Prior to joining CLS, Alicia was a Principal consultant for Promontory Financial Group, and acted as a core member of the team supporting the Working Group on US RMB Trading and Clearing and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). From 2011 to 2015 Alicia worked in Washington, DC serving in various policymaking roles the US Treasury and Federal Reserve Board.
She has been shortlisted for the 2020 Future Leader Award.
How does it feel to be nominated for the Future Leaders Award?
When I first learned of my nomination, my immediate reaction was “Wow!”. There is tremendous talent in the financial services industry today, and it is a privilege to be recognised amongst such an elite pool of candidates. I look forward to meeting the other nominees in the coming months.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
When I look back on my career thus far, I reflect proudly on my time at the US Treasury after the 2008 global financial crisis. My colleagues and I were at the heart of Dodd-Frank Act implementation, working to ensure US financial markets became safer and more resilient. I served the majority of my US Treasury career in the International Affairs department, learning from some of the world’s best and brilliant financial diplomats. My job was to monitor how other major financial markets, primarily the EU, were implementing the post-crisis financial regulatory reforms agreed at the global level (i.e., the G20 and international standard setting bodies like the Basel Committee).
Our goal was to promote consistent implementation of these new rules and regulations – in essence, to ensure a level playing field. To achieve this goal, I supported US Treasury officials for meetings of the G20, Financial Stability Board, and major bilateral dialogues. It was during these formative years that I learned the value of very hard work, the ability to make decisions in tremendous uncertainty, and how working with dedicated and driven colleagues (like the career civil servants of the US Government) makes you a better person.
You relocated from New York to London. What have you found are the differences in work culture between the two cities?
Each person’s relocation experience is unique depending on their own circumstances, the organisation they work for, and the type of role they have. As a native New Yorker, I grew up knowing nothing different than the New York hustle mentality. My personal experience was that you worked hard and very long hours (which often entailed eating all three meals at your desk). In short, to “make it” in New York your job should be your top priority. Since moving to London almost three years ago, I do notice differences in the work culture between the two cities. I have observed a lot more focus on work/life balance and taking time off to recharge. Employees often use the holiday provided – two weeks off in August would be highly unusual in New York! It may just be my wonderful colleagues at CLS, but people take time to learn about each other and life outside of work. I am tremendously proud of my New York roots and the work ethic I learned there, but as I progress in my career I have come to realise that I need balance to reach top levels of performance.
You co-lead CLS’s Women’s Forum, can you tell us more about that?
There is a lot more work to do to close the gender equality gap. The most recent World Economic Forum report, “Global Gender Gap Report 2020”, revealed that gender parity will not be achieved for 99.5 years. That’s a long time! Having worked in finance-related roles my whole career, I have seen occasions where women have had to fight and work harder than their male counterparts to achieve success. These facts and my own personal experiences have fuelled a great passion of mine – to ensure women have the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. I am grateful to have the chance to translate that passion into action by taking a leading role in CLS’s Women’s Forum.
The Women’s Forum provides an excellent platform to raise awareness about issues like gender bias, with the objective of effecting change in the workplace. We sponsor CLS’s International Women’s Day activities each year to celebrate the achievements of women and to promote better understanding of gender inequality. I was beyond thrilled when CLS chose to partner with WIBF. Our partnership with WIBF has been instrumental in providing CLS employees opportunities to develop and grow their skills and networks.
Do you have a career plan and what would you like to achieve in your professional life?
Based on my experience I have found it challenging, and almost limiting, to have a set-in-stone career plan. At various points in my career, the best opportunities presented to me were the ones least expected. In the long-term I strive to hold an executive-level position, be a champion of gender equality in financial services, and have a positive impact on the people and organisation I am working for. At some point I would like to go back to government service, as I find the work of a mission-led organisation extremely rewarding and impactful. Very importantly, I hope any new role presents opportunities for growth and challenging times to learn from. Learning should be a lifelong journey.
What do you do to relax?
Taking time to recharge not only improves my health and well-being, but my ability to focus and perform at a higher level. Lockdown has refuelled my passion for baking and cooking, which are two things that require full focus and zero distraction. When baking or cooking I forget about the rest of the world - my only priority is a perfect food creation. I was always known for my (office award-winning) brownie cookie bars, but now look forward to bringing in all my new recipes for my friends and colleagues to enjoy when we are back in Canary Wharf together. I also cook a traditional American Thanksgiving every November for my closest and oldest London friends. Every Thanksgiving staple is on the table, and I even visit the American imports store to ensure the “originals” are available for an authentic experience. I start receiving requests for invitations in August - Thanksgiving has become quite a hot ticket!