Most Powerful Women in Finance: No. 8, Bessemer Trust's Rebecca Patterson

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Chief Investment Officer, Bessemer Trust

Rebecca Patterson learned the importance of fostering a sense of community as part of a workforce from her first job.

When she joined the Washington bureau of the St. Petersburg Times (later the Tampa Bay Times), her fellow journalists made her feel part of the team as soon as she arrived.

“Everyone had each other’s backs,” Patterson recalled. “We worked so hard, but also made time to know each other personally and enjoy each other’s company. I have been so lucky to be part of cohesive teams like that many times during my career and I realize how special and important it is to try to cultivate.”

Now serving as chief investment officer of Bessemer Trust, Patterson schedules — and improvises — team-building games, such as pet photo contests and blind taste tests of guacamole and salsa.

The cohesiveness that these activities build makes a difference when it comes to oversight of more than $78 billion in assets that Patterson and her team of roughly 90 people manage.

“We communicate a lot,” she said. “I can focus on our investment platform, our team and our strategy because I know I have the right people all over the details.”

The proof is in the results.

See the most recent rankings:
· Most Powerful Women in Banking
· Women to Watch
· Most Powerful Women in Finance

In the year that ended July 31 (a period that included a global sell-off in the fourth quarter), Bessemer’s flagship balanced growth portfolio returned an annualized 4.7%, topping its benchmark return of 3.5%.

This kind of performance across market cycles helps foster loyalty from clients of the 112-year-old firm, which has retained 98% of them over the past decade.

Patterson listens carefully to those clients. One, a former chief executive of a Fortune 500 company, advised her shortly after she joined Bessemer in 2012 to think of her role as driving a car. He told her that she needs a team of great people supporting her so that she can focus on staying on the road.

Patterson said she always keeps that in mind. “I am so lucky to have an amazing team,” she said. “When they need me to pull over and help them think through an issue or solve a challenge, they know I’m there for them immediately.”

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