By Shelley White
Enid Pico has never been afraid to make a big career move.
In 2010, she made the leap from a top job in her home country as President and Chief Operating Officer of Scotiabank Puerto Rico to a challenging new role 3,000 km away in Toronto.
“It was a big risk and looking back, I totally underestimated the degree of change,” says Enid, Senior Vice President and Head of International Operations and Shared Services at Scotiabank. “Coming to Toronto, it was a different culture, work environment, and climate. I arrived in October and was so excited to be here. On the first day, I remember looking out my window and seeing snow. I didn’t have a coat or boots. The only things I had were high heels and dresses, but one learns fast!”
Despite the drastic change in climate, Enid thrived in her new environment.
“At that point, my attitude was, ‘I’m going to succeed no matter what’. So every time anything came up, I’d say, ‘I don’t care, I’m going forward,’” she says.
Now, Enid oversees critical operational and compliance risk management for all of Scotiabank’s international retail and commercial operations, which serve 13 million customers in over 30 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean and Central America.
“I come from a pretty remote area of Puerto Rico, the western part of the island, two hours away from the capital, so for me to even move to the capital to work in banking was a big thing,” she says. “I never dreamed that I would be in Toronto and looking after the international operations of Scotiabank.”
Enid’s journey to success started as a sports-crazy kid in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Growing up with an art teacher mother and a university professor father, education was a focus. “In my family, you could go without a lot of things, but not without an education,” she says.
Her grandmother was a major role model.
“Like in a lot of Caribbean or Latin American countries, she was the matriarch of the family so she taught me the meaning of family, how important it is to be connected,” says Enid. “Also that things don’t always go the way you want them to, but you have to be strong enough to accept it and make the best out of it.”
Outside of her family members, Enid says she looked up to powerful figures like U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher and basketball star Michael Jordan. “How [Jordan] alone could make a difference in a game, it was so incredible, and also to see that he took on all that responsibility. He was accountable for it, but also he had a way of making everybody around him be better.”
Though she had an early dream of sportscasting (“There was no ESPN at the time, so I had no career path,” she laughs), her love of numbers led her to pursue an accounting degree. Enid joined Scotiabank Puerto Rico when a job in the finance department opened up.
She recalls her early days as a working mom, when she had to learn how to combine caregiving with a demanding job as Vice President of Finance.
“I remember saying, ‘How am I going to balance everything?’, because a lot of the meetings were at 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. and I had to go pick my son up [at school] at 5:15 p.m.,” says Enid. “I remember at that point [my superiors] saying, ‘Enid, don’t worry we will accommodate you.’ They remodelled my office and I had a table for my son. If there was a meeting, I would say, ‘Excuse me, I’ll be right back,’ I’d pick him up, then he would do his homework and I would continue with the meeting.”
“Even then, the Bank looked for ways to accommodate me. And if my boss at that time wouldn’t have done that, I probably would have had to leave the Bank to take care of [my son]. So I try to pay it forward.”
After 20-odd years of rising in the ranks at Scotiabank Puerto Rico, Enid made the move to Canada in 2010 when an opportunity came up to be in charge of shared services for the Bank’s operations in the Caribbean and Central America.
Enid says an important part of her decision to take the job was that she reached a point in her personal life where she was very comfortable making the move. Her son had graduated from high school and decided to pursue acting in New York City, which made moving to Toronto all the more appealing. “Everything lined up,” she says.
In the years since that big move, Enid’s impact on Scotiabank and the larger banking world has continued to grow. In addition to her current role as Senior Vice President, Enid sits on the Inclusion Council at Scotiabank and is the Executive Champion for HOLA (Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement) Scotiabank, an employee resource group focusing on Latin cultures and Latin markets expertise.
Enid says that she’s honoured to take on a role that promotes diversity in her industry. In her view, championing inclusion is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
“We have to reflect our clients. In International Banking, we have over 13 million clients, so we have to make sure our people and our staff know those clients so they can serve them better. If you have a diverse client base, you need a diverse staff base,” she says.
“And it’s been proven time and time again, when you have diversity of thoughts, you are able to be more efficient, more productive and more effective.”
Enid says it’s been an “awesome ride” to see how Scotiabank’s international presence has grown over the years. When she first started at Scotiabank, they did not have a significant ownership position in any bank in Latin America. Now, over 50% of Scotiabank’s more than 89,000 employees are working in our international operations. She’s also proud of Scotiabank’s commitment to the advancement of women in the workforce.
“When I started working, I’d go to meetings and my bosses were always men, my peers were always men,” she says. “When I look at the Bank now, we’ve made tremendous strides. Here in Canada, my boss is a woman. When I go to a meeting today, 50 to 60% are women.”
When it comes to advice for young women looking to succeed in their careers, Enid’s message is characteristically bold.
“Take a risk and be fearless,” she says.
“You have an opinion, voice it. Take a risk, be relentless and be confident that you bring to the table a perspective that nobody in that room has.”