year, one of the men said to me, “I just wing it.” OK, good for you, but I don’t. I want to win and I put in the effort to make sure I do get that trophy. My advice would be – decide if you want to win, know what it takes, and make that decision to put a certain amount of time to see if you can achieve it. You will never know if you don’t try, even when everyone is telling you that you can’t. I am here to say, “Yes, you can.”

Jacoline Loewen is the director of business development of UBS Bank (Canada). She has over 25 years of experience in finance for high-achieving entrepreneurs and family businesses. She specializes in the transition from business to sudden wealth from sale of a business and the impact on the Founder, their family, inter-generational wealth transfer and philanthropy. Prior to joining UBS Bank, Loewen specialized in finance, specifically sales and acquisitions, successions and private equity financing.

Loewen has authored numerous best-selling books such as Money Magnet: How to Attract Investors to Your Business, Business e-Volution and The Power of Strategy. She is a guest columnist to the Globe & Mail and contributor to the National Post, Thomson Reuter, Profit and was a regular panelist on BNN: The Pitch. In 2018, Ms. Loewen was awarded #1 Forecast for Markets and Stocks by The Ticker Club Annual Forecast. She is ranked # 6 in the Top 100 Family Business Influencers on social media and awarded Top 50 Board Diversity. She is a director on the Toronto Atmospheric Fund board and on the investment committee, Chair of the OCAD University business catalyst advisory board, as well as former director on the Private Capital Market Association board.

You can follow Jacoline on Twitter @jacolineloewenor visit her blog.


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