Corporate View: Lynda McGoey, Managing Director, Global Head Trade Finance, GE

Published: Sep 2020
Lynda McGoey, Managing Director, GE

Learning, leadership and finding balance

Driven by a quest for knowledge and a desire to keep pushing the boundaries, it seems more than a little appropriate that Lynda McGoey, Managing Director, Global Head Trade Finance, GE, has settled in a business that has a very long history of innovation. In fact, as a source of inspiration, they don’t come much better than GE founding father, Thomas Edison.

Lynda McGoey

Managing Director, Global Head Trade Finance

Headquartered in Boston and serving customers across more than 170 countries, GE is one of the world’s most recognised names. For 128 years, GE has invented the future of industry and today the company’s dedicated employees, leading technology, and global capabilities help the world work more efficiently, reliably, and safely.

For Lynda McGoey, Managing Director, Global Head Trade Finance, GE, one of the keys to treasury success is the will to stay informed. Her mantra – “learn, and then learn more” – has sustained her throughout her career. And as with GE’s founding luminary, Thomas Edison, McGoey has absolutely no intention of resting on past glories.

It is this approach that has seen her graduate from Manhattan College in New York with an MBA and a BS in Finance, and rising up the ranks of GE, first from Manager to Director of Trade and Project Finance, and then Global Head of Trade Finance, before assuming her current position as Managing Director of Trade Finance, which she took on in April 2018.

This role places her in charge of a global trade team, spanning the US, Latin America, Europe, MENAT and Asia. She has direct responsibility for overseeing GE’s evolving trade finance needs, managing relationships with a significant number of banks. Building a consolidated Global Trade Finance team is one of the professional accomplishments of which she is most proud. “We have a winning team today, for sure, and the collaboration is amazing.” It was this dynamic that won McGoey and her GE team the 2019 Treasury Today Adam Smith Award for the best overall Trade Solution.

An evolving role for corporate treasury leaders

Getting to this point has of course not been without its challenges over the course of her 22 years at GE. McGoey has seen her role evolve, not only as the company has changed over the years, but also as the role of trade finance has evolved. Whilst technology and an innovative mindset (and more than a little determination) are producing noteworthy results in McGoey’s trade domain, she acknowledges that today’s treasury leaders must have a perfect blend of technical and soft skills. In trade finance, especially in a global business such as GE where big ticket projects are its bread and butter, there are some quite specific technical demands, she explains.

For example, understanding and being able to mitigate operational risk is vital; performance trade finance instruments are critical to participate in new orders. Similarly, every major project requires performance instruments and warranty and retention tools.

Treasury leaders must consequently understand the risks associated with not being able to successfully procure these vital components. “These are key in the businesses’ pricing models, so treasury must have a firm grasp of what its bank capacity is, whether or not it has banking partners in the right countries for the projects, and of course what the costs are of those instruments.”

But in addition to technical know-how, McGoey believes communication and collaboration skills should be well-developed in every contemporary treasury organisation. “I have always enjoyed working with people across groups; interpersonal skills are so important, especially when developing strategic partnerships and gaining trust with treasury peers, in addition to working with the businesses and banks.”

In today’s complex trade environment, the advice she offers colleagues who may be feeling the pressure is to stay informed. “Internally, you really need to understand your pipeline of transactions. Know what your big upcoming credit needs are and plan for them; never let them be a surprise. And externally, learn about your markets and how they operate; find out in advance how, for example, a change in sanctions or local banking regulations could impact your business processes. Be prepared.”

To this end, formal training and education, and professional membership are all important to McGoey. “There’s no better way to stay informed and current than with like-minded trade professionals,” she says. “Attend conferences, build a network of peers and mentors, stay connected. As my mother taught me, ‘an education is never a burden to carry, and no one can ever take it away from you’.”

Whilst experienced treasury leaders will have the wherewithal to deal with most eventualities, what advice does McGoey offer to young professionals just starting a career in treasury? “Ask questions,” she replies. “Lots of questions. Work in every part of treasury, learn to see the ‘big picture’ but also understand the tactical aspects of how treasury works.”

The best way to do this? Mentoring. “Get yourself a mentor. You can do that organically; it doesn’t need to be a formal process.” She adds that those who are just starting out in the profession should never be afraid to ask for the advice and support from someone who has been in treasury for some time “and who can help you with your decisions along the way.”

The core values of NCL are about honouring the mother-daughter bond, and through their community work, she feels her daughters have gained confidence, leadership and integrity, all while giving back to the community.

People power

McGoey is well-known and widely respected for her ability to build and lead global, high performing teams who deliver with focus and integrity. She says, “There is only one way to achieve this with any degree of success as a manager, and that is to lead with transparency, by encouraging candid feedback and then taking action to improve as a leader.”

“Each year I request team touchpoints to obtain individual feedback on my performance,” she explains. I ask about what is working and what is not, and it is these learnings that go a long way for me and for my team.” By taking this proactive stance, she believes it becomes easier to understand any team challenges and to see where support is needed and where improvements can be made.

Indeed, the approach that McGoey takes is one that gives her great satisfaction in her own work. It is, she adds, about ensuring the right processes and people come together. So, it is as much about ensuring credit capacity, for example, as it is about solidifying partnerships with the company’s businesses and banks. “It’s about understanding the individual cultures and incorporating those various parameters in the overall team dynamics,” she says.

Finding success as a leader and as a team also rests on challenging the status quo and being open to and embracing new ways of working. As GE has been using Lean over the past year to make real improvements across the company. McGoey has also challenged her team to leverage lean principles and tools to drive down cycle times and bring down costs in their processes. Using digital scorecards they have been able to drive improved processes with their banking partners.

Giving something back

Perhaps it says a lot about the profession, but many interviewed in these pages are motivated to give back to the communities in which they live. For McGoey, charitable work comes naturally. She has been a member of the Nutmeg Chapter of the US National Charity League (NCL) for the past seven years.

“NCL is a mother-daughter organisation striving to meet the critical needs of local communities through hands-on volunteer support,” she explains. The core values of NCL are about honouring the mother-daughter bond, and through their community work, she feels her daughters have gained confidence, leadership and integrity, all while giving back to the community. “These are all key attributes for any successful person. I am extremely proud of all my children and their accomplishments.”

Clearly it is important for McGoey to get the work/life balance right. Despite a busy professional and domestic schedule, she always finds time for her passion for running. This is something she does alongside her husband, Desmond. Although she admits to “a lot of laughs” on the way, their choice of distance is no light undertaking.

In fact, she has run numerous half marathons and full marathons, including the Chicago event in 2018. She and her husband qualified for their fourth TCS NYC Marathon in 2020, but will be competing virtually due to COVID-19. “My goal has always been five full marathons: one for each child,” she jokes, referencing her two daughters and three sons who range in age from 14 to 20.

As a professional, being able to strike a balance is made somewhat easier when the employer is supportive. “GE has always been very flexible, which I attribute to great managers,” says McGoey. This flexibility has been a vital contributor to her longevity and her success within the business. But then for someone who is constantly seeking learning and innovation, such attributes seem only fitting in a business borne out of an individual once described as ‘America’s greatest inventor’.

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