Out in front: more stars from the BAI Emerging Leaders Network

In the second installment of our series on the BAI Emerging Leaders Network, we’re proud to present the stories of eight more exceptional professionals from coast to coast and throughout the financial services industry.

Here, you’ll learn how they faced some of their toughest professional challenges to date, what they see as the biggest impact of emerging technologies and why great leaders must have empathy above all. (If you missed it, make sure to catch part one of our series here.)

Nicole-DevlinNicole Devlin

First Vice President, Retail Sales, BancorpSouth
Dallas/Fort Worth Area, Texas

What is the biggest goal you’ve set and met?
One that comes to mind involved the roll out of retail sales and service training for front-line staff. I was responsible for customizing the training content and overseeing the certification process for the trainers leading the classroom sessions. It was also one of the first times I led an effort that would have a company-wide impact. As all projects do, this one began with an idea that grew into an actual initiative. Along the way, many strategic decisions had to be made, which were addressed through collaboration with others. Now, three years in, I’m pleased to share that more than 2,200 teammates have attended 200 of these workshops, leading to real results for our customers and our business.

Who would you most like to grab a cup of coffee with?
I’m a fan of Vanessa Van Edwards, who describes herself as a behavioral investigator. I really enjoyed her last book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, which is about enhancing communication. She also has some fun and practical content online that has helped me strengthen my presentation skills. Perhaps she’d be able to share some more great tips with me if I had the chance to meet her in person!


Jill-EddyJill Eddy

Vice President, Senior Retail Banking Manager, NBT Bank
Syracuse, New York

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken with your career and what were the results?
I had previously worked for a telecommunications company that was not a great fit for me. There were very few opportunities for advancement and layoffs were pending for the second time since I had started, but the salary was better than most jobs in the area. Knowing I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in that environment, when news of the layoffs came out, I opted to separate from the company and begin my own business. I had zero income because any money made was put right back into the business.

I was fortunate enough to be recognized by the local chamber of commerce as the “Woman-Owned Business of the Year” in 2009. While the business was successful, the lifestyle wasn’t sustainable with having two young children and working the hours I was. It was at this award recognition ceremony that I met another recipient who proved to be significant in the following years. He is the person who hired me to work at NBT Bank and is still my direct supervisor and mentor to this day.

What’s the most difficult thing you’ve been through in the past six months?
Becoming an empty nester. My husband and I had our daughters when we were young, and they have been our first thought in the morning and our last thought at night for more than 20 years. It’s challenging when a person’s most important “job” gets cut down to part time. I’ve had to redefine myself as a person, adjust to a new schedule and have trust that my ladies are making good choices and being accountable for their actions. While it’s been difficult, it’s also been a rebirth of the relationship I have with my husband. Dating my husband is one of my favorite things to do now!


Shirley_Guzman_CircleShirley Guzman

Senior Product Manager, Retail Strategy, Products and Segments
BMO Harris Bank
Chicago, Illinois

What was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make recently?
I made the decision to move from Colombia to the USA. I analyzed the risks of making this decision and my motivations, and I prepared a plan to make this happen.

Tell us about a time when you had to think outside the box to complete a task. Were you successful?
I had to increase awareness about a product that was complex. I created a video about the product for the sales team that was easy to understand and shared the best practices. The sales for the products increased by 16%.


Calvin-LamCalvin Lam

Senior Vice President, Strategy Officer & Credit Administration,
GBC International Bank
Los Angeles, California

If there was one thing you could tell senior leaders in the industry, what would it be?
A healthy economy is reliant on a foundationally solid and dependable financial system. We must work collectively to support our local communities and small businesses to build a strong economy. When our employees are happy, engaged and well-trained, customers’ experiences with our organization will be superior. When we deliver superior experiences, profits will follow. Let’s not forget we are in the people business; let’s take care of our people.

What makes a great leader?
A great leader creates an environment where people feel safe and where their personal and professional well-being are prioritized over his/her own. In this environment, trust is prevalent. People can engage in candid dialogue with dissenting positions knowing that their opinions will be heard and respected. A great leader will make the tough calls, no matter how unpopular, and take complete ownership of his/her decisions and actions.


Maria_Minnie_CircleMaria Minnie

Product Analyst, Business Banking, Fifth Third Bank
Cincinnati, Ohio

What makes a great leader?
Empathy. It’s impossible to personally relate to every individual, but by having empathy I feel better equipped to attempt to understand others’ perspectives, talents and personal or professional trials.

Who would you most like to grab a cup of coffee with?
Martha Stewart is a businesswoman who I have admired for her fortitude and poise. From navigating Wall Street, motherhood, a catering company, book publications, and ultimately the successful company she leads today, Martha has taken on many challenges with a true entrepreneurial spirit. I would love to gain insight into how she shaped her vision and responded to obstacles with agility and grace.


Emily_Roenker_CircleEmily Roenker

Events and Sponsorships Manager, Chartway Federal Credit Union
Chesapeake, Virginia

If there was one thing you could tell senior leaders in the industry, what would it be?
Young doesn’t necessarily mean unexperienced. The new generations come with a full background of knowledge about the digital and tech worlds. There are ideas there waiting for the opportunity to present themselves.

What was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make recently and how did you come to that decision?
I recently decided to return to school to get my MBA. I’ve been contemplating returning to school for a while, and it always seemed I had a reason to delay it. However, I asked my father one day how he and my mother decided to have a big family. When did they know they were ready? (Side note: I’m the youngest of seven, and I have five sisters and one brother.)

His advice was that when you wait for the right time and for everything to be aligned, you’ll miss the best opportunities of your life. There’s no “best time,” and there’s no epiphany when you realize you’re ready. You work hard, you have faith, and you trust in your mind and heart that you can do it.

I started grad school in January.


Annie_Spagnolo_circleAnnie Spagnolo

Vice President, COO of Underwriting & Portfolio Management, Citizens Bank
Boston, Massachusetts

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken with your career and what were the results?
The biggest risk I took with my career was right at the start. After completing my summer internship with an international fashion house and running an online fashion blog, I thought my future career would definitely be in the fashion industry. I attended a career fair prior to graduation, and it was there that I learned about the Citizens Commercial Banker Development Program, a 12-month training program for individuals looking to kick-start a career in commercial banking. It seemed like an incredible opportunity, so I decided to apply and was ultimately accepted into the program. From there, I decided to take a risk and the rest is history. I graduated from the development program and grew from an analyst to a portfolio manager on the bank’s Restaurant Lending team, into my current role as COO of Underwriting & Portfolio Management. Pivoting into commercial banking was not only my most significant career risk, but it was also my best career decision.

How do you relax?
Spending quality time with my family. Also, home décor and interior decorating.


Scott-GinnardScott Ginnard

Vice President, Product Manager, IBERIABANK
West Palm Beach, Florida

What advantages do you see with emerging technologies?
Emerging technologies are going to affect every aspect of how customers interact with their banks. We are already experiencing a paradigm shift in banking that will only become more dramatic as time goes on. How customers want to interact with their banks is rapidly changing, and emerging technologies hold the answers that the banking industry needs to be successful going forward.

Who inspires you?
My two greatest inspirations are women who are both near and dear to me. My grandmother was a data analyst for the U.S. military at a time before anyone had ever heard of a personal computer. In a burgeoning field, overwhelmingly dominated by men, she was able to find success using her intelligence and perseverance. My second inspiration is my mother, who took a different route in life. While dealing with personal challenges and hardships, she found a way to successfully raise two children by herself through sacrifice and sheer will.

Learn more about the BAI Emerging Leaders Network.