Through her work with NATO, Lisa Pollina developed an appreciation for the skills and dedication of members of the U.S. military. As an executive at RBC Capital Markets, she's created a program to bring them into the financial services industry.
Pollina was appointed during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to represent the United States at NATO-related meetings around the world. This came about through her work for the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Atlantic Council, two nongovernment organizations she became affiliated with while working full-time in financial services.
When Pollina became vice chairman of RBC Capital Markets in 2012, she decided to try to create a bridge between the military and banking in a way that might benefit both.
"Veterans offer so many skills that we need on Wall Street. We need to recruit them and advocate for them to be part of Wall Street, whether it's at RBC or another organization," she says. "There's a host of skills embedded in each veteran that we want to draw out and really put to good use."
Her efforts led to the founding of the RBC Veterans Initiative, which is designed to recruit veterans and identify what roles they can play in the company. RBC also started a website that shows veterans how their military skills could translate to finance.
Setting up the RBC veterans' program took more than nine months. Pollina sold RBC's senior management on the value of the program and managed to secure funding from the parent company, Royal Bank of Canada, which she describes as a key goal. "Money signals commitment," she says.
The first open house for the RBC Veterans Initiative took place this spring. It was attended by more than 450 veterans and their supporters.
Pollina serves as the program's executive sponsor and also personally recruits veterans to join RBC. She says the veterans she talks to are drawn to banking in part because it involves a group of people working toward a common goal a message that "always resonates" with veterans.
"Anyone who's served in the military is used to playing a team sport, because you do not become a solo member of the military, you become part of the military," she says. "Like joining a bank, you become part of a team that is working toward a larger mission."
Pollina also has other missions. She's on the finance committee for the Archdiocese of Chicago, which manages an enormous endowment that funds hundreds of parishes and private schools. She volunteers for University of Chicago Medicine.
Then there are the ultramarathons and triathlons. She's competed in triathlons in the United States and Hong Kong, and has run ultra-long-distance races across the country.
This year she also helped secure sponsorship for RBC's Race for the Kids, an annual charity 5-K in which about 2,000 RBC employees will participate.
"That is the one race I do not run," she says. "I am too busy cheering."