Featured Profile: Nadia Schiavon
When opportunity knocks
Nadia Schiavon is head of securities services at Australia's largest custodian. She spoke to Kanika Sood about the importance of saying yes to opportunities, keeping colleagues close and the value of a good boss.

J. P. Morgan head of securities services, Australia and New Zealand Nadia Schiavon likes to be prepared.

Her notes are neatly typed and printed out.

I came back to a very changed organisation. I had worked hard, had a reputation and a brand but I had to re-establish myself.
"It's not that I don't know my own history. It's just to make sure that we really stay on point," she laughs.

J.P. Morgan is the largest custodian in Australia, with a 22% slice of the total $3.58 trillion assets in custody in the country. It holds prize contracts for some of the biggest asset pools in the country.

Schiavon is a first-generation Australian, born to Italian parents. Her father worked for an Italian steel fabrication company and as a child, she attended the all-girls Our Lady of Mercy College in Sydney.

"I had a very Italian upbringing. Everyone who worked at my father's workplace was Italian, I went to Italian family dances, Italian church and to Italian school," she says.

"All the people had the same background, it was all about coming to Australia to make a better life for yourself. Willing to work hard was very important, bettering yourself and also family - those are really my core values."

On finishing school, she went to the University of Sydney and majored in accounting, also studying law and statistics.

At the end, she joined Touche Ross (now a part of Deloitte), in an audit team.

"It was a phenomenal experience. You had to have a lot of discipline, you visited different clients, you had to account for what you did and how many hours you worked. Your work papers were reviewed, you were provided feedback by the manager and if you were good, you were allocated to more jobs and if you were not, you were idle," she says.

After six years, she decided it was time for a change. It was 1987 and Citi had a small institutional banking business in Australia. Schiavon applied through an agency, went to the interviews but didn't make the first cut.

Four weeks later Citi called her, saying the person they had picked over her didn't turn up and the job was hers if she wanted it.

"I thought I really want this but my pride - you know, like second fiddle - but I thought I am going to take the job and prove to them I should have been the first choice," she remembers.

She started off preparing financial statements for the institutional bank. A few years later, Citi appointed an American executive as chief financial officer of its Australian institutional bank and she asked Schiavon to manage the financial reporting team preparing the monthly results.

From there, she moved on to management reporting for the institutional bank which was more detailed, with data from clients, segments and budgeting.

During this time she had her first child and took four months off work. Fourteen months later, her second child came along. At the time there was no maternity leave and female employees used annual leave, sick leave and unpaid leave.

"It didn't affect my career because I didn't take much time off but the firm was supportive and although they didn't have paid maternity leave, they wanted me to come back and I wanted to come back," she says.

There was also an element of fortune.

"During the time the chief executive and chief financial officer, who had been my key sponsors and advocates, left the company. So I came back to a very changed organisation. I had worked hard, had a reputation and a brand but I had to re-establish myself," she says.

"They had a new chief executive coming from the States, Bill Ferguson. And the poor man had no real handover because everyone had left."

Ferguson never went into a meeting unprepared and it fell on Schiavon to pull up the numbers - by client, segment and product, going back years - which she worked into the night to deliver. He wanted to build out a transaction banking business.

"He had really good people who were good at selling but he needed someone who could execute the implementation and client services," Schiavon says.

"I still remember to this day, him looking over his glasses as he's got his chart on how we planned to have it and he says, 'So Nadia, who do you think should do this job?'

"And I said, 'I should'," she recalls with conviction. "And he said, 'That's right'."

It was a new role for Schiavon, but she learned to tap into the knowledge of people who had different skill sets and understanding of what needed to be fixed. She remains friends with some of those same people.

From here, Citi gave her the opportunity to manage sales and product.

At the time, Shayne Elliott, now chief executive of ANZ, returned to Australia after working abroad as the new chief executive of Citi's Australian institutional bank, replacing Ferguson with whom Schiavon had enjoyed a great working relationship.

"The week he started, the operations head resigned and he said to me, 'I've heard you could potentially do this job, so you should apply for this' and he remembers that still, to have given a female employee a great opportunity," Schiavon says.

She took over loans, cash, trades and for the first time, custody operations in 2002, reporting to Elliott.

"Shayne took a risk when he gave me that job and ensured I didn't fail. If I look at Bill and Shayne, Shayne knew the business but he also empowered people. He's a leader close to his people and a very quick decision maker and I had to learn that. I still look up to him," she says.

Citi consolidated with Salomon Smith Barney and the chief operating officer of the latter suggested the country head bring together its operations with the Citi institutional bank and Schiavon headed the combined operations. Shortly after, her role expanded again.

"I never said, 'What level is that?' as long as I was treated with dignity and provided the opportunities, I took that. But I also had an agenda, I wanted to stay in Australia, close to my family."

A year later, Schiavon was given the choice of becoming chief financial officer or head of operations and technology, which now included the institutional and retail bank. She chose the latter.

Three years later, she could no longer see opportunities at Citi and, after 23 years, she put her feelers out for a new role.

A former colleague was now at J.P. Morgan, which was the largest USD clearer and looking to grow its corporate side.

Schiavon was given the opportunity to head the product treasury services for ANZ, a role which expanded to the ASEAN region, and eventually grew to the role she has now as head of ANZ securities services.

Schiavon attributes J.P. Morgan success to three factors: investing in technology, a focus on client needs and developing people.

About six people from the Citi treasury services days called her when they found out about her move and also joined J.P. Morgan.

"I guess the lesson is if you work with people and you have a good rapport, people want to work with you," she says.

"They know you've got their back." fs

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