“Negotiating isn’t a win or lose situation; it’s about how we can make a mutually beneficial deal by looking beyond our own interests.” – Sara Torres, Chartered Financial Analyst

03/06/2021 | Sara Torres

Sara Torres, Liquidity Risk Manager in US Risk Management, has worked for over ten years in Santander’s global operation and has the makings of a leader, but she realised she needed to perfect her influence, negotiation and leadership skills to take her career to the next level. 

Sara has an international background. Growing up in Austria, she studied for a BSc in Finance and Business Administration in Madrid before completing her master’s degree at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. Starting out in Capital Markets implementing the Subprime Auto ABS platform at Santander in Dallas, she has moved up through the ranks to play a leading role in the Risk Management Organization.

Later, she worked in Santander’s Hong Kong Branch, which serves as Headquarters for Santander’s Asia operations, where she focused and specialized in Liquidity Risk. She lead the development of key frameworks for the Branch, such as Liquidity Stress Test, Recovery Plan and local liquidity regulatory compliance with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA). However, she recently found herself at a crossroads; she knew she needed more specialist skill development -particularly in regard to leadership skills– and to achieve this, she enrolled in the Becas Santander Women | Emerging Leaders - LSE programme at the London School of Economics.

 

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Seeing negotiation from a different perspective

Many people have a fairly simplistic idea of what negotiation involves. They see it as a win-lose scenario, where one party yields to the other’s demands. However, this only scratches the surface; in reality, what we’ve just described is merely haggling. High-level negotiations are complex interactions. It’s so much more than making deals or fixing a price. In fact, we’re negotiating every day: in meetings, social situations, anywhere in the business or social realm.

“We can all win by looking at what the other person wants.”

Sara Torres, CFA

It’s this more nuanced approach to the concept of negotiating that Sara found most valuable about the Santander Scholarships programme. She learned that negotiating isn’t about ‘beating’ the other party; in Sara’s words: “it’s about ‘making the pie bigger’, so both sides reach a mutually beneficial agreement”. 

Several variables will impact the progress towards this agreement. Sara cites the importance of compassion in negotiation. For instance, how do the other party’s culture and sensibilities affect their negotiation style? How can I leverage these attitudes to create a mutually advantageous scenario? Achieving this requires a great deal of self-awareness, with a focus in equal parts on others’ behaviour and your own. Naturally, women in business often excel in this regard.

Putting negotiation and leadership skills into practice  

This theoretical aspect of negotiation is essential to developing leadership skills. These are skills that are rarely learned in an everyday working environment; instead, it requires focussed study. However, theory needs to be put into practice –and the Becas Santander Women | Emerging Leaders - LSE centre this philosophy. 

In contrast to traditional examination or coursework formats, negotiation strategies are put into practice in real-life workshop settings. These practical tasks are reviewed by course leaders and peers, encouraging self-reflection and meaningful development. Workshops are led by specific experts with specialist skillsets that bring their unique perspectives.

“One of the most positive things about the programme is it helps you build a role-model or idea of a better future negotiator.”

Sara Torres, CFA

This emphasis on practical skills is reiterated in course units that look at the future of negotiating. Technology is transforming the way we do business, not least the way we communicate. Therefore, we need negotiation skills that translate across different mediums. For example, how we negotiate via email will depart from how we interact face-to-face. To develop effective leadership skills, you need to know how to adapt to the virtual environment.

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Building a mutually supportive network

We touched on the importance of workshopping and peer review. In fact, for Sara, her peer group was one of the key benefits of the programme. The Becas Santander Women | Emerging Leaders - LSE bring together a group of like-minded women to learn and develop together, sharing skills, and creating a community for the future.

Sara observed that a defining feature of the group was that everyone strived to do better. There were women from every professional path: medics, doctors, architects, sustainability experts and more. However, they all had one thing in common: they were doing everything they could to grow and learn. This translated into a dynamic, mutually supportive dynamic that has continued beyond the course. 

Since the pandemic, the course moved online. Indeed, the programme Sara participated in was conducted via video link. Sara mentions that some prospective participants might be sceptical about this format, in regard to forming bonds with their peers. However, in Sara’s case, the online format enhanced the course; in terms of building a network and the flexibility that virtual learning offered was invaluable. She was connected to an international group 24/7, constantly sharing ideas and nurturing relationships across time zones and borders.

Enrolling in Santander Scholarships at the London School of Economics

For women thinking about applying to the Santander Scholarships, Sara suggests starting with two key questions: where are you at and where do you want to be? Use these simple ideas to steer your application, which should primarily be honest. Tell the selection panel who you are, what you want to be, and why you want to do this programme. Be transparent about your experience, show enthusiasm for co-learning, and you too could get linked into a network of inspiring women.

“If you become a part of this small circle, we can get together and build a better tomorrow.”

Sara Torres, CFA

The Becas Santander Women | Emerging Leaders - LSE  are aimed at ambitious women who want to develop their leadership skills. This environment will introduce them to like-minded female professionals that are looking to take their careers further. As Sara comments, learning and developing together at this transitional career stage makes for an exceptionally productive and mutually supportive environment.

Do you have between 5 and 12 years of professional experience and, like Sara,  want to boost your career? Sign up for the Becas Santander Women | Emerging Leaders - LSE and take your negotiation and leadership skills to the next level.

(At the moment the Becas Santander Women | Emerging Leaders - LSE has reached its end, but we encourage you to take a look at the Santander Scholarships to find the training that best suits you and give a boost to your professional career. Seize the chance to develop your knowledge and skills!)

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Sara Torres, Chartered Financial Analyst