Annemarie Pallister, Director, Global Banking, Scotiabank

Annemarie Pallister, Director, Global Banking, Scotiabank

Annemarie is a Director for Scotiabank’s Global Banking and Markets Financial Insight and Analysis team.

What is your morning routine?

I always check my email first thing, in case something has come up that needs quick attention. Responsiveness has been really important throughout my career, particularly during busy times like quarter ends or planning periods, and also when working with colleagues in Asia where leaving things until I get to the office can cost me a day for getting a reply. If I’m dealing with an issue, I want my boss to know I’ll own it and not just let it slip by because it’s after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m.

After a quick breakfast I head to work on the TTC. I start Mondays with a team meeting at 10 a.m. to help us stay connected and confirm the week’s priorities. Tuesdays are my Rotary meetings at 7.30 a.m. near my office. It’s a squeeze, but I try to get to that meeting as often as possible because it’s really energizing and inspiring. Through Rotary I’m involved in local and international community projects and I get to meet really great people.

Tell us about your career path.

Growing up I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to be, though I liked the idea of wearing a smart black suit and high heels and having a briefcase. In order to get somewhere, I embraced a specific goal that has served me well: to do interesting things, and to do them at a high level.

One of the best decisions I made was applying to the University of Cambridge. I wasn’t one of the students my teachers encouraged to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, but my mom made a great point: if I was interested in the humanities (as I was) I should make sure to study at the best possible institution because, while a humanities degree might not be universally accepted as “serious,” Cambridge certainly was.

During my last year of university I applied to the fast-track graduate program at Lloyds TSB. It looked like a great program with really good exposure within the company, which was in an interesting position having just undergone a large merger. I spent two years on a rotation where I came across the internal mergers and acquisitions (M&A) team. I ended up spending five years there working on acquisition, merger and divestment projects.

In order to support my work with a better knowledge base, I took a corporate finance course at London Business School and learned to speak Spanish. As corporate development work took a downturn at Lloyds, I explored my network to see where else I could use my skills in that market. I came across Scotiabank and eventually met the Head of International Banking, who offered me a job in internal M&A. I worked on that team for two years until the financial crash. I was then given the chance to work on the comptroller’s team doing reporting, forecasting and planning for the Mexico subsidiary. The vice president took me on as a leap of faith, as it was work I’d never done before, but I was able to prove myself.

Having worked there for a number of years I was keen to learn a new area of the business, so I found an opportunity doing similar work in Global Transaction Banking. That was about four years ago, and since then the bank has undergone lot of restructures. My role has developed to focus more on analysis, forecasting and planning. I’ve also had personal changes during this period: I had a baby, took a year off, came back to work, and a year and a half later I’m back on maternity leave with my second baby.

What challenges do you or women face in your industry?

I think it’s a classic one: how to maintain the same career potential and prospects as a wife and mother that you have as a single woman. So much of success is being given the opportunities to show off your capabilities. Getting those opportunities without people dismissing you when you have to do a daycare pick-up is a challenge. When you no longer have the freedom to devote long hours to your career, you need to find other ways of adding value, and you need people of influence around you who appreciate it.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?

Get the necessary qualifications for the role you’d like to fill. If I was explicitly planning for my current job I’d make sure to have a financial qualification like a commerce degree, CPA or MBA under my belt. In my field I’ve come quite far for the level and type of education I have, but I feel the next level might require a refocus and perhaps some further study. I considered doing an MBA in my late twenties but was really scared off by the cost and (crazily) the thought that I was too old to be taking time out for it. I decided instead to work abroad, which worked out well, but I do find myself yearning for further study and the belief that it would open new and exciting doors for me.

If you don’t have a clear role in mind, follow your interests, do things well, and pursue excellence; doors will open for you that way. Once you have an idea of the route you’d like to pursue, choose development that helps you get there. Learning Spanish and studying corporate finance opened the door for my international M&A role in Canada.

Finally, whether or not you have a clear path planned out, make sure you connect with people whose work and interests resonate with you. Opportunities ultimately come to you because people decide they want you on their team.

How do you separate work life from your personal life?

Now that I have children I choose to have a decent work-life balance, although life’s practicalities rather force it on me as well. I do the daycare pick-ups when I’m working, which gives me a deadline for leaving the office. I also work a compressed week, sharing a day’s care with my husband so our daughter can have a day at home with us. I don’t take work home unless it’s urgent; I delegate where I can or leave things to the following day. If I need to I’ll add work hours to the beginning of the day or after the kids’ bedtime – that’s where my flexibility lies.

In order to keep working and accommodate my family life I’ve had to cut back on other activities. I’ve pared those down to Rotary and serving as co-president of my alumni society. Even keeping those is a stretch, but they’re important to me and they keep me from worrying about becoming too two-dimensional. It comes down to prioritizing and working out my capacity.

What inspires you?

Seeing opportunities to make a difference, meet someone’s needs, or make the world a kinder, more pleasant place – that light of possibility gives me the spark I need and inspires me to take action. When the initial inspiration is supported by positive, like-minded people and the collective brain comes up with more than I could’ve managed on my own, that is magical.

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