North American Regional Head Securities Services, BNP Paribas

In 2012, BNP Paribas was the largest global custodian without a presence in North America and it wanted to change that. It found its leader in Claudine Gallagher, then the global head of depositary receipts at J.P. Morgan. She knew the custodial and clearing business and it helped that she is fluent in French.

Four years later, le succés.

In 2015, the U.S. arm of BNP Paribas Securities Services has reached $233 billion of assets under custody — and it was at zero as late as 2010. This surge has helped BNP Paribas grow into the world's fifth-largest provider of custodial asset management and clearing services for hedge funds, asset managers, broker-dealers and other institutional clients.

When the North American business launched, the expansion was meant to better serve existing clients that were primarily in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. But under Gallagher, BNP Paribas has won the custody and settlement business of several major U.S. clients.

Last year was a pivotal one for the business Gallagher oversees, with the acquisition of Credit Suisse's U.S. hedge fund administration unit. Her group now spans across the Western Hemisphere with staff in South America.

But building a business is not purely about growing it; sometimes scaling back is just as crucial to continue thriving. In the past year, she chose to close two businesses and significantly reduce staff in one location. The decisions ultimately hinged on one question: Did these businesses have the proper controls and infrastructure in place to accommodate a changing regulatory environment?

"We can all be fabulous when we are growing and the market is great, but you need to be made of slightly sterner stuff to make hard decisions," Gallagher said.

Gallagher is a member of the securities services' global executive committee. She also is a founding member of the BNP Paribas North American Career Development Board and specializes in counseling director-level employees seeking future roles as managing directors.

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