Ileana Sodani is the Head of EMEA Relationship Development, Asset Servicing at BNY Mellon
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role.
I have 25 years of management, relationship and sales experience from across our Investment Services business in both the US and EMEA.
I hold degrees from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service as well as an MBA from New York University.
I started at BNY Mellon as a result of my knowledge of Italian as they were looking for someone to handle the Southern European market. My ethos from day one was to roll up my sleeves and learn every system in order to better understand our solutions. This allowed me to grow an expansive network in the company as well as gain the credibility to explain our solutions to current and prospective clients.
In 2000, I was provided with the opportunity to move to the UK where I undertook various roles across Client Management that included risk, compliance and the management of our key strategic clients. Through this role, I became the Deputy Head of EMEA for Client Management, which was quite an exciting time as we navigated through the financial crisis.
Over six years ago, I knew I needed to get experience within a business line and understand the mechanics of the business. This led me to a position in Asset Servicing where I had to simultaneously learn the business, the wealth management industry given the global institutions I was liaising with and project management. I was also parachuted into engagement with a top-tier global financial institution client as the executive leader of a project. This eventually led me to being one of two business executives in EMEA for our large global financial institution relationships.
In 2013 I was asked to move to Pershing, a subsidiary of BNY Mellon, to become their Chief Relationship Officer. There I was responsible for wealth and institutional clients, product, communications, marketing and trading. Being part of the management team of this subsidiary gave me insight into executive management. For one year we operated without a CEO and I was part of the three person team running the company. Most recently, I was asked to return to BNY Mellon, having completed my task of restructuring our client strategy at Pershing. I am now the Head of Relationship Development in EMEA for our Asset Servicing business and am excited to build our overall book of business in this new role.
I have two boys, 14 and 11 who support and sustain me. They are grounded and I am very proud of their respective successes and love of life.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
A typical day starts anywhere from 5:00 to 5:30 a.m. when I either get on the bike and spin, go running or go to the gym for strength training. I completed my first ultramarathon this year and am planning to do my first triathlon in 2017. I am usually at the office between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. and my day consists of back to back meetings. I am home by 8:00 p.m. to spend time with my family and then I prepare for the following day. I am also frequently out to dinner with clients or traveling for business. The weekends are all about the boys, their schedules and being a mom.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I have been lucky to have managers throughout my career who have presented me with new challenges and opportunities. I am also not one to stand still and operate within set boxes. I like to challenge myself and find solutions.
The only time I sat down to plan my career was when I knew I wanted to leave the client management side and be responsible for P&L of a business. The most difficult task was finding the right sponsor to help me achieve this goal and convince this person to put me forward and represent my best interests at the company.
What do you love about working for BNY Mellon?
Absolutely, 100 per cent, the people and the culture. BNY Mellon is completely invested in fostering a workplace culture of teamwork and inclusivity. People want to genuinely help one another and get things done together. There is a strong sense of community and trust.
How have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?
I always benefit from coaching, mentoring and sponsoring others. Such experiences help me tap into the knowledge capital of other generations and business areas. I am a firm believer in surrounding myself with diverse thinking to help me solve business complexities.
Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?
The very foundation of my career is based on networking. It is not only who you know but who knows you. Networking provides you with an avenue in which to learn and explore solutions internally and externally for clients. Through networking you are able to spread your knowledge and grow your overall skill set across multiple competencies. Networking also teaches you how to engage with people regardless of level and brings the joy of learning new things.
What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in finance?
Please do not be tainted by negative news articles about the financial industry. Finance will always be the backbone of the economy and capital markets, and there is good. Furthermore, having experience in finance allows you to access numerous career opportunities both inside and outside the industry. The experience will teach you how the economic and financial global markets that impact our everyday lives operate. To excel in this industry, it is critical that one is relentlessly curious, responsible and dedicated to finding the best solutions for one’s shareholders and clients. It is a complex and dynamic career and one that is increasingly regulated both locally and globally. This environment has created the need for innovation to ensure companies remain on the cutting-edge and drive change. Here at BNY Mellon, we’re more innovative than ever, especially through our partnerships with FinTechs, and we are invested in developing breakthrough financial services technologies through our six Innovation Centres across the globe.
What does the future hold for you?
I am motivated to lead people to be the best that they can be and encourage others to lead from where they are. I like to bet on people and help bring out their best to enable them to succeed.