Voice of Experience: Diane Reyes, Managing Director, Global Payments Head, Global Transaction Services, Citi

DianeReyesBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

Having been named to either US Banker’s 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking or its 25 Women to Watch lists for the last four years, Diane S. Reyes, Global Payments Head for Citi’s Global Transaction Services, is certainly a woman to admire. And she has plenty of good advice for rising female business leaders. For example, Reyes said it’s important to apply for jobs that may be a stretch, “even if you’re not 100% qualified,” she said.

Reyes explained, “Interviewing hones your skills – and you may not get the first job, but maybe the second or third. Every couple of years, try to interview for the next opportunity.”

She said women need to work hard to display their strategic value. “Make sure you’re perceived as strategic, rather than trying to solve everything yourself. There is a difference between delegating and executing. You have to be able to articulate the long-term strategy to your team and delegate the execution to them.”

Building a Career in Banking

Reyes grew up in the Philippines – and speaks the local Tagalog language, in fact. She moved to the US during her first year of college. After graduating, she briefly worked in a computer service bureau near her home, and then transferred to the Case Western Reserve University, attending its night MBA program while working at a regional bank. After receiving her MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, Reyes took a job at Mellon Bank, an institution well known for its cash management services. Other than 5 years in the Debt and Equity Services business, Reyes said, “I am still in the cash management business today, believe it or not.”

“I ended up staying in the business, and moved to New York,” Reyes continued. Through various mergers and acquisitions, Reyes found herself at JP Morgan Chase, serving as Global Payables Solutions Business Executive and previously as Middle Market Product and Sales Executive. “It takes a lot to go through these integrations – you learn a lot of interesting things,” she explained.

Through the mergers, Reyes said, she worked hard to retain her clients and team members, explaining that she sees both types of retention as an indicator of excellent service and trust. Then a new opportunity arose.

“After many years at JP Morgan, I got a call from Citi,” she said. “I was really intrigued at the global reach of the company. And now I’ve been there for 10 years, going on my 11th.”

Evolution of the Global Payment Business

As Global Payments Head for Citi’s Global Transaction Services, Reyes has a keen understanding of the sector. She said, “The payments business is at a pivotal point in its evolution.”

She explained, “Payment alternatives like the mobile space are providing endless opportunities for us to expand our services – in both the consumer and corporate client spaces.”

Additionally, she said, the ever-increasing pace of innovation in the financial marketplace presents an exciting challenge for banks. “The critical success factor going forward is partnerships. In the past, businesses could be successful doing everything in house. But now the market is moving so quickly, we have to partner, allowing each side to provide its core competency and drive more value add than if they went it alone.”

And, she added, “Of course everyone is paying attention to the regulatory environment – focusing on both cost and compliance issues.”

Professional Achievements

Reyes said she has had several notable achievements throughout her career, but looking back, her proudest achievement came from completing a high-stakes project she worked on with her team for years, which advanced the bank’s service offerings and capabilities. She explained, “When I managed the GTS Global Sales team for Cash and Trade, I worked on a number of very large client transactions – and we received one of the biggest public sector mandates ever awarded.”

She explained, “It had two legs – first, we had to become a qualified provider, one of three or four certified providers and that took a year. And second, agencies had the option to choose from the three or four certified providers – so basically, we had to start the whole sales process all over again with individual agencies.”

She continued, “Some of the smaller agencies awarded business earlier than the others and we weren’t winning them, and we began to wonder why – we had worked so hard to get everything right.” Then, she said, “Lo and behold, we got a call from the largest agency, the Department of Defense, and we were awarded their contract.”

“We were invited to Washington to meet the dignitaries and take photographs, and had to sign the contract with 4 pens,” she remembered. “And I realized – we got this right.”

“We had made investments in hiring and expanding our capabilities – we had even opened up a new physical facility. We listened very well and I’m very proud of that,” said Reyes.

Moving forward, Reyes said, “In the years ahead, I’d still like to be with Citi. There is a lot of robust opportunity here. I’d like to take on a much broader P&L responsibility – and would like to grow to lead a multi-brand product set.”

Advice for Women in Banking

“One of the challenges I see women facing is stereotypes – that we’re too emotional, that we have to learn how to move past things,” said Reyes.

She continued, “But I think one thing we can work on is learning to talk in sound bites – not to go on too long. What’s your elevator pitch? Women need to learn to adjust their communication style to the receiver.”

She said earlier in her career she had gotten advice that continues to be valuable. She explained, “It’s something I have to try to remind myself of – if something goes wrong, or you had a rough day, under the circumstances it might seem like a really big disappointment. But let that go, and come back the next day. It doesn’t look quite so bad the next day.”

“Always remind yourself, it wasn’t personal,” she added.

No matter how good you are at your job, people remember emotional outbursts, Reyes explained. Tactically, she said, “When things are difficult or you are upset, don’t send emails in the moment. Maintain your composure and give it time, if you can.”

For young women beginning their career, Reyes said, “My advice is to volunteer for projects initially, that are outside their day job, and outside their comfort zone. You’ll learn along the way – and get a lot of credit for taking the initiative.”

Reyes also emphasized the importance of building a network. One of the benefits, she said, is learning how to apply for the next opportunity. She explained, “Get an extra hand and learn what they’re looking for and what qualities to stress when you put your resume together.”

For several years, Reyes has also co-chaired (and this year tri-chairs) the Women’s Council of Citi’s Institutional Clients Group. She explained that the group works to expand diversity in the business and provides leadership and development training for high-performing women.

She advised women to try to take advantage of programs and offerings provided by their company. She continued, “At Citi, there are a lot of programs available – it starts with small things. For example, we have childcare centers on the premises of all major facilities.”

Regarding work and family she said, “I do think work/life balance exists – and I have four children. I don’t believe in a mathematical formula. Over the long run, there is a balance and it changes every day or every week. It’s best to prepare in advance.”

She continued, “When I was younger, I saw people going home to help their kids with homework – and I never understood until I had my own children. It can be scary when you’re younger, but you get through it,” she said with a laugh.

Outside work, Reyes has recently gotten involved with a New York City non-profit institution called Streetwise Partners, an organization that works to develop talent in low-income women and men in New York City. She explained, “The organization teaches them how to interview, compete for a position, and write a resume. It teaches them how to operate in the workforce – actually it’s a lot like Citi’s Developing Talent program.”

Additionally, Reyes, who has three daughters and one son, said she spends a lot of time at her children’s athletic events. “They have been and continue to compete at very high levels, whether it is on Premier teams or in the NCAA. I’ve traveled all over the United States to support them – you only have that opportunity once,” she said.