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7 Questions with Maria Iacob
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Maria Iacob
Name: Maria Iacob
Current title: Chief Growth Officer and Head of Compliance
Current Organisation: TTCM Traders Trust Capital Markets Ltd.
Excellence is born of experience. Following over a decade spent at the trading desks (intraday Forex, Commodities, Shares, Options) and personal banking (HSBC) I moved onto wealth management, fintech and social investing.
Excellence is born of passion. I know from personal experience what financial loss feels like; over 3 decades ago, my family lost all of their savings due to lack of sound investment advice.
Excellence is born of preparation. As a finance professional I hold several UK investment and retirement planning qualifications, an MSc in Economics and International Affairs, a BSc in Economic Sciences and Accounting and a Computer Engineer’ Degree.
Throughout the years the people I’ve helped characterize me as professional, direct, patient.
‘In short, with you we have felt to be in safe hands.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
In the era of instant gratification, the greatest challenge I came across is identifying people passionate about finance, willing to consistently invest time and effort to build a career in this field over the long term. In my experience, the challenge arises in the process of refocusing the individual mindset from the short term to the medium and/or long term.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Having come from humble beginnings - a family of primary school teachers, I was blessed that they passed on to me their curiosity, passion and dedication to fulfilling one’s calling.
During my first decade in financial services, I discovered a passion for trading, portfolio management and for optimizing various systems (software, organizational and decisional systems etc.). Having been offered the opportunity for a management role within a different firm, I simply followed my passion. Because I like to understand how each structure works, whenever I took on a role within a firm, I made it my mission to understand how all of the parts of a company are interconnected and to identify their synergy. My holistic learning curve has always been extremely steep as I constantly invest a great deal of time, effort and passion into bettering myself.
Based on a great deal of knowledge in niche segments, reliability, extensive experience and ability to adapt to new environments amongst others I climbed up the management ladder to an executive level.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
In terms of structuring my days, I’m a firm believer in scheduling the workload based on priority and preparing in advance. My mornings start with coffee while browsing thought the daily news, tasks and appointments, followed by the resolution of urgent matters. In my experience it’s always worth making allowances for impromptu project management meetings or other high priority matters.
As trading is conducted round the clock, to ensure smooth operations my working schedule is quite extensive expanding at times into late hours and weekends.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most significant leadership lesson I’ve learned is that sharing with the team the vision and the mission of the company triggers a higher level of staff motivation and loyalty in the long run than asking people to take a specific action without mentioning why. Furthermore, being able to jump in and help solve critical challenges, even if by simply explaining how to achieve the desired objective creates an engaging and supportive work environment.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
In my opinion, there are several turning points impacting a leader’s development and honing one’s human capital management skills. That’s why, it’s only fair to say that it’s an array of books I had the pleasure of reading and subsequent interactions in the work environment that had a profound impact on my leadership. This field is quite vast, therefore a good starting point for those looking for simple pointers to improve their leadership skills is ‘The One Minute Manager’ by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
That’s a very good question. Building leadership capacity in a large enterprise is done brick by brick by launching a challenge and evaluating the holistic means to success of those who answered the call. Having supported the growth of a wide array of leaders, I’ve noticed common growth phases:
The first phase - the individual achieves higher highs in one’s personal and professional growth and enjoys unexpected success. That is what many specialists call ‘being unconsciously competent’. Having mastered the reproduction of the same consistent result called success, the individual gets promoted and asked to share their methodology with team members.
The second phase – the challenge arising from having to model the same path to success by sharing it with team members of different personalities and cultures. The second phase is characterised by stepping up from a position of a follower to one of a leader, by having to positively reinforce constructive behaviour based on the team member’s skill set, knowledge base, culture and personality. During this phase, many of those simply enjoying the notion of power clearly differentiate themselves from natural leaders. The latter maintain their humility, understanding, willingness to learn more and approach each interaction as an opportunity to improve their own skills, management or otherwise.
The third phase starts after a leader was granted the power to make staff changes (monitor, assess, employ or dismiss team members). At that stage, good leaders differentiate themselves by maintaining self-accountability not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level by understanding the importance of their role in bridging the vision, mission and actions taken by the owners and Board of Directors and the effect these have on the whole team members. In my opinion, diplomacy and transparency are a must-have and only those who are truly passionate about their work, holders of natural leadership skills will prevail.
Building leadership in a large enterprise is a rounded process, a marathon, not a sprint.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
A meaningful story that comes to mind from time to time is one which took place a decade ago. At that time, I was a part of a multicultural environment of different calibre professionals. Before joining our team, the most seasoned members had been treated as tools in achieving a business goal; that left them bearing a profound disregard for management of any type, quite skeptical, laconic and unmotivated.
Because each and every one of them had different personalities, I started assessing their mentality, approach and manner of learning. Even though this whole process was dedicated to supporting their personal career development and working as a team, I remember clearly how reluctant they were when we started the process, especially the seasoned team members. They were refusing to talk, to take a simple assessment, refusing the connection altogether. Once the assessment was completed and we started talking about their personalities, about how we can support their personal career development by translating their learning methods into their workload, everyone relaxed. A couple of hours after the individual discussion about how we can mutually support each other, I recall one of the most experienced team members (who’s vehemently skeptical attitude was greatly influencing the team) coming to me and saying ‘Today, I learned something very important about myself that I didn’t realised in the past 45 years. You’re really only trying to help, thank you for that.’ Having convinced a colleague he’s worth it made my day.