Describe your career path.
I began in marketing, working in the client facing part of the business. I worked for an advertising agency on Madison Avenue, and moved to financial services when I joined American Express. There I came to appreciate the details around technology and operations and how they underpin financial services. Next, I moved to Mellon Bank, entering the custody business. At Mellon, I managed several departments including the bank's credit card business, which has many parallels with custody services, such as straight-through processing and managing risks, which are both technology-driven. I've never had a position for more than four years and had several with American Express, Mellon and State Street. I've always looked to leverage new opportunities and learning experiences. For a time I loved in London, managing Mellon's asset management business in Europe. It's important to learn in your career and avoid becoming stale.
Describe your role at State Street.
Within my position are several important areas at State Street, such as our global strategy and strategic planning groups. It's a fascinating time in global custody given the regulatory environment and its implications for the business model. We tie that in with our global client team, which encompasses deep client relationships over large global multi-jurisdictions. Working with clients helps inform our own strategic decision making process. I also lead our global sales council, an effort to provide more consistent sales and cross-sell opportunities to clients. The company has grown enormously, and the council helps us explore ways to bundle our service more seamlessly.
What is a typical day like for you?
It begins early so I can get caught overnight news in Asia and Europe. I read four newspapers each day to understand different points of view, and how events are reported. I want to remain connected to what our customers are doing so I'll speak to several customers a day and discuss service issues and market news. Also, I spend a lot of time working with my team by mentoring and discussing important issues that come up each day. I consider myself a change agent, so I look for situations where people are getting stale. I'm consistently monitoring workflow to fine tune it and change the activities that people are working on at a given time.
What advice do you have for an up and coming global custody professional?
I'd recommend starting out in a line, custody, or account operations position because it will give you solid indication as to the daily pressures of producing work and getting it out accurately and timely. Be flexible and adaptable. People have well thought out career plans, so it's important for younger employees to be opportunistic and adjust their plans based on new opportunities that arise. Move to different departments, which allows for varied experiences, but also move geographically. People who work in one place miss out on experiencing regional differences. I've worked in six different places and have been able to see differences in the way decisions are made, as well as differences in ethics and work life balances in various places around the world. You need to think and act globally if you want to work in a global custody role. If you think you can do that by working in one place, you're wrong. So, look for opportunities overseas as it's a great experience with tremendous rewards.
What are the most important skills for a career in global custody?
Be able to challenge the status quo. For example, the custody business has changed a lot with the onset of hedge funds. Previously the hedge fund administration world was dominated by prime brokers and over the past few years, we've grown our business to include custody for hedge funds. There are many opportunities to reinvent custody through technology.
What should students be studying, or doing to prepare for a career in global custody?
Math, science, accounting and engineering are all strong disciplines to pursue. I am a liberal arts graduate but returned to school. Global custody is a business of data, so being able to understand it and harvest it to build models is important. The business is analytical, but communications--written and oral--with clients is equally important as you advance in your career. It's not about simply doing the work, but being able to communicate it effectively. Try out different roles. If you've worked in operations, try working in sales or marketing. Often, people impose labels on themselves and this can be damaging. Some of the best people I have worked with started out in operations. We try to promote from within, so it's feasible to work your way up in custody after beginning in another area.
Could you recommend publications to read, or other things someone can do to break into global custody?
Financial News, Financial Times, cover important, global trends impacting our industry. I'd also encourage those looking to enter the industry to consider a finance internship as this career path can easily be adapted to an entry level career in fund accounting, etc.