Featured Profile: Eleanor Creagh
Stepping up to every challenge
As Saxo Bank's Australian markets strategist Eleanor Creagh is among the most trusted financial commentators in Australia - but her childhood dream couldn't be further from reality. Elizabeth McArthur writes.

Growing up in England, Eleanor Creagh loved animals and riding horses. From childhood she told friends and family she wanted to be a vet.

With doctors for parents, they were only too thrilled to encourage their daughter's supposed passion for medical science.

I've learned to just be confident in my abilities and what I know. I'm here to impart my knowledge to hopefully help people in their financial strategies and their trading goals.
"Once you voice at a young age that you want to be something like a vet, you just get channelled down that path. Before you know it you're applying for university and doing work experience," Creagh said.

She found herself studying veterinary science and interning at an equine vet.

"It's an amazing experience and something I'm kind of glad I have under my belt,"
Creagh said.

But, by the third year of her studies Creagh realised she didn't really have the same passion for being a vet that her fellow students had.

As the other members of her cohort were brimming with excitement to get their work experience underway and start practicing, Creagh found herself much less eager.

She had enjoyed studying vet science, learning anatomy and understanding the technical aspects of the profession.

But, she just wasn't excited by the prospect of life as a vet.

"When you're asked at age 13 what you want to do, you have no idea really but you're still asked the question. When you voice something like you want to be a vet - your parents and your teachers understand that it's very competitive to get into medicine at uni, and veterinary medicine as well," Creagh explains.

"Once I was on that track, I didn't even think about it until I was in the degree. If I had doubts when I was 17 or 18, I didn't know what the course would entail or how I'd feel about the job."

As those doubts set in, she was forced to consider where her real passion lay.

Creagh's mother was born in Australia so when she wanted to refocus, she also relocated to study at the University of Sydney.

Wanting to move away from a scientific career, while still using her finely tuned analytical skills, Creagh describes economics and finance  as the perfect marriage.

"Understanding how the world works, how businesses and governments make decisions - that's what drove me towards studying economics," Creagh said.

Her passion for economics and finance is evident in the way she is able to express complex macroeconomic ideas in her work as a commentator.

"For me, studying economics is all about rational thought processes," Creagh says.

"Economic decisions shape the world we live in today - from an individual's consumption decisions, magnified up to a full world scale that impacts business decisions and government decisions. That drives everything. Understanding that has always been a passion of mine."

She says she never stops learning - and that's a huge part of what she loves about her chosen field.

Creagh got the job at Saxo after having originally applied for another role. It was a sales position and the exact nature of the role became apparent as Creagh was interviewing with then Saxo chief executive, Ben Smoker.

In the end, Creagh told Smoker she didn't think the role was actually the kind of career progression she was looking for.

"I politely outlined that in the interview. I was a fan of Saxo, I love the work that they do here but I didn't think the role was the right fit for me," Creagh recalls.

That's when Smoker told her about another opening - her current role.

"I think Ben saw a talent in me that he would be able to nurture and he told me about this role. At that point I started another application process and another interview process," she says.

"If I hadn't been given that opportunity by Ben and nudged to apply for this role, I quite possibly wouldn't have taken that next step."

Creagh was able to rise to the opportunity, even though it was outside her comfort zone.

At the time, Creagh had no media experience. She was given a brief media training session and then thrown into the world of live television.

The ability to explain ideas and concepts and navigate media was not a talent Creagh knew she had - but it was something Smoker felt confident she'd excel at.

Before that first live TV appearance she was, of course, very nervous.

"The biggest challenge was not knowing if I would be any good. It's a sink or swim moment when they chuck you in front of a camera for the first time," says Creagh.

But, she quickly learned to trust in her abilities and step out of her comfort zone with confidence.

"I am my own biggest critic... I've learned to not listen to that voice that's telling me something negative right before I have to do something like an interview or a presentation," she says.

"I've learned to just be confident in my abilities and what I know. I'm here to impart my knowledge to hopefully help people in their financial strategies and their trading goals."

Stepping up to the challenge is something that seems to come naturally to Creagh. She explains that when she thinks about what it will take to see more women in leadership roles in finance she believes in a self-perpetuating cycle.

"The more women that push down barriers the more younger people coming into the industry will see that and know what's possible," she says.

It all comes back to what seems to be a core belief for Creagh - life's too short to not follow your passions.

That her real passion is economics and finance over cute cuddly animals might seem strange to some, but to Creagh there really is nothing more thrilling than what she's doing right now.

She says: "Having the ability to think freely, put those thoughts into action and impart that knowledge onto other people is a really great opportunity that I have in this role. So many people get told what to think and what to do. It's refreshing, as a strategist, to have your own thought processes."

And in these times, with so many moving parts in economics and politics there really is never a dull day for Creagh. There's also always something to learn.

"A huge net positive of this role is that I don't only push my own knowledge but questions from clients often force you to confront your own biases. Having to explain things to other people all the time, you get questions that change your perspective and that's really rewarding," Creagh says.

As for what's next for Creagh... she shared that she looks up to Fidelity chief executive Abigail Johnson, with her eye on becoming a portfolio manager in the future.

If her career to date is anything to go by, she'll no doubt find a way to make it happen. fs

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