“There are so many possibilities to seize opportunities, rather than waiting for them to come to you,” she says, encouraging women to be open about what they want to achieve and finding advocates to help with those aspirations.
“You have to put your voice in the room,” she adds. “Sometimes women hedge, but your opinions matter and people need to hear them.”
Climbing the Ranks as a Lifelong Banker
Mercaldo began her career in retail banking as a Customer Service Representative while in college. She loved helping people with their banking needs and after graduating she entered a branch banking management program and started her career with Meridian Bank in her native Philadelphia. Throughout her career, it’s been the mix of meaningful experiences with customers and her teams that has fueled her inspiration.
In her 30-year career, she’s been through three bank mergers and four acquisitions; been a small business banking leader, retail banking director and division manager. She also spent eight years in retail bank sales and strategy. Currently based in Chicago, Mercaldo was promoted this summer to oversee Citibank’s entire US branch network. It’s an honor to assist in the retail bank’s transformation and to lead such a dynamic team, she says.
Mercaldo finds that developing her team motivates and inspires her, and reminds her of those who invested in her along the way.
A breast cancer survivor, Mercaldo took time off when she was diagnosed and was gratified to have someone who could easily step into her shoes. “When you invest in people, it helps them as individuals and also elevates the entire team,” she says, citing one of the transformational lessons she learned from the book Boys in the Boat, the true story about nine-working class rowers from Depression-era Washington state who overcame steep odds to win gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
“I really believe in the idea of surrounding yourself with great people,” she says, adding that it’s a rewarding experience on both a personal and professional level to be part of their development and success. “I am so proud when someone I’ve worked with reaches a major career goal or milestone; it makes me think about a small part I might have played in their advancement and those moments when I was able to be part of their journey.”
That has helped reinforce the importance of partnership and collaboration with others, and led her to realize that it’s not just working hard that gets you to the next job. “There are so many interdependencies in our work, because we all touch the customer in some way and have to work comprehensively,” Mercaldo says. “I learned along the way that bringing others into the conversation creates a better work environment and outcomes,” she says, noting that Citi’s culture encourages teamwork that enables economic growth and progress.
Currently she is excited about the work the bank is doing to help meet customer banking needs in the future and how the organization is responding by transforming to help make their lives better.
“Client needs are complex; despite the growth of digital capabilities, they still want trusted, personalized advice from their banker and often turn to a human to help them make critical decisions,” she says adding that the concept of marrying those two components is exciting. “The secret of change is to focus all your energy on building the new rather than fighting the old,” she says, quoting the author Dan Millman.
Mentoring as a Way Of Life
In addition to the work she does with her team, Mercaldo has been an active mentor in Citi’s Chicago Women’s Network. She also serves on the steering committee for the Asian Heritage Network, a group that helps promote a culture of diversity and inclusion within Citi. “As a leader, it’s important to be involved in these affinity networks and broaden our sense of inclusion,” she says. She has also found Citi’s Leadership Development programs to be a rewarding experience focused on creating environments for women to grow their leadership experiences. “Women mentor and care about the advancement of other women; we have a culture of supporting other women in their career goals and objectives,” she says.
When it comes to family, Mercaldo shares that her 14-year-old daughter is an expert at evaluating customer service after growing up listening to her stories. When she’s not at the ice rink with her husband cheering on their daughter, Mercaldo and her family also love to travel, cook and enjoy water sports.