In October, Linda Duncombe the Managing Director, Head of Growth & Chief Marketing Officer Citi FinTech, Citi (NYC, USA) participated as the opening Keynote speaker, at RFi Group’s Global Digital Banking Summit – AU Edition.
Following the session, we had a chance to sit down and discuss her career and advice she would pass on to others in the industry – this is what she said…
"My driving force is my passion to be part of something bigger and make a difference in people's lives. I aspire to make the most of my life and do my best everyday."
How did you get where you are today and what, or who, has been your greatest influence in business?
My parents were incredibly supportive and always encouraged me to go after what I wanted. Even when I doubted myself, my parents were my “true north.” Their support has never wavered and the wonderful things I have done personally and professionally started with a belief that my parents instilled in me - “Anything is possible if you believe and work hard enough for it."
From a specific business perspective, I have been very fortunate to have worked with incredible people who are unfailingly generous in sharing their learnings, knowledge and own experiences. Some of these people were executives like George Frazis, Roy Gori and I am very fortunate today to work for an incredible leader at Citi FinTech, Yolande Piazza. I would also be remiss not to acknowledge my team in Australia - Belinda Craig and David Newton.
What is the driving force behind your career goals/ aspirations?
My driving force is my passion to be part of something bigger and make a difference in people’s lives. I aspire to make the most of my life and do my best every day. To put this into practice, I take time each evening to reflect on what I did well, so I can replicate it, and what I could have done better, so I can improve tomorrow. At Citi, I’ve been incredibly lucky to lead a team that is driving the bank to be forward-compatible and mobile-first.
Have you ever made a business decision you’ve regretted and can you share it? And, what would you say is your greatest professional achievement to date?
I would say that my greatest professional achievements have been the opportunities I’ve had at Citi across roles and regions, for which I am truly grateful. I led a team at Citi Australia that was some of the most talented people I have ever had the privilege to work with. While I’m based in New York now and loving it, I confess that I almost let this opportunity slip through my fingers, which would have been a major regret. I would have missed the chance to try something new, take on bigger challenges and drive meaningful change with another group of talented people. I believe everything happens for a reason and to be a senior member of our Citi FinTech Leadership team was absolutely the right move. I never want to think “what if ."
"I believe everything happens for a reason
and to be a senior member of our Citi FinTech Leadership team was absolutely the right move. I never want to think “what if.”"
How do you achieve a work / life balance and what activities do you participate in outside of your working life, that you see contributing to your business success?
I always wonder what people mean when they ask about “work/life” balance. I love my work and it is very much part of my life. This phrase means so many different things based on the (individual) person. For me, I run every morning and it’s a meditative experience. I run in Central Park or on the East River - just me and my thoughts - and I find it’s the best way for me to start the day. It’s important for me to let my mind wander, and to make the most of that critical time at the beginning of each day.
In my role at Citi Australia, I was one of the driving forces behind our businesses deep connection with dining because that’s another passion of mine. I was so excited to see the overlap between my own interests and a business opportunity, and to be part of an investment that connected those to benefit our customers. My passion for dining has thrived in New York, where I have met wonderful people through work and we are all foodies who enjoy great food and good wine. Whether that’s at a little local restaurant or a three Michelin star restaurant - the most important thing is the people you share that experience with. I am also really lucky my job allows me to travel and I have seen places I may have not ever been able to see if I didn’t work at Citi.
I’m often told I bring a great energy to the office, because I’m a happy person. That zest for life comes to me naturally on the job and away from it. I genuinely believe this is because I make the most of every day whether I am at work, with family or friends or on my daily solo run.
Do you mentor others? And, what have you learnt in the process?
"So many of us often have problems, that we worry are unique to us, but so often they’re shared challenges and common experiences. I want to help people understand that a challenge might be more common than they think, and to help them not feel isolated."
I enjoy acting as mentor and actively look for people to help develop their careers. I want to help others and share what I’ve learned. I always find that I learn a lot from these relationships as well. So many of us often have problems, that we worry are unique to us, but so often they’re shared challenges and common experiences. I want to help people understand that a challenge might be more common than they think, and to help them not feel isolated.
As a member of the leadership team, I sometimes forget how much it can mean to a junior team member when I dedicate time to share my experiences or listen to their ideas. I recognise that it means so much and takes so little of me to do this. I try to never forget how I felt earlier in my career and the impact it had when a senior executive spent time with me, as compared to someone who never paid much attention to junior staff. I always want to be the person that took time to spend with the broader team.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace and what do you see as the biggest challenge for future generations of business women?
I would advise to always stay true to yourself. I’ve always tried to be open, sharing and positive. It’s been in my nature since I was a child, and I don’t try to change when I’m at work. If you feel you have to put on a different persona at work, there is something wrong.
Focus on building strong networks within and outside of the company you work for now. Try to meet people who are diverse and reflect the broader community. Knowing people that may reflect your customer base can help you be better informed and do your best work.
"I don’t try to change
when I’m at work.
If you feel you have to put on a different persona at work, there is something wrong"
Also, don’t be afraid to speak up; whether it is to give yourself a new opportunity or escalating a behavior that sends a red flag. Don’t suffer in silence or miss an opportunity, because you didn’t use your voice.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received as a woman in a leadership role that you would pass on to others hoping to get there?
"When I was leaving Australia, I was told that the qualities that made me ‘Linda’ are what drove the success and respect of my team. Hearing that was very gratifying.
The advice I would pass on to women would be - please be yourself."
When I was leaving Australia to move to New York, David Newton, who heads Digital for Citi Australia, sat me down and said, “You inspired a revolution in Citi Australia. You were given a role that was incredibly tough and you not only got what needed to get done, you went above and beyond. For that, you are now going to realise your dream and work in New York. Don’t change your energy and natural joy for life. These are qualities that will create a groundswell and allow you to drive change at a level we need globally.”
Basically, he was telling me that the qualities that made me ‘Linda’ are what drove the success and respect of my team. Hearing that was very gratifying.
The advice I would pass on to women would be - please be yourself. It’s not rocket science but it’s so important and can require constant attention when you are thrown into situations that are new and you want to fit in. Just be true to yourself.
To read the full WIL series and all past Australian Retail Banker editions, feel free to visit the archive centre on our website or follow @RFiMediaGRB on Twitter.