160. Terri Duhon: How to Dream Big, Fail Fast and Write Many Chapters of a Finance Career

Terri Duhon is an award winning educator, TEDx speaker, Board Director and speaker, who has over 25 years of experience in financial markets. She wrote the book “How the Trading Floor Really Works”, founded her own financial markets firm, and is an Associate Fellow at the SAID Business School in Oxford. She sits on the Board of Morgan Stanley International, which she is Chair of the Risk Committee, and also holds a number of additional independent director roles. She is now based in London but hails from the New Orleans area originally.

Our story starts there – with Terri’s upbringing in Louisiana, in the South of the US and how this was an additional reason that she felt like an “other” when she came to studying math at MIT and then Wall Street and a career on the trading floor of a major investment bank. This sense of being from a different socio-economic group was more visceral than being one of few women on the floor.  She spent close to 10 years in similar roles, and describes herself as mastering the art of reinvention – in that to date she has reinvented herself approximately every 10 years.

Terri moved from the trading floor to founding her own firm, and then to her current chapter, which is in a series of board and committee roles.  She explains how challenging it was to break into this field initially, and how she almost gave up hope, and then experienced a breakthrough.  We spend some time on the question of what makes an effective board member and chairperson, and Terri delivers a mini-masterclass in the art (listen in particular from 6.21 to 9.09).

Our conversation then turns to the industry and its “brand” and how it doesn’t always appeal to a diverse set of candidates, sometimes because it emphasizes traits that aren’t universal. Terri uses her vantage point in a business school to give insights into the current priorities of graduates entering the field.  She shares stories of her failures, and her triumphs, but always her humanity, and stresses how it is always our humanity we must stress in order to demystify the world of finance and make it more accessible.