#GenerationTrader: ‘Growing up with the Gurkhas has shaped my trading skills’

Published on 12 December 2023

Lisa Sherchan, equities trader at Northern Trust, discusses how her background of growing up around the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, a unit of the British Army, has allowed her to better manage working in a high-pressure environment and shaped her approach to working with her team on the trading desk.

Sherchan’s education in computer science has also allowed her to apply a better understanding of working with front-office systems and algorithms used to manage orders and execute trades.  Additionally, she unpacks the challenges she faced in breaking into finance, the dreaded “imposter syndrome” and shares her views on the value diversity brings to the trading desk.

Transcript of interview:

Jo Gallagher: Welcome to Trader TV #Generation Trader where we look at the positive impact of diversity on the trading desk. I’m Jo Gallagher.

Today I’m joined by Lisa Sherchan, an activist trader at Northern Trust to discuss her journey into finance and how her unique background and education in computer science shaped her approach to trading.

Lisa, welcome to the show.

Lisa Sherchan: Thank you, Jo.

Jo Gallagher: Start off with, tell me a bit about your background and your journey into finance?

Lisa Sherchan: My dad served in the Gurkhas, so when I was growing up, I was surrounded by soldiers. You know, the atmosphere was very different. I was raised in an army barracks, so I didn’t really get the financial industry exposure until I went to university, where I was studying computer science and mathematics. I opted in to do a placement during my third year, in which I landed a placement at Citigroup, and that was my first sort of introduction to what the capital markets brokerage industry is like. I continued pursuing that after graduating because I really thrived in that high paced, high pressure environment, and I really enjoyed it, which led me to do various roles until a year ago, where I joined Northern Trust and joined the front office side of things.

Jo Gallagher: What challenges did you have to overcome to work on the trading desk?

Lisa Sherchan: I believe the main challenge was imposter syndrome, whether that was early on in my career, as well as kind of transitioning into the trading floor. It is very male dominated. It is based on relationships. So joining that was a bit daunting, but that was just an initial sort of feeling. With the right mentorship and with the right team members and guidance, it’s been fruitful and I can see my hard work coming through.

Jo Gallagher: How has your background and your education shaped your approach to trading?

Lisa Sherchan: My dad being in the military shaped me to be very punctual, disciplined, you know, especially with the trading floor where it is high pressure and you have to deal with people from different backgrounds and seniority levels as well as being able to back up my team, especially if it’s a busy day. And, you know, there are a lot of instructions on each of the orders. I’m there to just ensure that my team members are, you know, getting the exact limit price correct or exact algorithm correct, and that we don’t miss key instructions out.

Studying computer science and maths and four years of technology experience working in a banking industry, I was able to implement that on the trading side of things, looking at algorithmic trading and understanding VWAP volume weighted average price, each historical profile is very different. So identifying that and understanding whether that VWAP is keeping 30% for the close or if it’s a high volume trading day to understand it’s okay if the, you know, algo is leaving a bit more than expected for the close because we expect the close to be larger. So trying to identify those sort of profiles has been quite key.

Jo Gallagher: How can diversity help buy side teams perform better?

Lisa Sherchan: I think it’s important that we have gender and ethnic diversity in the teams. It brings different perspectives, which improves decision making. For example, when we’ve got a stock for trade and you want to be able to strategize with different ideas amongst a team, being able to have that different discussion means we are providing the best for our clients.

I also believe, you know, it improves company culture. You learn about different backgrounds, and in that way you kind of create a pathway for the future generation because it’s encouraging to come into a company culture where it’s very accepting. It’s quite exciting to be part of this shift in the industry, and I feel motivated by it.

Jo Gallagher: What advice would you offer someone considering a role in finance or trading?

Lisa Sherchan: I would say, don’t be afraid to go for the opportunity that you want because it might not come around again. You know, for me to make that transition from tech into trading, it was also quite daunting at first.

I was on the fence because it is a steep learning curve, but what I found is once I actually, you know, said yes to the role and got my trading exams out the way, even though everything was kind of learning on the job, with hard work you can do it. You kind of accept the learning curve and you put hard work into it and your success will speak for itself.

Jo Gallagher: Great. Lisa, thank you for joining us.

Lisa Sherchan: Thanks for having me, Jo.

Jo Gallagher: I’d like to thank Lisa for her insight and of course to you for watching.

This has been Trader TV #Generation Trader. To catch our other shows and catch Trader TV This Week on Monday at 6:45 a.m. UK time, go to TRADERTV.NET.