From smart grids to smart trades

Cherrelle Eid defied the law of physics when she left her academic world to restart her career on the trading floor. “The experiment was painful in the beginning, but it was worth the move,” she looks back. Learn more about her journey from smart grids to smart trades.

Video portrait: Behind the scenes of the trading floor

It was something like a programmed crash. A bit more than two years ago, Cherrelle Eid decided to leave the academic world of engineering and plunge into the business of structuring financial products. “My first year at Julius Baer was probably the hardest in my whole life,” she looks back with a smile. “I had practically no idea of finance. And suddenly, I was confronted with a myriad of terms I didn’t understand – leverage, calls, puts, loan to value, going short or long, interest rate swaps etcetera. Every evening when I got home, I was completely exhausted.” She still remembers the day when she approached her manager Mauro in a state of despair: “I declared that I had never felt so stupid in my whole life as I did at that time. But he just smiled and replied: ‘That means that you are learning.’

Constant reinvention
Management books are full of the concept of ‘reinventing yourself’. Even before this became a trending topic, Cherrelle had turned the constant reinvention into her life motto. “At school, we had public speaking. I was very afraid. But I decided to face my fears and go on stage as many times I could and started to teach spinning classes next to her studies and PhD.” Constantly challenging herself opened her to many new horizons. While studying abroad, she has added new languages such as French, Spanish and German to her initial portfolio, consisting of Dutch (her mother tongue) and English. And she has started to write her own songs and perform them on stage, equipped only with her acoustic guitar.

Swiss connection
Love was the catalyst in her latest and probably boldest reinvention – from electricity policy researcher to banker. “I met a Swiss-Serbian, who would later become my husband and is the reason why I ended up in Switzerland.” This completely derailed her career train – which had been running on a fully academic track until then. Cherrelle was about to finish her PhD on the topic of ‘smart grids’ – electricity grids that are integrated with IT systems to make them operate more efficiently. “The next logical step would have been to start my career in an electricity company. But through connections I had heard about this job at Julius Baer.” Once again, her inner voice encouraged her to move out of her comfort zone, and she accepted.

“No two structured product are the same”
Fortunately, change is the only constant in finance, which perfectly caters to Cherrelle’s natural curiosity. This is especially true for the Tailored Solutions Group – the team in which Cherrelle embarked. “No two structured products are the same, as they depend on the specific needs of the clients. Some seek to avoid risks and require a protection from market dips. Others require a lot of leverage for their investments.” For her colleagues at Tailored Solutions, the more complex the task, the more they seem to thrive. “The most fascinating deals are those that require the involvement of many different areas of the Bank such as Legal, Risk, Tax and Accounting”, says Cherrelle. “We just recently had a case where we launched the first Sharia-compliant product of the Bank, which means that the loan in the product was not allowed to have an interest component. The interest element had to be replaced by a buy and sell activity between the trader of our team and a commodity trader in the precious metals team.”

The power of collaboration
It is in this dynamic, sparked by innovation and collaboration, that Cherrelle sees the biggest parallels between her old world of science and banking. “The more you collaborate, the more great things can happen.” She is convinced that the ability to collaborate across the whole organisation, beyond any hierarchies, is one of the strengths of Julius Baer. Cherrelle remembers when she once directly sent an e-mail to the CEO, commenting on his internal blog post. “I was surprised to get a prompt reply. This means that our top management really cares about what you have to say. I think this is very beautiful.”

The sky is the limit
Collaboration is certainly a powerful driver for change. Another one is passion. Although Cherrelle didn’t mention it explicitly, her passionate way of describing things suggests that she has more than enough of this resource in stock. And it seems that it has brought her quite far already. What will be her next bold move? A tricky prediction for someone who constantly defies expectations. But maybe the answer is hidden in one of her own songs: “Up in the sky is where I fly, is where my heart is,” she sings in her ballad “I fly.” That definitely sounds more than promising.

Video: Scott McNamara / Fabio Kobel

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