‘Be competent but be caring’, is the mantra of Jennifer Boussuge, Head of Global Transaction Services for EMEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. In this interview, she explains what women bring to treasury and how regulation is driving collaboration.
Head of Global Transaction Services for Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Jennifer Boussuge is head of Global Transaction Services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Based in London, she is responsible for developing and executing the integrated strategy for the full end-to-end regional treasury and custody business for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
Boussuge has worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch for 19 years. Most recently, she was head of Global Sales for GTS where she was responsible for setting the company’s global treasury and custody sales strategy, driving revenue and mobilising teams across all regions to win mandates. Previous roles include head of International Subsidiary Banking Sales, GTS, EMEA; GTS Industry Head leading the delivery of global treasury and liquidity management services to large corporate healthcare and consumer and retail clients throughout the U.S.; senior treasury sales officer for International Government clients and client manager for International Corporates.
Boussuge has worked in the banking industry for 26 years. Before joining Bank of America Merrill Lynch, she worked at Riggs National Bank and Citibank in Washington, DC.
Boussuge graduated from Mary Washington College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and French. She conducted her graduate studies in French at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France and business administration studies at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.
What did you want to be as a child and how did that relate to your career in banking?
My main ambition, even during my teenage years, was to be a politician. It was really by coincidence that I pursued a career in banking – and through various reorganisations that I chanced upon the world of Global Transaction Services (GTS). It’s a world that I am extremely passionate about since you can make a tangible difference to a company’s growth and efficiency.
Looking at your career path to date, is there anything that you would have done differently?
As I look back at the stages of my life and career, it all seems to have happened for a reason. My personal and professional aspirations have dovetailed well. So, when I wasn’t progressing as quickly as I might have liked in my career, my son was born. That gave me the opportunity to spend more time at home and make the most of being with my young family.
How easy is it for women to balance their personal and professional life today, while allowing for career progression?
Technology is a huge enabler and has given us all the flexibility to be able to achieve a better work/life balance. Working mothers and fathers are able to leave the office on time or take their children to doctor’s appointments and then log back on at a time that is more convenient for them. The bank also runs a range of programmes around parenting and careers, as well as giving support to women returning from maternity leave. By nurturing returning talent, companies such as ours can encourage greater female representation within the higher ranks of their organisation.
Do you think that the financial sector might be in better shape if there were more women in senior positions?
There are some interesting statistics around that topic. Thomson Reuters examined the performance of companies with more than 30% women on their board against those with less than 10% and found that those with the greater female representation fared much better in periods of economic volatility. A McKinsey study, across all industry sectors, found that the companies with the highest proportion of women on their boards significantly, and consistently, outperformed those with no female representation by 41% in terms of return on equity, and by 56% in terms of operating results. The numbers speak for themselves.
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given in your professional life?
One of my first managers gave me a book called ‘True North’ by Bill George. It talks about being true to yourself and standing by your own principles. That taught me the importance of being authentic in both business and personal circles – don’t try to be somebody that you’re not.
“By nurturing returning talent, companies such as ours can encourage greater female representation within the higher ranks of their organisation.”
Be competent, be confident, but be caring. These are the ‘three Cs’ that Jennifer Boussuge has aimed to embody throughout her 19-year career at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Having risen up through the ranks, with previous roles including Global Head of Sales for GTS, Head of International Subsidiary Banking Sales, GTS EMEA, and GTS Industry Head leading the delivery of global treasury and liquidity management services to large corporate healthcare and consumer and retail clients throughout the US, Jennifer’s appointment as Head of Global Transaction Services, EMEA in July 2013 is a reflection of her vision, hard work and commitment, and also of her ability to inspire and motivate.
Indeed, as a member of the bank’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and Co-Executive sponsor of its ‘Lead for Women’ Employee Network, Jennifer has a very keen personal interest in developing talent in the workplace. “I take great pride in being a mentor, and in many ways, a role model for women within the bank. But it’s also important to me that we have balanced opportunities for both genders,” she says. “Here at the bank our experience is that gender diversity leads to stronger business performance which ultimately produces better results for our clients.”
That said, Jennifer does believe that women bring a different skillset to treasury than their male counterparts. “Typically women are by nature quite collaborative. They’re good at asking questions (they’ll always stop and ask for directions!) and they tend to be proficient at juggling a multitude of tasks. If you look at how the treasurer’s role has changed and evolved over the last few years, and how corporates are striving to do more with less, that really plays to a woman’s strengths,” she adds.
Although the current treasury environment may play to the female skillset, there remain a number of women in treasury who struggle to make their voice heard within the organisation and find it difficult to demonstrate the value that treasury brings to an organisation. Jennifer suggests that data may hold the key: “Today, treasurers are being asked more frequently to provide information to the C-suite. Where treasury professionals – both men and women – can start to raise their profile and make themselves even more valuable within the organisation is by better understanding the data flows within their organisation. Through the analysis of this data and the identification of useful patterns, the treasurer can become more of a strategic partner to the business.”
“As a bank we have been doing a lot of work with clients to help them turn information into data. This is all part of a movement towards greater collaboration across the market,” Jennifer observes. “In addition to this data enhancement, we’ve definitely seen treasurers calling more on external partners, such as outsourcing providers, and implementing increasingly sophisticated technology in order to get the best use of the limited resources that they have available.”
Regulation has also made the market more collaborative, says Jennifer. “Today, there are major regulatory pressures and costs which affect not only the banks but also impact corporates. It’s easy to dwell on the negative consequences of regulation, but it has markedly improved the security and transparency of the global financial system. It has also led to deeper partnerships between the global banks and the local financial institutions.”
Interestingly, she also believes that regulation has brought banks and corporates closer together: “Relationships are now much more in focus. As a result of Basel III, when we look at how we provide capital to our clients we aim to have a much deeper and multi-faceted relationship with them in order to support the overall lending relationship. A loan is now looked at as an investment in a client and in a relationship,” she explains.
This candid, straight-talking approach is one of Jennifer’s hallmarks – as is her ability to recognise the opportunities that nestle among changes and challenges. How appropriate, then, that Jennifer’s motto in life (borrowed from Canadian former professional ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky) is: “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”