Interview with Nadine Chakar: Leadership Lessons in Global Finance

Nadine Chakar, Executive Vice President, BNY Mellon

Nadine Chakar

Interview with Nadine Chakar, Head of Product and Strategy, Global Collateral Services, BNY Mellon

Nadine Chakar is Executive Vice President, Head of Product and Strategy, Global Collateral Services, the Bank of New York Mellon. In a career spanning more than two decades, Nadine has worked across geographies and built successful multi-million dollar businesses.

In this interview, Nadine shares her perspective on leadership, insights from her journey as well as views on gender diversity and mentoring.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

What is your leadership philosophy? What is the essence of leadership according to you and how can employees see it in action?

Some of the lessons I have learned during my career may translate into good advice for others looking to take on similar leading roles in building or transforming businesses, teams or projects in financial services.

Always look to find individuals who are smarter than you, then give them the opportunity to execute their ideas whilst listening to them.

I believe I have been incredibly blessed with having the best team this industry has seen; they have been with me through the good and bad times. This is the foundation of everything I have done – to go out there and find the smartest people that you can and align that talent into one vision and strategy for propelling the business.

On an individual basis, I would simply say: do not be afraid to take a risk. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Go and seek opportunity and when an opportunity presents itself, realize that you are not going to have all of the answers.

If I had answered “no” to going to the Netherlands I am sure my career would have been totally different. I have worked hard, but I happened to be in the right place at the right time and I have enjoyed every moment.

In thinking about the “how do employees see my leadership in action” part of this question — here’s a good example:

Early on within the formation of Global Collateral Services I was tasked with developing a business plan for Derivatives360SM in order to turn it into a more viable product line and business. Our vision and mission was to provide an end-to-end-solution, regardless of whether the client’s assets were listed or unlisted, cleared or uncleared.

Recognizing the speed to market clients require to comply with various new regulatory rules, we focused the solutions on the buy-side due to their acute need to clear some OTC derivatives via central counterparties (CCPs) as mandated by regulation.

I was also very clear in my leadership style in that I did not want to come in and radically upset the organization.

In fact, I wanted to extract the best solutions from within the company to leverage them across the business.

This meant convincing our executive committee that I could build a multi-million dollar business by leveraging solutions and technologies already in existence within the organisation, holding these services together in a seamless way, and helping to solve for new and emerging issues our clients are confronting in a rapidly changing market landscape.

Describe a little bit of your personal journey – a few key highlights or memories that stand out? And the lessons learnt? Why did you go into finance in the first place?

If I had methodically planned my career I would not be where I am today!

In my early career, we were a custodian and we were very well entrenched in the pension market. We started to dabble in the financial institutions market and in the late 90′s I was given the task of helping the sales force assemble a creative solution for that segment. So I guess I have been building solutions for clients since the very earliest days of my career. As a result of those initial successful experiences I was asked to help with the ABN AMRO joint venture.

One day I got a call and essentially I was asked to go to the Netherlands for a few months to get the joint venture started; I ended up staying for 12 years. During this time we took a product that was very local within the Netherlands, and with competitive drive and strategic vision, we opened offices in the Middle East and Asia, expanding Mellon’s global network very quickly.

Among the most important secrets to success I have gained from the experience was how important it is to be a good listener and to work hard. I want to listen to clients, employees, my peers, our shareholders and analysts, and most importantly — my team. There is so much valuable information gleaned from listening.

I’ve also learned that having a good idea alone isn’t enough. You need to execute on that idea and be able to work well with different cultures and different people.

Currently, my ongoing responsibility is to build an extraordinary organization that can assess the challenges the new regulations have created for our clients and to evaluate the elements of our existing offerings and enhance those solutions. We believe our business is best equipped to provide the solutions to address the clients’ challenges and new needs.

I look back at this past 18 months with great pride. We have built a solution that is sustainable and different. Derivatives360, our consulting area, is maturing very nicely and can help our clients contend with new regulations. We can evolve our offerings.

Also, just over a year ago we rapidly pulled other “mission critical” services together to form the company’s Global Collateral Services business (GCS), where I oversee Product and Strategy. Through Global Collateral Services, BNY Mellon offers a comprehensive suite of capabilities to help our clients “solve” for their collateral management, liquidity and securities financing needs. As they face evolving global regulations and rapidly changing market requirements, clients can leverage BNY Mellon’s products and services to better manage counterparty and market risk in their collateral transactions, engage in more investment opportunities to help maximize their investment returns and access new financing alternatives. We currently service $2 trillion in global collateral (including tri-party repo collateral worldwide) and more than $100 billion in assets through our Liquidity DIRECT(SM) investment portal, and we operate one of the industry’s largest securities lending programs, with some $3 trillion in lendable assets.

As for how I actually landed in financial services — really, it was fate to a certain extent. I graduated right before the crash of 1987 and after an Arts education I thought … what do I do now? My parents are from medical backgrounds so when I started college that was the path I initially took, only to change half way through. I was increasingly fascinated with how economies worked, and with finance, in particular.

Fortunately, natural curiosity and the need to always be doing something different have pushed me along this particular path in my career.

When I started out in financial services, it was mainly trade processing and working on the help desk. I found the work to be fascinating; I was even there when they introduced the first PC into the workplace in our company.

How important is gender diversity really? According to you what are the key benefits for an organization from a gender diversity agenda?

Diversity is important. Diverse people bring different perspectives, backgrounds, ways of looking at things and so forth. Our clients are diverse and we are looking to deliver new solutions to them. If we are not diverse and inclusive, it’s a disservice to the client.

What are the challenges for emerging women leaders in today’s workplace? What is your message for women leaders?

The challenges for emerging women leaders in today’s workplace and the message for women leaders are one and the same. The secret to my success over all these years is to have an incredible team. They enabled us to go multinational and really believed in what we were doing.

All of the skills and experiences I have brought to each new role have paid off and I’m still learning. Probably the best advice I can offer is to not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. This is what I thrive on.

What is involved in evolving an inclusive workplace? What is the priority that must be done?

Here are four things that encapsulate how every employees can support an inclusive workplace:

Be a global citizen. Take the opportunity to try different things, meet different people and expand your network. Having lived and worked abroad for years, I feel strongly that this global experience has been a critical to my success.

Foster mentoring relationships. Having a mentor is important, whether it is formal or informal. Participating in mentoring initiatives is a way of developing your career, navigating the workplace and building a professional network.

Build diverse teams. The global nature of my company and its businesses makes diverse teams essential to success. Diversity of thought and diversity of experience are critically important in the workplace; these new perspectives can only be developed by engaging with people who think differently than you.

Embrace change. Look at change as an opportunity and say yes. You never know what might come of it.

At BNY Mellon, there are three important drivers for inclusion: Our company and who we are across the cultures and geographies in which our employees live and work; our clients — who demand more innovative solutions; and our talent – how we attract them to a place where they can flourish.

Do you have a personal action plan with regards to grooming or mentoring women managers? Or on any other aspect of gender diversity?

Being actively involved – at the table if you will – means you have a greater ability to articulate your view and, hopefully, influence policies and decisions around resources (including people) and priorities. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to hold positions where I have some visibility and can exert influence to help others along in their careers.

Being a Chairman and CEO of a Belgium bank was truly an incredible learning experience. Working with regulators and external board members has given me a much deeper, well-rounded experience. It has continued to help me give back to the company as well as the new generation that will succeed me at some point.

I’m focused on helping the next generation. Internally at BNY Mellon, we have WIN, a ‘Women’s Initiatives Network’ that’s spearheaded by our company President, Karen Peetz.

WIN is a terrific organization to help women (and men) network, assess their career opportunities and expand their horizons. I also started a mentoring program in Europe and initially carried that back to the US with me.

And I continue to do official and unofficial mentoring. It’s rewarding and exciting. My own business is generating quite a few opportunities for the next generation in our company, so this type of regular connection with our next generation of employees is important to me.

I never say no to any request and I mentor individuals on my own. It’s something I take great pride in.

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