There is often a great deal of rhetoric on the subject of leadership and considerably less self-reflection than required. To influence and guide change, a leader needs to be self-aware and willing to accept feedback. Maria Hackley, Global Co-Head, Managing Director, Industrials, within banking, Capital Markets & Advisory (BCMA) at Citi, is emblematic of being a leader in action than in just words.
Maria began her career at Citi more than three decades ago as an analyst in the Financial Institutions Group before shifting to the Industrials franchise. She began leading larger teams to effectively originate transactions for multinational clients, enabling Citi’s growth and economic progress and helping the organization become a preeminent banking partner for institutions with cross-border needs.
Maria does not only practice leadership that results in fiscal growth, but she is also an emphatic voice for diversity as well. She is particularly engaged in recruiting, developing, retaining and promoting diverse talent at Citi with a focus on aiding women and underrepresented minorities.
CIOLook and Maria Hackley indulge in a discussion regarding effective leadership that drives change:
Impetus of Brilliance
Maria joined Citi more than 35 years ago as an analyst in the Latin American Banking Group covering foreign subsidiaries of Central American banks. She subsequently covered North American Financial Institutions covering the sub-sectors of finance companies, banks, and insurance companies.
In 2005, she was asked by senior management to be the Parent Account Manager of General Electric, which is today one of Citi’s largest clients in the Industrials segment. It was in 2016 that Maria applied for her current position, Global Co-Head of the Industrials franchise, which is part of Citi’s Banking, Capital Markets & Advisory Businesses.
The Industrials Franchise is an amalgamation of the following sectors: Aviation, Mobility, Shipping, Rails, Metals and Mining, Diversified Industrials, Diversified Services, Paper and Packaging, and Home Building.
Speaking of the challenges she faced in her journey, Maria says, “One of the greatest challenges that I have overcome was shifting from being an individual producer with a smaller portfolio of clients and P&L with five individuals working under me to now managing a group of over 300 professionals in nine sub-sectors.”
As a leader, Maria tells us, she was intent on determining how to most effectively drive the coverage team that is focused on originating and developing transactions against large multinational clients from an angle of corporate finance.
Her focus was on setting up the appropriate governance structure to communicate the strategic direction of Industrials, drive business trends in partnership with product experts to advise clients most effectively and prudently managing the balance sheet as well as optimize capital returns. Of equal importance, continue to actively call on clients while keeping primary coverage of her two largest clients whom she has been advising for close to twenty years.
“Lastly, one of the challenges that we continue to have—is to make sure that we are shifting as trends shift. As emerging technologies continue to drive growth, how do we shift our business to really capture these new areas of technology disruption within mobility, industrials technology, space, freight tech, ecommerce and logistics, and home tech.”
Maria sums up her journey to the top by saying, “I believe it’s very valuable to develop differentiated sector expertise and always being prepared has led to being a Trusted Advisor with my clients. Being in constant contact with and providing ongoing advice has led to working on some of the most strategic transactions with my clients.”
Enabling Growth and Diversity
Citi’s mission is to serve as a Trusted Advisor to its clients by responsibly providing financial services preeminent banking partner for institutions with cross-border needs. It is also a global leader in wealth management and a valued personal bank in the US. Additionally, Citi does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions, providing corporations, governments, investors, institutions, and individuals with a broad range of financial products and services.
Maria expands on Citi’s goals, “One of our missions is around diversity. As the world’s most global bank, diversity is our strength and a strategic priority. We believe that everyone belongs in banking and that diversity fuels our culture and business success. And it’s not just words. We have set goals, we prioritize action, and we are transparent about our results. We most recently expanded our diversity representation goals to better reflect the communities we serve and ensure Citi is a place where we can all thrive.”
Citi’s culture is characterized by excellence, and it underpins the success of all its efforts. Everyone at Citi strives for excellence in all that they do for their clients, customers, colleagues, and communities.
Maria says, “We updated our leadership principles and performance rating system as part of an effort to raise expectations and to increase accountability for how everyone should approach their work. We are building a culture that is focused on delivering the best outcomes for all of our stakeholders by breaking down silos and deepening the sense of ownership that our people feel for our organization.”
A Net Zero Impact
Maria brings three decades of experience across financing and capital raising to her clients. She shares those best practices and ideas with the broader team and empowers them to be able to be more influential with their client base.
The impact of the dialogue is already visible with Citi’s commitment to reach net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. Citi has been acutely focused on making sure that the organization is communicating its sustainability leadership and progress on its net zero targets.
Maria describes her and the organization’s efforts by stating, “We’re focused on the transition. It is important from an environmental and social responsibility perspective that we have constructive engagement with our clients on this topic”
“I have certainly taken a great interest to make sure, as a leader in the committee related to the energy transition, that we increase the knowledge and the skillset of the finance professionals and banking experts. We want to make sure that they are conversant in this new key area that impacts all of our corporate and financial institution clients and to make sure that they are developing and executing on their ESG goals,” she opines.
Banking with Technological Innovations
“At Citi, we are building a bank for the digital world,” says Maria. The banking behemoth’s Institutional Clients Group – a group that houses a multi-national team that includes Banking, Capital Markets, Advisory, Sales & Trading and Transaction Banking – is in particular, focused on harnessing technology to develop innovative solutions to better serve its clients and provide value to their businesses.
“We are continuously evaluating potential disruptors to the financial services industry and how we can leverage these trends to drive excellence in our operating systems. We are continuing to make strategic investments in technology to enhance the client experience,” shares Maria.
Technology has and continues to rapidly evolve financial services. It impacts everything from the products and services companies offer its clients to how people work and interact with their colleagues every day.
Maria says, “At Citi, we continue to invest and innovate in several areas to maintain a competitive advantage. The first is leveraging new technologies. The second is improving delivery capability by changing the way we work. And the third is by rapidly deploying our solutions across Citi’s unmatched global network.”
Maria uses an example to describe the technological impact by expressing, “Recently our Treasury and Trade Solutions business announced something called 7-Day Sweeps, and it’s a product for institutional clients that will offer improved liquidity management for many companies that are increasingly running their business on a 24/7 basis.”
Thus, Citi is focused on making sure that it keeps shifting its product offerings according to changes and trends in each of the key sectors.
Lending a Hand to Under-represented Minorities
Maria hopes to continue seeing increased levels of diversity throughout financial services. She feels encouraged by the progress that the industry has made over the past several years but thinks that banker can and must do even better. She wishes to see higher levels of women and minority representation at all levels of financial service firms, from the C suite and senior management through the analyst and associate levels. “It’s not only the right thing to do, but it also happens to drive better business outcomes,” she says.
In a direct validation to her words, Maria plays an active role in diversity – in recruiting, developing, retaining and promoting diverse talent. She shares, “When I travel around the world, I spend a lot of time with our teams to talk about how to become a leader. I do that for many of our women in particular and underrepresented minorities as well. I think it is really critical that we take the time to invest and develop future leaders. We all need to pay it forward.”
Think Out of the Box
Sharing advice for the next generation of finance leaders, Maria expresses, “You have to think out of the box. You must have a level of intense curiosity and tenacity, and you have to get out of your comfort zone because the world is evolving very quickly. You have to be willing to move at a faster pace and at the same time willing to make sure that you are pivoting with the changes occurring in the financial service sector.
“Stay close to your clients during this unprecedented time of change. This is a wonderful opportunity to distinguish yourself and the bank given your differentiated advice and execution. Build your team and work as a team.”