My "Risk Taking" Led to My Progress
By Ana Maria Fernandez, CCO, Citibank Nicaragua March 05, 2015 10:30 AM
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Ana Maria Fernandez, CCO, Citibank Nicaragua, shares her story about the defining characteristic that led to her progress.
For the past two years I’ve served as Chief Country Officer for Citi Nicaragua, overseeing Citi’s $52 million Central American operation. Getting to this point in my career would not have been possible if I did not accept steep challenges – and the risk of failure.
I started with the company in 2001 as a Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) product manager in Venezuela, which was undergoing a very challenging regulatory overhaul, where changes were happening every single week. In 2003, we faced a FX control that made us to design and implement a very complex Citi FX customer solution on an extremely tight two-week deadline.
This was a critical project, one that changed the way customers conducted business with the bank and in the country. Timing and accuracy were critical. Despite these enormous pressures, and being in the early stages of my career, I accepted the challenge of heading the TTS Product team. Ultimately, the project was delivered, and was a win for Citi and our large customer base. Personally, taking the risk to oversee important and high-pressure projects like this one accelerated my knowledge base and network with Citi relationship managers and the back-office teams. These developments were critical to my first career change, to head of Operations and Technology, which had bank-wide reach, and presented many new challenges for me.
I never thought twice about accepting the role. I knew I had to take on this challenge in order to move my career to the next level.
At the time, huge regulatory changes continued in Venezuela: currency conversion, new transactional taxes for our customers, a time zone change and implementation of the chip credit card platform. Each and every one of these tests were successfully managed by my team. Facing all these challenges in just two years helped me learn so much about the consumer side of the industry that in 2008 I was promoted to lead Citi’s Global Consumer Banking Product unit.
This position also came with challenges. At the time product growth was severely affected by a regulatory cap on consumer portfolios, but that led us to seek out opportunities to increase profits through managing expenses and credit costs.
Every step of my career has come with steep risks, and many successes. By accepting all these challenges, and learning so much at every stage, I eventually came to lead Citi’s franchise in Nicaragua, a position I have held since late 2012. Here, I continue to learn how to build a profitable unit while managing cultural changes, and ensuring compliance with Citi control standards and local regulation. I am in charge of a great team and together we look forward to seeing what the future brings.