New at the top: A career powered by curiosity
By Vanessa Small,
Curiosity has always played a role in my career.
I remember when I was in college, my older brother ran a small financial services company. A lot of his clientele were high-net-worth individuals. I saw that people were graduating from college and looking to do something with their money. I wondered if there was a huge investor base of people that he was not tapping into. I helped him create a pilot program to do that and he secured clientele.
From there I began my career at Deutsche Bank in Baltimore because the role was a hybrid between accounting and finance. I was an analyst responsible for the daily finance accounting for fixed-income mutual funds traded on NASDAQ. Accuracy and timeliness were the key values there.
My superiors realized that I did things differently. The things my colleagues were focused on, I wasn’t.
Most people looked to complete their daily checklist and then begin planning the next day. I would finish my checklist and then analyze the market, the day’s transactions, and the portfolio manager’s reasons for doing certain transactions. If I didn’t understand, I would call the manager and try to understand. I wanted to always make sure I had the broader perspective.
I soon was selected to manage a team in the Dublin office.
I came to realize that I wanted to spend more time answering the “whys.” Why were portfolio managers making certain decisions? I wanted to position myself to help them make better decisions but that wasn’t what my job called for.
One of my previous bosses from Deutsche Bank moved to Freddie Mac and offered me an opportunity to answer the ‘whys’ on a portfolio that at the time was $700 billion. It was exactly the opportunity I was looking for.
I worked in various roles at Freddie Mac for the next 10 years, including a stint in corporate forecasting.
That role helped me to hone my technical ability and understand the capital markets, but it was very behind-the-scenes. I wanted a role that would enhance my communication skills, because looking at the senior management team, communication looked like a core skill you had to have.
I knew my goal in life was to run a business. I felt like I needed to have that. So I moved into a strategy role in finance.
My proudest work was when I worked with part of a group to improve the lives of folks in finance. We rolled out a program for flexible work arrangements, which gave flexibility to employees working a tremendous amount of hours.
As a result, the satisfaction levels and work-life balance was improved dramatically.
This role at NCB Capital Impact was extremely attractive to me because often at the macro level, you don’t have an appreciation for the specific homeowner you’re helping individually. But this organization is impacting and transforming the lives of local neighborhoods that are underserved.
I look forward to continuing the legacy by bringing my for-profit disciplines and practices.
— Interview, Vanessa Small
Ellis Carr Position: Chief financial officer of NCB Capital Impact, a national nonprofit community development financial institution based in Arlington. Career highlights: Senior director single family business unit, chief financial officer, Freddie Mac; strategic director, Freddie Mac; bank associate officer, Deutsche Asset Management. Age: 36 Education: BS, accounting, Towson University; MPS in real estate, concentration finance, Georgetown University. Personal: Lives in Silver Spring with spouse and two children.
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