Head of Securities Services for the Americas | BNP Paribas

It took a lot of soul-searching, but BNP Paribas' Claudine Gallagher ultimately turned down a job with a rival custody bank last year because, she concluded, there's nothing quite like building a business from scratch.

BNP Paribas recruited Gallagher away from JPMorgan Chase's investment banking unit in 2012 to help it establish a securities services business in North America, and under her leadership the French banking giant had accumulated close to $270 million of assets under custody by mid-2016.

Then last summer Gallagher accepted an offer to run a key business line at another custody bank with a much larger U.S. presence — not her dream job, she admits, but one that offered significant opportunities for career advancement. But as Gallagher was winding down her tenure and watching her soon-to-be former team winning deals and adding new clients, she began to have second thoughts about leaving. The CEO of the securities services business, perhaps sensing that Gallagher was wavering, made a last-ditch effort to keep her and she agreed to stay.

"When you are starting a business from scratch, there are a lot of milestones and a lot of reasons to come together as a team to celebrate and bond," Gallagher said in explaining her change of heart. "We said when we started this business that it was going to be a 10-year investment and we are only midway through that. I want to see how it all turns out."

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The custody business in North America is still dominated by competitors like Bank of New York Mellon and State Street, but Gallagher said that BNP Paribas is not trying to take them on directly. The goal instead is to become the custodian of choice for smaller asset managers and other financial intermediaries that might not be on the radar of the bigger banks.

"The large global custodians are our clients in Europe — they use us as subcustodians — so we are not here to compete with them directly," Gallagher said. "But we can be an alternative for those smaller-tiered clients."

Alan Kline

Alan Kline

Alan Kline is a senior editor at American Banker overseeing its consumer finance and national/regional banking coverage. He also helps direct coverage of the annual Most Powerful Women in Banking rankings.