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Christine Rodrigues
National Bank

“To be a great leader, you need to be authentic, make people feel appreciated, support new ideas and create an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up.”

- Christine Rodrigues, Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, National Bank Independent Network

Christine Rodrigues, Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer at National Bank Independent Network, says women often put too much pressure on themselves and try to be everything to everyone. “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything,” she emphasizes. Recognizing that, she suggests, can help women focus on what they need to do to succeed at work and in life.

When did you decide to pursue a career in finance?

I worked part time in banking while I was in university, but didn’t think I would make a career out of it. Then, after I finished my graduate degree, I applied for an entry-level operational support role in wealth management at a bank. After speaking to the business partners I was supporting, I took the initiative to make some tweaks to processes and then, within a few weeks, I was processing more volume than individuals who had been there for some time. My manager took notice, suggested I take industry courses and empowered me by encouraging me to be curious, inquisitive, innovative and shake things up. I decided to continue in finance, specifically in wealth management, because of the variety of career possibilities and because it’s such a dynamic environment, with constant change and opportunity.

What were the key steps to your current role?

About a year after I started in wealth management, I had completed a number of industry courses and began to take on more responsibilities and bigger roles in different areas, including account management, risk, trading, client service, relationship management and sales. Today, I have the pleasure of working with a fabulous group of individuals to support nearly 400 independent wealth management firms across Canada. How I got here was a combination of hard work, determination, focus, taking the initiative to get things done and a sense of humour. You need to be able to laugh at yourself and not take everything too seriously.

What helped you succeed and what stood in your way?

 Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have great leaders and to have worked with many amazing individuals who believed in me, challenged me and supported me. What stood in my way, at times, was not speaking up when I should have or having my head down too long and letting opportunities pass me by. I learned you can’t wait for somebody to tap you on the back. You need to bet on yourself because, if you don’t, you can’t expect others to.

What is your approach to leadership?

To be a great leader, you need to be authentic, make people feel appreciated, support new ideas and create an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up. I’m big on communication. I believe many challenges arise from not being clear when we communicate and hesitating to ask questions. To motivate and inspire teams, I make sure everyone is aware of what we’re working towards – the vision, the business goals – and then encourage people to work together to achieve those results.

How do you keep your work and your life in balance?

I’m going to be honest: it’s not always possible. My two daughters are 18 and 22 now, but when they were young, I tried to make every soccer game and every music lesson. I also have a younger sister with severe special needs whom I’m very close to and involved with. And I was working full time. The reality is that, even though I wanted to be everywhere, I couldn’t be everywhere – there just weren’t enough hours in the day. The interesting part was that I was the only one making myself feel guilty. Over time, I learned that it’s okay to sit back, relax and take some time for yourself, as well as your family and your work.

How has the pandemic affected the way you work and lead?

I find people are working longer hours because there are no natural breaks – people aren’t going out for lunch or commuting and getting time to collect their thoughts and shift gears. Now the lines are blurry, and we have to consciously disconnect. Also, we can’t rely on impromptu conversations anymore, so we’ve scheduled weekly social events, usually on Thursday or Friday from five o’clock onwards. We turn our cameras on, bring a glass of wine or cocktail, and make it light and fun, talking about whatever people are comfortable sharing about what’s going on in their personal lives. We also have weekly challenges, asking people to post photos of their backyard or a favourite vacation. In many ways, we’re getting to know people better, because it’s deliberate, it’s intentional and conversations are more in depth than when you quickly pass by someone’s desk in the office.

What can the industry do to better support women in finance?

Give women opportunities and be aware of unconscious biases that may negatively affect women. We have to disrupt stereotypes, redefine what it is to be a leader and a woman, and speak up when we witness gender bias. And we need to encourage women to speak up, be inquisitive and be themselves. Women are great leaders, so we need to promote them, give them a chance and pay them well.

What advice do you have for women who are just starting out in finance?

Look up, laugh at yourself from time to time and surround yourself with a great team so you don’t always have to be the one dealing with the details with your head down. Empower that team, too, so you have the time to be strategic and move the business forward. Think big and take some risks. Also, let’s help each other and be happy and proud when other women get promoted.

To reach out and connect with Christine: www.linkedin.com/in/christinemrodrigues

October 27,  2020