Voice of Experience: Elyse Lesley, U.S. Consumer Partnerships and Franchise Development, Citi

Elyse LesleyAdvocacy matters, says Citi’s Elyse Lesley.

“When I started, I placed more of a premium on what I did than the people I worked for, but I have realized throughout my career that ultimately advocacy is the magic that will get you to the places you want to be,” she says. “Your advocates may tell you things you don’t want to hear, but those moments will help you get out of your comfort zone and take the chances that allow you to learn and grow. Those are the people you need in closed door forums, pounding the table for you before others even know who you are.”

A Career Path Built On Diverse Experiences

After graduate school Lesley went into consulting, which she found to be an unmatched experience; as she notes, there aren’t many jobs where you get to experience such a diversified slate of issues and companies and actually sit at leadership tables. “When I worked as a consultant, it was almost as though I was earning a second graduate degree. I learned how to deconstruct problems and talk confidently with professionals who were a decade or two older than I was,” she says.

While she believes it’s a top way to broaden your skillsets, she eventually decided to leave consulting and focus on a career in financial services. Lesley was looking for an opportunity that would allow her to do interesting consumer-facing work while also providing a platform to build out a long-term career.

Over the years she has worn many different hats and taken on varying responsibilities charting overall strategy; helping develop a retail business; offering insight into segment value propositions; building and deploying new product solutions; amplifying the company’s voice in the marketplace; and improving the end-to-end client experience.

“I have led a diverse set of functions over time while remaining close to the consumer, which has been fascinating and rewarding,” Lesley says. She has been with Citi for eight years in various roles and in October took on a new role leading partnerships and franchise strategies at Citi’s US Consumer Bank.

“I really appreciate that the role I have allows me to think about growth and the continued transformation of our industry,” she says.

As clients become more comfortable with opening an account and servicing it online, Lesley is currently spearheading efforts on how to scale the franchise through digital channels. She is also exploring ways for Citi to continue to build deeper relationships with its clients by leveraging data to provide personalized services and offerings that clients are looking for.

“Banking is an exciting industry especially as physical and digital continue to converge and how banks evolve to make a difference in clients’ lives and reward their loyalty. We are helping to create new product and distribution solutions that allow Citi to scale and encourage our clients to have a lifelong relationship with Citi,” she says.

An Attitude of Mentoring

When considering all of her various contributions over the years, the work Lesley is most proud of is seeing the individuals whom she has mentored subsequently achieve their professional goals. “I take intense pride in the people I have worked with over my career who are now in impressive roles. It feels good to have been part of a chapter in their career that got them to that point,” she says. “I am deeply invested in helping the people I hire and working with them to achieve their aspirations.”

Lesley sees that one of the biggest challenges in the financial services industry as a whole continues to be representation. “We need to have more women at senior levels of organizations in every industry to ultimately build the gender balance we need,” she says. “While we are making progress in financial services broadly, it is slower than I would ideally like to see.”

Lesley is a proud member of Citi Women, a community of female employees at all levels working to help one another through skill-building and advice sharing. Besides encouraging internal networking, it also includes elements of training and leadership development that allows women to hone their self-advocacy skills. “I believe the knowledge we are imparting here will translate into positive outcomes for years to come,” she says.

Lesley offers several pieces of advice for women, most importantly to know what’s really important in a day, week, month or year and stack their time accordingly. “You get credit for transformative wins, but the little tasks can crowd that out. Know what matters and make that your focus.”

With three daughters and a son between the ages of 11 and three—Lesley says her current hobby is her family. “I choose to do two things well: to make a difference at Citi and achieve my career aspirations and to raise some really good human beings. For now with four young children, that’s my version of balance.”