By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
According to Gabriela Franco Parcella, CEO of Mellon Capital Management Corporation, it’s important to keep an open mind when thinking about where your career might take you. Looking back on her early career, she said, “I could have had more impact on a company in my first 5 years by thinking more broadly.”
“We put ourselves in boxes. I thought of myself as a lawyer and I thought I would always be a lawyer. It took a while before I realized I could use my lawyer skills in other roles.”
After moving from Mellon Capital’s legal department to roles in operations, and gradually gaining more responsibilities, Parcella was named CEO of Mellon Capital last year. She encouraged young women to keep their minds open to various career paths.
Parcella went to college at the University of Texas at Austin and then went on to law school at Stanford. She began her career at the San Francisco law firm Orrick as a tax attorney. Eventually she got a call from Mellon Capital, and was asked if she would be interested in joining the firm’s legal department.
She took the opportunity and moved to Mellon Capital in 1997, and over time her role continued to broaden. “I moved from junior lawyer, to general counsel, and then I decided to move out of legal and join the business side.” Parcella became COO in 2008, and last year, she was named CEO of Mellon Capital.
“Becoming CEO was huge and I’m very proud of that. I didn’t take a traditional path, moving from the financial services regulatory side to CEO. But maybe this will become more common in the future given the increased need to deal with complex regulations,” she explained.
Parcella was also proud of her work in structuring Mellon Capital’s alternative platform. “It’s been up for ten years now,” she said.
Currently, she is excited about the firm’s global expansion. “We have a large operations team in Pune, India that started up seven years ago. Now our next phase is opening trading in Hong Kong and adding investment strategy expertise in London and Hong Kong. It’s exciting to see the firm expand its reach.”
She also commented on the unpredictability of the markets. “We’re in a difficult market, with a lot of volatility and uncertainty.”
She continued, “It’s difficult for clients to make decisions on how they want to be positioned. In this environment, clients are seeing the value of investment managers who can invest across multiple asset classes.”
That’s why, Parcella says, Mellon Capital’s global macro approach is generating a lot of interest. “Mellon Capital has been working closely with its clients on multi-asset strategies for nearly 30 years. We utilize a fundamentals-based, systematic approach to our strategies. Multi-dimensional risk management is integrated into our models and our portfolio managers vigilantly monitor real-time macro and market risks.”
Women in Financial Services
Parcella believes that the challenges faced by women in the financial services are not unique to the industry. “Women in every field still have challenges. For example, some may be working full time while raising a family and others may be taking care of their aging parents. In my experience and my friends’ experience, women are usually primary caregivers.”
She added, “My husband is really supportive, but the most of the responsibility for managing our day to day household still falls on me – homework, bill paying, back to school shopping, et cetera.”
“Many women have additional responsibilities outside the workplace – you have to get it all done. It’s an extra challenge” she continued, “but I want to do both. I love my job and enjoy managing the household.”
Parcella said she was pleased that women are gaining seniority in the industry. “There are more and more women in senior roles and that’s exciting to see,” she said. “There are three female CEOs in BNY Mellon’s boutique structure. The opportunities are there.”
Advice for Professional Women
Parcella said her advice for young people applies to both women and men. “First, have intellectual curiosity. People who succeed and move forward in their careers are the ones who are curious and question the status quo.”
She continued, “Second, have a willingness to take some risks. This is hard for junior people to do, but for growth, people need to move out of their comfort zone.”
Finally, she said, develop your communication abilities. “Be able to communicate both by writing and speaking. It is so important in work and life to be able to write a good letter or email. Being able to communicate clearly and lay out a plan for your thoughts and ideas will help you succeed over those who have a hard time communicating.”
She advised more senior women to get involved with efforts to attract more women to the financial services industry. “I think we can all help the cause!” she said. “Every now and then extend an invitation to a younger woman to whatever you’re doing – a meeting, golf outing, or an offsite.”
“As you get more senior, you are able to decide who is in the room. If we want to change the dynamic, it’s up to us to broaden the invite list,” she explained. “You can just say, ‘I’d like so-and-so to join us.’ Now you’re not the only woman in the room, which is nice, and you’re also giving someone else the opportunity to observe, learn, and gain confidence.”
Women at BNY Mellon
As CEO of Mellon Capital, a subsidiary of BNY Mellon, Parcella is a member of BNY Mellon’s Diversity Council. Through her participation she learned about BNY Mellon’s women’s network- WIN. Because San Francisco does not have as broad an employee base for BNY Mellon as cities like London or New York, the network hadn’t been implemented there yet.
“I started a WIN chapter in San Francisco for all of the Bay Area employees.” She continued, “And the network continues to flourish. We are able to leverage video technology to dial into some of the programs that are offered around the world.”
In Her Personal Time
Parcella noted that she has been married for eleven years and has two sons, aged five and seven. “My family is the most important part of my life,” she said. “I’m on the Board of Trustees for the boys’ school. That is a way I can stay involved even though I’m not able to drop them off or pick them up.”
She also just joined the Board of Meals on Wheels in San Francisco. “It’s an amazing organization. Two years ago, we decided that Meals on Wheels would be Mellon Capital’s charity of choice for the Bay Area. We thought that if we focused on one organization we could make a big impact.”
Parcella said she feels personally invested in the organization as well. “I’ve now lived in San Francisco for a long time. I want to help others in the community and help ensure that Meals on Wheels is able to continue to meet the needs of our aging population.”
She also enjoys playing golf. “I’d love to play more often – I can’t wait until my kids are old enough so I can get out there with them!”
Finally, Parcella mentioned her involvement with ALPFA. “It’s important to me – my whole family is still in Mexico with the exception of my parents and siblings. I’m trying to help with the Latin American community- especially women.”