Nadine Chakar, Executive Vice President and Head of Product and Strategy for BNY Mellon’s Global Collateral Services business talks to DerivSource about her career in global custody and how success is dependent upon having the right team, the right ideas and the drive to execute them.
Q. Why did you go into finance in the first place?
A. 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.
Q. In January 2012 you became the head of BNY Mellon’s Derivatives360 SM, the end-to-end solution that includes post-trade process services for derivatives. Can you briefly describe your responsibilities and share what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in this role thus far.
A. Early on 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 didn’t want to come in and radically upset the organization. In fact, I wanted to extract the best solutions from within the company and 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.
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 year with great pride. We have built a solution that is sustainable and different. Derivatives360 is maturing very nicely and can help our clients contend with new regulations. We can evolve our offerings.
Also this year, we rapidly pulled other “mission critical” services together to form the company’s Global Collateral Services business (GCS), where I now oversee Product and Strategy. Through Global Collateral Services, BNY Mellon offers a comprehensive suite of capabilities to help our clients address their collateral, 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.
Q. Are there any specific experiences early on in your career that have benefited you in your current role, notably some of the new businesses you have built as a result of merger and acquisition activity? And what is the secret to your success over the years?
A. This is a great question, Julia. 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.
Since then, I have also overseen other major deals including the acquisition of PNC’s Global Investment Servicing Inc. (GIS) and the outsourcing deal with Bridgewater Associates, which included $125 billion of assets under management. Through these mergers and acquisitions I learned a great deal about patience, compromise and the art of negotiation. I think a good deal is when two parties walk away feeling pretty good about it — and that’s a great experience.
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 over to my 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.
Q. What are some of the lessons you have learned that will translate into good advice for others looking to take on similar leading roles in building or transforming businesses, teams or projects in financial services?
A. Always look to find individuals who are smarter than you, then give them the opportunity to execute their ideas whilst always 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.
Q. You have always been very actively involved within various committees and groups internally. For instance, you served as chair of the Executive Committee of The Bank of New York Mellon SA/NV, in Brussels, and were also the chair of the Supervisory Board of BNY Mellon Asset Servicing B.V. in Amsterdam. How has these roles influenced your career and do you see the value in others getting more involved?
A. 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.
Q. You are very focused on helping the next generation. Can you tell us what you do to encourage individuals to progress careers?
A. 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. For instance, recently I got a call from someone who heard me speak about all of the opportunities and career choices at BNY Mellon. This individual was considering a job change and asked me for guidance. We met and chatted about the various options one day over coffee. He hadn’t brainstormed his options with anyone yet and clearly needed frank and objective advice. The good news is that he eventually came to a happy conclusion and continues to thrive in his new role. So, I take great pleasure in helping individuals achieve their potential. This is how I believe I can make a difference.
Q. If you had to go back would you have considered taking a different career path?
A. Absolutely not. I have enjoyed every good and bad moment.
Actually, I can’t think of anything else I would have done instead. I have been able to have an incredible career that has provided me with personal growth while also enabling me to achieve everything I put my mind to. Now, as I give back to the next generation I really hope they will learn to embrace all of the unexpected opportunities that arise just as I did. And, if so, I’m convinced they will be in pretty good shape.