According to Nancy Reyda, Managing Director and COO of Global Technology Business Solutions at Deutsche Bank, being a leader of change requires a delicate balance between vision and awareness.
“There’s an art to leading transformational change that requires both passionate vision, undying confidence, and the resilient belief that you will achieve that vision – coupled with a deep humility for the complexity of change, and why people may be resisting it,” she explained.
Reyda, who described her career path as unique, started out as an engineer working on the oil fields of California. She’s now a Wall Street executive immersed in the business of transformation.
“In my early days, I’d say I was an enthusiastic leader, but I’ve learned that when you really master the art of the craft is when you have coupled that enthusiastic leadership with humility. People who get that graceful balance are truly able to lead transformational change,” she said.
After studying chemical engineering in the early ‘80s at Clarkson University, Reyda was recruited to Chevron. She and her now-husband (then lab partner) moved to the West Coast. “We did it for the adventure… and ended up staying there for 30 years,” she said with a laugh. She worked as an engineer for about five years, and when she was given the choice of working on the technology side or the business side, she chose business. “I loved running the business, growing the P&L,” she said.
She spent the next two decades moving back and forth between strategy and P&L jobs at Chevron and developed a fascination with the Northern California gasoline market. “In 1999, we had the opportunity to really transform and reinvent the business model through the internet,” she recalled. The dot-com era was in full swing, and Reyda took on a special assignment to build a team that launched the first internet portal for franchises to purchase gasoline. “It was the first in the industry and it was very successful. Our franchisees loved it.”
“We had a vision to expand the operating model to take on the whole supply chain to convenience retailers. So Chevron spun it out and we raised 45 million dollars from supply chain partners in the fuel and convenience retailing sector,” she said. “It was exciting and fun, but it was dependent on the internet boom. Business slowed when the bubble popped, so we decided to wind down the investment and move onto other things.”
Portal technology is still in use today by the majority of the industry, Reyda explained. She returned to Chevron and helped navigate the second phase of the Chevron-Texaco merger, and the global operating model.
“At the end of that, I was so excited about transformational change that I wanted to redirect my career away from traditional P&L to change management.”
She left the company and took a role in change management at GAP Inc. as Vice President of Strategic Change. “I worked with senior leadership to come up with a turnaround plan and help implement it. It was very challenging,” she said. After two and a half years, the new leadership team all left the company, and Reyda left at the same time and entered boutique consulting.
“I had one client,” she said. “The brand new CIO at Lehman Brothers.”
Career of Change
“After a year helping the new CIO develop Lehman’s global technology strategy, the team invited me to join the bank as the global COO of technology to help implement the strategy we had developed. Steve and I got an apartment in Midtown Manhattan and joined Lehman Brothers.”
Reyda was thrilled about the new role, but, she continued, “Two months later, we had that fateful call with the analysts.”
She went from working to implement a new strategy, to looking for ways to sell the company, to working to set up a transition services business that would handle the technology services to the Lehman Estate through the bankruptcy.
“I think the work with Lehman Brothers through the crisis is what I’m most proud of in my career so far,” Reyda said. “It was a real call to leadership for everybody on the team. And the camaraderie and innovation born of that sense of urgency was really phenomenal.”
When the transition wound up, she had the opportunity to stay with Barclays or go to Goldman Sachs. She chose Goldman, where her role was to build a plan for a strategic infrastructure at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
“It was a great experience. I met fantastic people and I genuinely respect and admire my boss there. But GS was slower to plan and implement the vision than I had hoped,” she explained. So she took a position at Deutsche Bank, and in January, she became the COO of Business Solutions for Global Technology. She handles strategy, architecture, investment planning and delivery.
“I was just recently appointed to the Global Technology Executive Committee, driving operational effectiveness in how we run the technology business globally,” she said. “Here at Deutsche Bank, we are doing phenomenal things to deliver technology in new ways. We are building new camaraderie based on the CEO’s challenge to deliver change. And we’re poised to succeed.”
One of the changes Reyda is excited about is the move away from siloed technology organizations. “I think the whole financial services business grew up with unique technology investments in individual silos. Now we’re transforming, restructuring, and changing our cost base. We’re rebalancing and there’s a need to see how it fits into the entire business of the bank, where we can have a low cost structure as well as a high control environment.”
“It really parallels the changes we dealt with early in my career in the oil and gas industry in the ‘80s,” she added.
Women in Technology
Reyda says she prefers not to focus on the challenges associated with being a women in technology. “You’re asking someone who, in the first month on the job, walked out on an oil field that had never seen a woman. I had a hard hat handed to me that had ‘Princess’ on the front.”
“I find thinking about the challenges for women is an unnecessary distraction for the diversity of mind, and the willingness to take chances that affect change. I try not to focus on that,” she continued. “I definitely have had experiences over the course of a 32 year career where people were closed minded. But I find that when you put your nose to the grindstone and really deliver, you are able to earn their respect.”
She advised junior women beginning their careers to develop a long-term vision for what they would like to achieve. “Think about what you want to be as a leader and what kind of integrity you want to bring to the game. Think about what you want to be a part of and what values are important to you.”
“And be really adventurous about the path that will bring you to that vision,” she said. “I never thought I’d be a COO on Wall Street. But I always said that I wanted to be a leader, running a business with my finger on the pulse of what it takes to run a company well. And now I’m exactly in the sweet spot of what I’ve always wanted to do.”
She added, “Be more interested in the experience and the pursuit of what you want to be as a person and a professional, and be less prescriptive on the steps you need to take to get there.”
In her Personal Time
Reyda and her husband have raised two boys, now 25 and 22. “They just have a joy of life and they’ve grown up to be fantastic young men,” she said. “I’ve lived through all of the challenges of raising kids in an area that was not supported by the business. But I brought my heart and soul to being a mom, and my kids say that’s an inspiration to them.”
She continued, “Being a mom doesn’t mean you have to stay home – although that’s the right choice for some people. But you can be successful if you do both.”