Change for the Better: How Ana Gatti’s Experience as an LGBT Woman in Financial Services has Improved Throughout Her Career

Ana Gatti once interviewed for a company where all 52 branch managers were men. Now the Director and Chief Auditor at Scotiabank Uruguay, she reflects on how far the financial industry has come over the past decade in its acceptance of women and members of the LGBT+ community, like herself.

 

By Katy Paul-Chowdhury

 


 

Ana Gatti was invited to apply for the chief auditor position at a local bank in Uruguay after seventeen years as an external auditor at a global accounting firm. During the interview she learned that all of the 52 branch managers were men, but Ana wasn’t concerned about potential difficulties in building relationships within a male-dominated environment. Ana recalls thinking, “So what? What is the difference?”

This story encapsulates Ana’s fearless, open-minded approach to life, challenges, and a career in the traditionally male-dominated banking industry.

She got the job and two years later, Scotiabank acquired the company she had joined. Ana is now Chief Auditor at Scotiabank Uruguay (SBU), in charge of the Internal Audit Unit. She reports directly to the Audit Committee of SBU’s Board, and the Chief Auditor of Scotiabank.

In her role, Ana provides an independent opinion on the status of risk management, controls, and corporate governance in the organization. “I love it,” she says. “The world is changing so rapidly that new risks arise all the time. For example, cyber-risk is a big issue now.”

Ana reached a dramatic turning point in her career as a young accountant when she was seconded to the firm’s Banking and Capital Markets Audit Division in London, UK. “I had been on short-term assignments in other South American countries, but two years in such a cosmopolitan city with such a completely different culture was amazing. The accounting office was much bigger than in Uruguay, and our clients too were on an entirely different scale. It was a new way of living – interacting with people from all over the world, and every economic background. My horizon opened up.”

 

“Teach by example. Live Scotiabank’s values every day: respect, integrity, passion and accountability. Encourage everyone to live these values, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion.”

 

Ana reflects on her career in financial services as a senior banker and LGBT woman. “We have seen a lot of progress in the last 10 years. New generations are much more open-minded. People are better informed. Equal marriage legislation in many countries, including Uruguay, has been key in that regard. And more LGBT+ people, including famous or visible ones, are now living their lives openly. But we still have a long way to go.”

Has being an LGBT woman shaped her career, or perspective as a banker? Ana says no. “I don’t think I’d be in a different place if I was married to a man. An individual’s career is shaped by her values, goals, and decisions. It also helps when organizations like Scotiabank foster an inclusive environment for all employees to reach their full potential.” Her advice to managers and executives about advancing women and LGBT+ people reflects this perspective. “Teach by example. Live Scotiabank’s values every day: respect, integrity, passion and accountability. Encourage everyone to live these values, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. Be supportive so they can give the best of themselves, and create their own career path.”

Ana applauds Scotiabank’s efforts to advance women and create a more welcoming environment for LGBT+ people. “Top executives are prioritizing gender and LGBT+ equality. When our regional head was in town, he had lunch with female leaders, encouraging us to make our own career path and progress within the bank. Our Country Head and CEO in Uruguay is an Executive Champion of the Bank’s HeForShe@Scotiabank initiative, where men make gender inclusion a priority, committing to change within and beyond their teams. For the first time in Uruguay last year, we had rainbow banners in selected branches in the capital saying ‘diversity makes us stronger,’ and every employee received a rainbow pen. I was asked to do an interview for our intranet, and the comments in response to the interview were very positive.”

 

“I see challenges as opportunities; they make you stronger and more resilient. I embrace them”

 

Have there been challenges? “A lot! But I wouldn’t be who I am without them. I see challenges as opportunities; they make you stronger and more resilient. I embrace them, and take action in a positive way, so that I can give the best of myself and get value from them in return.”

Ana’s latest challenge is studying for her MBA. “It’s exciting! You always have interesting things to learn in this ever-changing world. Exchanging opinions with my diverse classmates is what I enjoy the most.” This appreciation of diversity is perhaps rooted in her passion for travel. “My partner of 25 years, a contemporary visual artist, and I love traveling. We started when we were 22, and haven’t stopped since.”

When she’s not working or traveling, Ana can be found at dinner or the theater with friends, walking along the Rio de la Plata, or enjoying spending time with her large extended family. Ana’s enthusiasm for work and life is reflected in her career advice for young women: “You are valuable. Be confident. Go for it, no matter what.” 

A Balanced View

As Chief of Staff, RBC Wealth Management U.S., Kristen Kimmel has a job description that doesn’t fit well into just a few sentences. But despite her broad role, she still makes time to be a mentor, and advocate for women’s advancement in the workplace.

 

By Marie Moore

 


 

Kristen Kimmell is one of those fortunate people who discovered at an early age what her chosen career would be. In fact, her path to becoming the chief of staff at RBC Wealth Management – U.S. had a very clear and memorable start: “My older sister brought home an assignment for her high school accounting class. I can still see the big portfolio, and the green ledger paper. I just thought it was the coolest thing ever.”

Kristen was so fascinated by the project — which included recording debits and credits in a ledger, and producing handwritten income statements — that she ended up doing most of her sister’s homework, even though she was several years younger. Her passion for accounting never faded, and she went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Business Administration from Jamestown University, landing her first job as an accountant in 1993.

Kristen’s career in financial services continued to flourish, although the path wasn’t exactly linear. She joined her current firm in 1995 (which became part of RBC in 2000), and has held numerous positions including staff accountant, accounting supervisor, fixed income accounting manager, director of financial reporting and administration, and director of strategic finance. While some of her title changes represented a natural progression, she has admittedly “taken some leaps sideways and in different directions.” The promotion to chief of staff came in 2010, a position that she describes in its simplest terms as “a combined chief administrative officer and chief operating officer role.”

The longer explanation she offers more accurately captures the broad scope of her work: “I tie everything together — from the business perspective back to the execution — with all the functional groups,” Kristen says. “I’m connecting the dots, making sure we have the right priorities and are executing appropriately, and keeping everything running behind the scenes.”

She credits RBC’s culture of development for enabling her to climb through the company’s ranks. “They really provided some incredible growth opportunities. It’s just a culture where we are always looking to cultivate talent,” she says. From leadership training to formal mentorship programs, Kristen has taken advantage of the many initiatives designed to help high potentials succeed. She also hasn’t been shy about creating her own channels for learning.

“I’ve had a lot of people that didn’t even know they were my mentor,” she says with a laugh. “I just looked at people who I admired, and when I had an opportunity to be in meetings with them, I used those as an informal guide on how they handled things. What did I see that they did well that worked? What was something that they were frustrated by? And I would always find opportunities to migrate to work with those individuals.”

“I just looked at people who I admired, and when I had an opportunity to be in meetings with them, I used those as an informal guide on how they handled things. What did I see that they did well that worked? What was something that they were frustrated by? And I would always find opportunities to migrate to work with those individuals.”

As Kristen progressed in her career, she herself became an integral part of the development culture. At her peak, she’s had seventeen simultaneous mentees, coming from a combination of formal programs, outreach by managers, and personal requests. She has an innate desire to share her experiences with others to help them find their own solutions, and knowing how much courage it can take to ask someone to be a mentor, she rarely says no.

In addition to her work with individuals, Kristen is having an impact on a broad scale in the area of women’s advancement. She was named Co-Executive Sponsor of the Women’s Association of Financial Advisors (WAFA) in September 2012. In the role, she provides input and leadership to WAFA on their goals of recruiting and retaining female branch directors and financial advisors, and increasing the productivity of financial advisors. Kristen is also on the board of RBC Wealth Management’s Women of Wealth (WoW) global women’s network. Developed within RBC, WoW brings together women representing different business units from across the globe, with the aim of getting a unified approach on activities related to helping women advance in the workplace.

One of the initiatives she strongly supports is providing women with access to visible role models, who can speak authentically about their successes — and struggles. “As women, we tend to think that our issues and our challenges are unique to us, so we don’t reach out, or think that anybody else would understand them. We hold ourselves to this unrealistic standard, thinking that everybody else has achieved it,” says Kristen. “I want to help spread the message that women who are successful have the same faces as the women who are working their way up. I’ve come to work with different coloured shoes on, and I think people just appreciate knowing things like that.”

“I want to help spread the message that women who are successful have the same faces as the women who are working their way up. I’ve come to work with different coloured shoes on, and I think people just appreciate knowing things like that.”

This belief that women often carry — that everyone around the table has the answers but us — can lead to a fear of asking what we don’t know about. Kristen sees this combining with our natural tendency to overbook ourselves, and leading to another issue for women, outside of the workplace: relying on our partners to do the finances. “We divide it up like it’s a household chore. Not because we’re not interested or capable, but because it’s one more thing on the plate and it’s an easy one to pass on,” she says. “It may seem like another chore, but it’s a life skill.”

Alleviating a packed calendar can help, but she also feels we need to have a more honest conversation on the subject of work/life balance. “A balance indicates to me that once you get the weight setting on each side, then it’s done and you can walk away from it, forever balanced. But you can’t think of work/life balance as an end state. It’s an evolution,” Kristen explains. “Sometimes you’re going to get heavy on one side or the other, and having the ability to recognize that and being able to adjust it when you’re out of balance, is the best possible thing.”