Profile: A positive association

Thalia Chryssikou, Goldman Sachs partner and chair of the board of the Association for Financial Markets in Europe, talks to Len Williams about how the sector is evolving and responding to a world facing multiple crises


In June 2021, Thalia Chryssikou was appointed chair of the board of AFME, an association that serves as a bridge between Europe’s wholesale financial markets and its regulators, bringing together many European and international banks with the goal of promoting capital markets as a way to invest in the real economy. Thalia took over the role from Michael Cole-Fontayn MCSI, now chair of the CISI, who had chaired AFME since September 2015. 

Thalia is leading AFME at a pivotal moment, as the European continent responds to the disruptions of Covid-19, Brexit, digitalisation and climate change. “There's a huge transformation that is going to materialise over the next few years”, she says. But the Goldman Sachs partner, who brings 23 years’ experience in financial services and technology to the new role, is well placed to take the wheel.

Thalia was awarded a PhD in operations research from MIT in 1998

Thalia has been on the AFME board for many years and sees several key areas to focus on during her tenure as chair, which lasts until June 2023. Managing the changes brought about by Brexit and Covid-19 will take up the lion’s share of the work. And capital markets will need to address the “digitalisation and decentralisation of finance” as new technologies and ways of managing money emerge.

Another task in her in-tray will be to explore how AFME can advocate for the role of capital markets to contribute to Europe’s net zero carbon ambitions. “We will need something in the region of €6tn per year for the next 30 years to cope with the investments needed for net zero infrastructure”, she says. That kind of money can only be delivered through a combination of public and private sector investment, and AFME wants to be a part of that conversation. “Our role, on the bank side, is to help our clients on the transition journey and also facilitate the financing of all of these initiatives as well.”

A varied background and history

Thalia Chryssikou's CV

2017–present: Global head of Sales Strats and Structuring for the Global Markets Division

2014–2017: Head of European Interest Rate Product Sales

2010–present: Goldman Sachs, partner

2008–2014: Head of European Macro Sales Strats and Structuring team

2007–2010: Goldman Sachs, managing director

1998: Joined Goldman Sachs in the Firmwide Risk Division

1998: Awarded PhD in operations research from MIT

Thalia considers her appointment to lead the AFME board as one of her career highlights, which also includes being made partner at Goldman Sachs in 2010 and receiving her PhD in operations research (a mathematics discipline which uses analytics to improve decision-making at organisations) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1998 (see CV boxout).

Thalia grew up in Athens, Greece. After graduating from the National Technical University of Athens in 1993, she moved to the US where she completed her MIT PhD. She had initially planned on a career in academia but was drawn to more of a practitioner role.

“At the time, there were a number of sectors where I could apply my quantitative skills”, she said. She applied for and obtained a summer internship at Goldman Sachs, which brought her back to Europe. At Goldman Sachs Thalia was “pleasantly surprised about the rigor of the analytical work”, which combined risk management with her numerical abilities.  

She has stayed with the firm ever since, taking on a growing list of responsibilities across departments. Starting on the risk management side of the business, she soon found her academic skills were being put to the test. “I moved my focus to employing a lot of the quantitative techniques for solving client problems or client issues” she says. “I used my maths background and coding knowledge to build various pricing and simulation models to see how different hedging or investing solutions affected their objectives at the time.”
Thalia is the first female chair of AFME, an appointment which signals another step towards greater diversity and inclusion within the financial services sector Today, she co-heads global sales strategies and structuring across fixed income currencies and commodities, overseeing a team of 250 people. This sees her working on “all aspects of our business across the product spectrum”, including asset classes, interest rates, emerging markets, credit, mortgages, equities and beyond. This “broad” role also involves working with clients at pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds and corporations. This expansive knowledge will surely serve her well during her tenure as the chair of the AFME.

Diversity and inclusion

Thalia is the first female chair of AFME, an appointment which signals another step towards greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the financial services sector. During her 23-year career with Goldman Sachs, Thalia notes that “a lot of things have changed in the sense of having diversity and inclusion top of mind”, especially with more “senior buy-in, not just in banking, but collectively”. In particular, she highlights “a broad embracing of the fact that diversity of talent … is actually a business need. It's not just for the sake of diversity and it's not just for women, I think for all diverse individuals, whether that's gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. I think what has really changed is the collective embracing of the value that diversity brings to the marketplace”.

Looking at Goldman Sachs's D&I efforts, she points to initiatives such as a 50-50 hiring of male and female staff at entry level. Getting people through the doors is just the first step though. “The next phase is: how do you keep the talent, the diverse talent that you have acquired?” This is being addressed by “cultivating” staff and having role models.

To achieve true diversity in all aspects, Thalia believes employers could take a broader view of talent they consider, “whether that's different jurisdictions, different universities, or different professional backgrounds compared to the more traditional candidate profiles”. Employers can also offer more flexible working hours or support in terms of childcare, she says, and they could create programmes targeting women who may want to come back to the professional arena “after a 10 to 15-year gap, not just a 1 to 3-year gap, for example”.

Looking ahead

While working at a major bank is an “intense job”, Thalia says that she loves what she does and enjoys solving client problems and adapting to the digital transformation of the sector. She is currently “looking at new ways of embarking on building platforms that enable our clients to have a more efficient way to consume our content, to implement either their investing objectives or solutions objectives”. She remains attached to Goldman Sachs, with its “culture of collaboration, apprenticeship, drive for excellence”.

For those beginning their career in financial services, Thalia says that the recipe for success is to “enjoy what you do, give back, have grit, realise it's not going to be a straight line because it never is, right? And handle disappointment as constructively as you handle the successes”.

This profile is a preview of the March 2022 print edition of The Review

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Once you have read the print edition, keep coming back to the digital edition of The Review, which is updated regularly with news, features and comment about the Institute and the financial services sector. 

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Published: 03 Mar 2022
  • Fintech
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • Soft Skills
  • Corporate finance
  • Thalia Chryssikou
  • responsible finance
  • PhD
  • MIT
  • green investing
  • Goldman Sachs
  • FICC
  • ESG
  • diversity and inclusion
  • digitalisation
  • Covid-19
  • AFME

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