Cate Luzio
Head of Global International Subsidiary Banking Client Coverage, Global Commercial Banking, HSBC

Cate Luzio takes a local approach to international banking, and believes in hiring bankers who know their markets — Nigerian bankers in Nigeria, Turkish bankers in Turkey, Brazilian bankers in Brazil.

But she also takes pains to tie them into a larger network — including groups for women workers. At her last job with JPMorgan Chase, she led the establishment of eight new branches of the bank's women's network, including in countries across the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Partly through her efforts, JPMorgan Chase became the first international bank with a women's group in Saudi Arabia — a real achievement in a country where women's rights are limited.

Luzio's assessment of the finance industry's diversity — gender, ethnic, cultural — is blunt. "We're making progress on having different faces around the table but we need to do more," she says.

Luzio herself has become a new face around the table in an unusually short time, despite having no formal background in finance when she entered the industry a dozen years ago. She was tapped last month to coordinate HSBC Group's work across the globe with the affiliates of multinational corporations it banks, a job giving her oversight over the bank's operations in 62 countries.

Luzio calls the job a huge challenge but a great fit. She has made a specialty of connecting far-flung locations during her relatively short career in finance. She's held similar roles overseeing North and South America for HSBC and Europe, Africa and the Middle East for JPMorgan Chase.

Joining HSBC last year brought the New Jersey native home after seven years in London. But she's traveling more than 80% of the time as she helps spearhead a massive new undertaking for HSBC. The London bank is going through a strategic shift toward international corporate banking, and Luzio has the chance to build from the ground up, by picking new country heads and banking teams across the globe.

It's a process she's been through before, though on a much smaller scale. Two other experiences at international startups — or quasi startups — set her career in motion. The first was in China, where a (literal) startup sent her shortly after college to hash out partnerships with local telecom companies, despite her unfamiliarity with the country and its language.

"It set my career on fire a little bit," she says. "One, I was very young, and two, I was a female in a country and a culture where that wasn't the norm" in business.

Her entrée to finance took place in Mexico City, where the credit-card issuer MBNA sent her to help build a partnership with a Mexican bank. She got to learn the industry from the bottom up — from staffing to financials to dealing with regulators.

Now at HSBC, she works to mentor young female bankers at the same place in their career that she was then.

"The younger women coming into financial services are craving leadership," she says. "They like to see women who are successful, whether you're 39 or 59. It's also great for me to learn from the challenges they're facing."

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