Women in Finance Awards Q&A: Claudine Gallagher, BNP Paribas
Claudine Gallagher, Head of Americas at BNP Paribas Securities Services, won the Crystal Ladder Award at Markets Media’s 2019 Women in Finance Awards.
What is the ‘secret of your success’?
I don’t know that it’s a secret, but I’d say hard work. A lot of the principles from kindergarten apply to success — listening, observing, and understanding your environment. And I’ve always been open to new roles even if I didn’t necessarily know the subject matter. I’ve always been ‘comfortable feeling uncomfortable’ with the subject matter, trusting I would learn it over time.
And of course, there’s luck. Let’s be honest, anyone who tells you there’s no point in their career where they got a little lucky because they were in the right place at the right time, I think is lying. There’s always a little bit of luck.
How do you connect individual success and organizational success?
This is a tough question, one I ask myself all the time.
It’s different depending on your situation. For example, my husband has his own company with fewer than 10 people, and it’s very clear on how individual success connects to company performance. But when you work at a firm of 200,000 people as we are, it can get murky. An individual in securities services who settles trades can have a very good year even if the company isn’t meeting its overall corporate goals.
So you have to be careful when judging people’s individual objectives. The more senior you are, obviously the more corporate goals have to be part of how your performance is rated. But it’s a complex formula that depends on your level in the company and what the company has asked of you personally.
What has been your experience with mentors or role models, and as a mentor or role model yourself?
I’ve never had a formal mentor. But early in my career, I was at J.P. Morgan in Paris, and the office was run by a woman. I was fresh out of college, and I would observe her as a leader in town halls, in meetings, and just around the office. She was a great role model, someone whose behavior I could emulate. I remember being very impressed by how she ran everything, and that helped shaped my view of what I could do.
Currently, I do a lot of mentoring both inside and outside the firm. For me, the most important thing is to get the mentee to tell you what they need and want. It’s critical to understand what they want to work on, and what they think are their development needs. So I usually do more listening than talking — ask the questions and see what comes back.
How do you give back outside the office?
Our women’s leadership team has worked a lot with Women In Need. We have had meetings and put together booklets to help the women in the shelter find a job. We cover how to find employment opportunities, how to prepare a resume, how to apply online, and how to prepare for an interview. And then we conduct mock interviews.
This year we have been working more with a younger population, mid- to late teens, through the Renaissance Youth Center. We help them prepare for college and think about career opportunities.
It’s important for all of us to give back in a meaningful way. Most of the time we get just as much out of it as the people we’re helping, or even more.
What would be your advice to a woman who is either just starting out in a financial career or considering a financial career?
It’s funny, throughout my career it never really occurred to me that I was a woman in finance. I was just myself, and that seemed to work out fine. So it kind of pains me today when I see young women associates worrying about how they should act or how they should behave in a room full of men. My best advice would be, just be yourself!
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