Mentor yourself by setting goals
DOES KAREN Peetz, the most powerful woman on Wall Street, have time to share her insights on making it to the top? Slotting in an interview at 7am while waiting to board a flight in Rome, what she has to say makes clear she is committed to making the time when it comes to helping women to succeed.
The vice-chair and chief executive of financial markets and treasury services at BNY Mellon, responsible for more than 40 per cent of the company’s revenue, was last year named American Banker’s “Most Powerful Woman in Banking”.
Peetz credits mentoring with helping her to thrive. “When I look back now on my 30 years in banking, I was fortunate that, at every stage, someone, and it was always a man, sort of took an interest in me and opened doors,” the Pennsylvania State University science graduate says.
“It was also someone who had the power to create opportunities for me and put me in positions that helped me very much.”
Peetz joined BNY Mellon in 1998, poached from JPMorgan Chase, where she held a variety of sales and management positions, including one that saw her uproot her husband and two children for an assignment in London.
Progressively expanding her responsibilities at BNY Mellon, the team she now leads serves clients globally and includes 17,000 employees in 76 cities, 40 of which are outside her US base.
Now a mentor herself to men and women rising through the ranks of BNY Mellon, a company that employs more than 1,700 people in Ireland, Peetz says women, in particular, need to be frank and unambiguous about their goals.
“You should be very open about your interests and your ambitions so you can offset any natural tendency to think you wouldn’t want to do this or that because you have two kids and you’re not interested. I think you have to be quite explicit.”
She says that, when it comes to finding a mentor, it should be someone you admire. “You can initiate the relationship with them. I’m often asked to provide advice and mentor different people, so I think you shouldn’t be bashful to ask for help.”
But when you find a mentor, she says, be prepared to hear the truth. It’s the more honest, coaching-type feedback that’s critical, she says.
“It tends to be the more subtle things that can make or break you, particularly when you get to more senior levels. Asking for that feedback and getting whoever it is you want to give it to you comfortable with the fact that you really want to hear it, that you’ll accept it and that you’ll incorporate it, is the first trick.”
Thanking the four mentors who guided her career in her acceptance speech at the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking award ceremony last year, Peetz was specific about how they had coached her.
Of the BNY Mellon chief executive who poached her from JPMorgan Chase, she said: “He took the time to teach me communication techniques that helped me to be more effective.”
Another mentor “challenged me to step up to my power and take more responsibility”.
A third coached her on the “nuances of values-based leadership” while another said, “Whatever you do Karen, don’t get defensive”.
Women also need to make time to network to be successful, she says. “I think it’s a common problem that women believe that if they keep their head down and keep working, they’ll be noticed and they’ll be rewarded,” she says.