Sandra Navidi im Porträt
"Everthing in our world consists of networks."
Sandra Navidi, bestselling author of "SUPER HUBS: How the Financial Elite and their Networks Rule Our World", founder and CEO of BeyondGlobal LLC, on the power of networking, being an influencer, and a career in finance.
In 2011, you founded the strategic-consultancy and economic advisory company BeyondGlobal LCC. What kind of experiences did you have setting up your own company? What inspired you to do so?
After having obtained law licenses in Germany and the State of New York, I began my career in finance on the legal side, then switched to investment banking. Thereafter I moved on to macroeconomic consulting, before eventually setting up BeyondGlobal. Thus, throughout my career I have been able to develop a wide skill set across industries, to build networks and develop information channels. I was inspired by the sense of possibility.
Where did the idea for your book “SUPERHUBS: How the Financial Elite and their Networks Rule Our World” come from and how did you gain access to the respective circles?
I originally wanted to write a book, just because I thought it would be good for business. However, the more time I spent on it, the more passionate I became. In the end, I was positively obsessed. Because I invested so much time and effort in it, I could not have been more thrilled when it became an international bestseller and won a business book prize.
$uperHubs is about networks, and in that context, I also had to write about networking. When I came to New York, I had no choice but to cultivate relationships as I didn’t know a single person. It’s difficult to reverse-engineer the process, because I didn’t have a master plan or strategy, so the whole process evolved organically. I dedicated a whole chapter to networking in $uperHubs, and because I received a myriad of inquiries on it, am now writing my second book on how to become a superhub in our rapidly changing digitized world.
Can you explain the term "Super-Hubs" for financial non-experts?
I explain the financial world on the basis of network science, because finance is a complex self-organizing system and networks are the underlying architecture of such systems. Everything in our world consists of networks, be it our brain, an ant colony or our electricity grid. Network science provides a structured approach to explaining the somewhat amorphous world of finance. Networks consist of nodes and pathways that connect them. Nodes prefer to attach to other nodes that already have many connections as connections increase the likelihood of survival. Because of this so-called "power-law", nodes with the most connections move to the center of networks. Those nodes are called "superhubs".
You studied law at the University of Cologne and today you are an international financial expert. How and where did you acquire the necessary skills and knowledge?
I began my career at the Deloitte & Touche In Düsseldorf, where I worked on alternative Investments, such as structured Investment vehicles, hedge funds and private equity funds. This high-level job was totally above my paygrade since I had no experience in that field. So I had to work extra hard to get up to speed, and right from the get-go got used to "sink or swim" situations.
After two years, I received an offer from a client in New York. I was already pretty established in Germany, but decided to make the leap across the pond. Barely there, 9/11 happened. The business environment changed dramatically and again it was sink or swim.
Several years in, I felt that my job had become repetitive and I craved more interaction with people, so I moved to Wall Street boutique firm where I worked in investment banking, primarily in the area of natural resources. I had the best time as I went from being chained to my desk to flying around the world to look at oil companies, gold mines and service companies. In 2008 after Lehman collapsed, so did the natural resource market.
It was during that time that I met Nouriel Roubini, whose research I had studied for a while, because I had been certain that we were headed for a financial crisis. We had a meeting of the minds, and Nouriel said you should work for my company. In January 2009 at the height of the financial crisis I took him up on his offer.
Working with Nouriel was great and I learned a lot, but at a certain point I felt that my room to grow was limited. Moreover, everybody in my family had been self-employed, and I felt the urge to try my own thing. In 2011 I founded my consulting firm BeyondGlobal, and started out with a handful of clients. I love being my own boss as it affords me the luxury to choose the projects on which and people with whom I work. I would've never had the opportunity to write my book and work in TV if I had still been in someone else's employ. Ever since the release of $uperHubs, I have moved more into career and network consulting, because I get inundated with requests for advice on how to become a superhub.
How do you benefit from your legal training in your current job?
Legal training taught me complex, logical thinking. It has helped me identify risks, and anticipate and solve problems. While it's indispensable for a lawyer to possess a solid understanding of business, it's also useful for a business person to have a good grasp of the law. I am also Counsel at the international law firm of Urban Thier Federer, because I enjoy applying my legal skills at the intersection of business and the law.
You worked as a close advisor to the renowned economist Nouriel Roubini. As early as 2006, he predicted the global financial crisis of 2008. What is your forecast for the financial market today?
Financial markets are set for a rough ride and a potential crisis, although nobody knows what the catalyst will be and when it will happen. But the trajectory is clear: rarely if ever have there been greater risks in the system: record global debt levels, trade wars, slow growth and geopolitical tensions.
Which factors are crucial to predict the development of the financial market?
A solid understanding of market dynamics, experience and access vital information flows. In $uperHubs I explain that superhubs are so extraordinarily successful, because they have a bird's eye view of the system, a comprehensive understanding of its mechanics, and access to vital information flows.
What is your experience as a woman in the financial sector?
My experience is probably somewhat typical. Sometimes it has been challenging, sometimes advantageous, but on balance rather a hindrance. Finance is an aggressive, testosterone driven world and women are in the minority. At the entry-level, gender diversity is relatively balanced, but the more senior the ranks, the fewer the women. They are at a disadvantage, because they are not as integrated into networks, power and information channels to the same extent that men are. At some point their careers usually stall. Of course, being a woman can sometimes help, and open doors, but I would say that this is a field that can be challenging for women to navigate.
You were named one of the 500+ selected LinkedIn Influencers. What importance do you attach to this appointment and how do you use your position as an influencer?
It's great to have such a prestigious platform, especially as an author. I enjoy giving people insight into my work, the financial world, New York, and the international conferences I visit. Going forward, I will focus more on career and networking advice, because I get asked for advice constantly and have conducted an inordinate amount of research on this topic over the last couple of years.
You have more than 11.000 followers on LinkedIn - how does one build such a large network?
I have given hundreds of interviews in various media over the last 10 years so I already had a bit of a following. Being an official influencer helps. I try to post interesting and fresh information. My LinkedIn editor encouraged me to provide more personal insights, for instance by way of pictures, and personal post are often very popular.
Which book are you currently reading?
In the course of conducting research, I read dozens of books in any given month. One of the last books I read was The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham, but I always read several books in parallel.
Do you have any advice for young female lawyers?
Always try to be your personal best, strive to learn continuously, build your network, develop your emotional intelligence, and be resilient in overcoming failures.
Do you have a role model that inspires you?
I don't have a single role model, but I respect different traits in different people, which I try to emulate.
Which female lawyer would you nominate as a role model for breaking.though and for which reasons?
Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who I also profile in $uperHubs. She's incredibly strong and disciplined and has great social skills. Mme. Lagarde has proven grit and built powerful networks throughout her career. I wouldn't be surprised if she eventually became president of France.
Thank you so much for this interview!
New York, 4 September 2018. Sandra Navidi answered the questions in writing. The questions were drafted by Jennifer Seyderhelm.
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