September 2014 | 

Cultivating Forward-thinking Finance Leaders

Finance Leaders

The financial services industry has seen its share of changes and challenges in recent years, from the 2008 financial crisis and the long-term recovery of the markets.

For more than six decades, Wharton Executive Education has collaborated with the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) to offer the Securities Industry Institute®, a unique three-year, workshop-based program held for a week every March.

As the country’s longest continuous executive education program, SII gives financial services leaders the opportunity to enhance their industry and investment knowledge while also building their professional skills as leaders.

Ron Raman, VP of sales and business development for New Jersey-based financial tech firm Scivantage, credits SII for exposing him to new concepts like the "Blue Ocean” strategy, which allows companies to create new market space, thereby making the competition irrelevant. Wharton also shared how once hugely successful companies have disappeared because they lacked "peripheral vision” — the idea that a radical shift in direction done without a full view of what’s around the corner can wipe out an enterprise. "Having a broader world view enhances your perspective, your confidence, and your knowledge. It’s made me a more strategic thinker,” he says.

Alexis Vasquez Meissner says her experience in SII has proven invaluable to her growth at BNY Mellon. She’s gone from managing a global team to cultivating relationships for some of the largest strategic clients the global investment services firm with $1.6 trillion in assets under management and $27.9 trillion in assets under custody and/or administration. "The amount of focus on leadership and integrity and the acknowledgement of how the industry needed to change post-financial crisis was engaging,” says Meissner.

All of these executives participated in optional Capstone projects, which focused on big-picture topics such as how to rebuild the public’s trust. Meissner’s Capstone team included leaders from major banks such as Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and Wells Fargo. "Hearing how these leaders think, what their challenges are, and what their clients need has really helped me frame what I need to pay attention to in my new role as a relationship manager for global banks.”

Meissner also got some great insights into the changing demographics of the workforce and the role of mid-career professionals like herself. "There really is a role for this middle generation to help bridge the transition between the millennials and senior executives, and lead change,” she says.

The program isn’t new for Erica Snyder’s firm, Hunter Associates, an independent wealth management firm based in Pittsburgh. As the firm’s president and CEO, she is the fifth executive to graduate from the Institute — the first was founder David Hunter in the 1960s. "SII has a really long tradition as the premier educational opportunity unique to our industry,” says Snyder, who now serves on SII’s board of trustees.

Her biggest challenge leading a small firm is "maintaining our relevance and ensuring we are thinking ahead to keep pace with the giants in the industry.” Snyder adds that she’s built a strong network of SII colleagues whom she can call and run ideas by during times of challenge.

She also notes that SII’s leadership curriculum examines innovation outside the capital markets — insights that are very helpful in "understanding where customers are going to be in five years, and how firms must adapt to succeed.” The program also helps people refine and strengthen their strategic thinking skills. "SII incorporates decision-making and leadership skills and give you the ability to distill information into actionable ideas.”