Returning to Barclays after 14 years, Global Head of Liquidity Product Yera Hagopian’s next major objective is to “to settle in so well that people forget that I had left”. She believes that her biggest challenge today is to bring the benefit of her experience to the business, while maintaining all the good things that already exist.
Global Head of Liquidity Product
Yera Hagopian is Global Head of Liquidity Product within the Cash Management team at Barclays. She is responsible for driving the delivery of Barclays liquidity product set globally and providing integrated liquidity solutions to the corporate, financial institutions and non-bank financial institutions clients. Hagopian has a wealth of experience in global liquidity management. She recently joined Barclays from J.P. Morgan, where she was EMEA Head of Liquidity. Prior to that, she was responsible for Liquidity Services at HSBC for 11 years, a role which involved the co-ordination and development of HSBC’s global liquidity management. Hagopian is a graduate of Brasenose College, Oxford.
What is your career-defining moment?
When I was seconded to what was at that time the Beecham Group, a British pharmaceutical company, as Assistant Treasurer Operations from 1987-1989. I consider it to be a defining moment because I still use the experience I gained there as a reference point almost on a daily basis.
What is the secret to your success?
Two things: curiosity and sheer persistence. I am quite stubborn (determined, if you are being kind) but also very curious – I want to know how things work. I have applied my training as a linguist (which is someone that likes to break down the code of a language and find out how it works) to my banking career.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing just now?
The biggest challenge is to bring the benefit of my experience to the business, while maintaining all the good things that already exist. That’s the challenge of being a new person on the job and wanting to make changes, while also valuing the good things that are already in place – and there are many of them.
What couldn’t you manage without?
Human contact would certainly be high on my list – the time to talk to people in order to really understand where they are coming from and their point of view. I also need time to think – to stand back from everything and take a more strategic view.
What is your next major objective?
After being away from Barclays for 14 years, I would like to settle in so well that people forget that I had left. I also want to start making a difference. Within the first 100 days I hope to have a broad understanding of the business, have met key people and our customers and formulated my initial view of where I should take the business.
What advice would you give to other women in treasury?
My advice is to take every opportunity open to you to learn and acquire the broadest experience possible. If you are working in product management, then work in sales; if you work in sales, try your hand in operations. You may not be good at everything but the breadth of experience that it will give you is invaluable. I believe it’s good to take an unconventional path when progressing your career.
“I think I was made to be a product manager because it is so multifaceted and takes a range of skills.”
Yera Hagopian recently returned to Barclays as Global Head of Liquidity Product within its cash management team after a 14-year absence. She first joined the bank in 1980 on a management development programme straight out of university and stayed 19 years before leaving for a stint first at HSBC (11 years) and then just under three years at J.P. Morgan. “The different organisations have played an instrumental role in contributing to my understanding of cash management in different geographies, customer segments and product lines,” she says.
For the initial 15 years of her banking, she was what she terms a “generalist”. Her early career development focused on credit and risk, with a fair amount of relationship management and some treasury experience. “I am glad that I got to spend time in these areas early in my career because I think they are fundamental to a bank’s business,” Hagopian explains. During this time she also spent two years working abroad in the US: one year with a relationship team in Chicago and a year in New York in the treasury function.
In what she describes as a career-defining moment, Hagopian was seconded to the Beecham Group as Assistant Treasurer Operations from 1987-1989. Although it was meant to be just a three-month secondment, she was there for just over a year and a half. “That was a fascinating period because it coincided with a major treasury centralisation programme. This gave me insight into the practicalities and challenges of running a corporate treasury,” she says. Almost daily she still uses the experience gained during this time as a reference point. “Whenever I am putting together something for a customer or thinking about a new service, I always find myself calibrating with what I learned during this period.”
Her turn as a generalist ended after leaving the Beecham Group to go on maternity leave. “I took two years out,” she explains, adding that some people still raise their eyebrows when she tells them this. Her husband’s job transfer took them to Dusseldorf. It was exciting to be in Germany during reunification, but it was also quite challenging, especially learning German from scratch with a baby in tow. It was the second time in her life where Hagopian had the experience of going to a country where she didn’t speak the language: her family moved to the UK when she was five years old and didn’t speak a word of English.
When she moved back to the UK in 1989, not only had the world changed but the banking industry had changed as well. Still with Barclays, her first foray into the world of cash management entailed building a small specialist sales team and then she moved into managing a suite of products, including electronic banking. With the first taste of product management, Hagopian was hooked. “I think I was made to be a product manager,” she says, “because it takes a range of skills. It is very multifaceted: you need to understand marketing but also technology; you have to be able to do detailed pricing and also have influencing and people management skills. It takes a specialist but you also have to be a generalist.”
Hagopian describes another career-defining moment, which came early on when she worked on the liquidity product management side, but which is more akin to an epiphany than a moment. It was when she realised that she was “it”: the person that colleagues completely relied on for critical liquidity management advice. “It is quite a wake-up call for a young product manager to realise that a lot of people trust and depend on your knowledge and ability to deal with a situation,” she explains. “You have to assume that mantle of responsibility and bravery, which is the point at which you mature in your professional life.”
Although hard-pressed to uncover anything that she would have done differently in her career, the one thing that Hagopian identifies is that she wished she could have spent more time working in corporate treasury. “Although it wasn’t convenient in terms of my personal life at the time – I went on maternity leave – if there had been opportunities to repeat that experience regularly throughout my career, I think that would have been very valuable.”
She believes that a combination of formal education and on-the-job training is needed, but the latter should come first. “Formal education does a number of things, in particular ensuring that there are no glaring gaps in your knowledge, such as a lack of credit experience when working in cash management,” she says. “But I also believe that training is something you should do throughout your career. It is a time to stand back, reflect and reconsider if what you are doing is the best way to do it and whether there are other angles that you haven’t thought about. Often that comes from meeting peers on training courses and being able to discuss topics in a more abstract way than the job allows on a day-to-day basis.”