What are the first words you think of when you hear the term “financial services”? Perhaps tellers, accountants, investment bankers, and even lawyers come to mind; however, marketers play a more significant role in a financial institution’s success than you may think. Financial institutions make up some of the most valuable, iconic, and trusted brands in the world – and the marketers behind them are key to managing, promoting and protecting the products and services they comprise of.
The financial services industry can seem intimidating, but the truth is that financial services companies like American Express consist of many different departments – and marketing is definitely one of them! To eliminate some of the ~mystery~ surrounding financial institutions, The QMA arranged an interview with Megan McKee Iwachiw, Vice President of Consumer Charge and New Business Development along with Lucy Zheng, Manager of Strategic Planning from American Express. We hope this interview can debunk some marketing myths you may have about working in financial services and open your eyes to incredible student opportunities within this industry!
To start off, can you both share a bit of information about your journey with American Express, the various positions you’ve held and how you got to where you are today?
Megan McKee Iwachiw (M): “I started with Amex 15 years ago this past April. I’ve always been based in Canada, but have moved around the company in different lines of business so that my experiences have felt very diverse. In choosing my roles, I was selective in looking for ways to leverage skills I had already developed, while giving myself the opportunity to learn something very new.”
Lucy Zheng (L): “I joined Amex 2 years ago after completing summer internships across a variety of industries, including CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods). I chose to start my career here because I think it’s exciting to be part of such an iconic brand at a time when there is such rapid innovation in the payments industry. I was hired out of campus recruiting into the New Product Development team where I started as a Marketing Analyst within the Consumer Services group, and recently moved to a Strategic Planning role in the Merchant Services group.”
Megan, in your role today you are responsible for a team of 40+ people, covering areas such as Business Development, Product & Project Management, and Rewards & Benefits Capabilities. What inspires you to lead this team towards success?
M: I really and truly care about people, and I want my team to enjoy the time they spend at work. To look at what we need to achieve as a team and then work through the solution the way you would a puzzle, in small steps that lead you to the big prize. That way we are always moving forward, making progress, and celebrating success along the way.
It sounds like teamwork is highly valued at American Express, along with personal growth! Lucy, how have those attitudes translated to the mentorship and coaching that you’ve experienced every day from senior staff?
L: “Teamwork is both highly valued and highly critical here at Amex. Everyone’s roles are deeply interconnected so you need to be a team player in order to be successful. Even after moving departments, I still have ‘skip level’ meetings at the Director and VP level, a robust development plan that is regularly updated, as well as mentors from around the business – so I get a lot of input not only from the top-down, but also across the organization. Mentorship and coaching have had a tremendous impact on my development and growth here, and it’s truly one of the best parts of the Amex culture.”
What are the biggest challenges you find American Express is facing in the financial services industry, and how do they trickle down into business needs for new hires?
M: “I’d say probably the pace of change and the ever-increasing need to be nimble. The newer, more digitally-savvy generation thrives in this environment. They have great, fresh ideas and a confidence to share that allows them to add tremendous value to the organization from day one.”
L: “In what Meg was saying, one of the best parts of being a new hire is that you really are valued. I helped launch a new capability within my first six months of joining, and I was given full ownership to lead critical work streams on it from day one. We’re always encouraged to speak up and contribute, regardless of who is in the room – we even have roundtable meetings where it is just a small group of analysts and the Country Manager. Amex also recently started a Millennial Network so we can help everyone stay on top of the latest (memes, especially!)”
Do you have any words of advice for new graduates about success? To what would you attribute your own success and how has American Express helped you get there?
M: “Pick a company with a culture aligned with your values. Somewhere that lets you achieve both your personal and professional goals with limited sacrifice. Amex has accomplished that for me; I have enjoyed coming to work every day, regardless of my particular role or level of seniority.”
L: “Don’t overcomplicate it. Work on something you believe in, with people you like, in a place you think you can learn a lot from and also contribute a lot to. What I’ve achieved so far is definitely attributed to abiding by these three principles, as well as having incredible peers and leaders here at Amex who are invested in my success.”
Marketing doesn’t need to be a mystery in the financial services industry! Undergraduate students commonly begin their marketing job search in the consumer packaged goods industry. American Express has three primary lines of business marketers work under: consumer services, merchant services, and corporate payments and small business services.
American Express truly prioritizes teamwork and personal growth and we hope we have shed light on the many possible opportunities and experiences in the financial services industry has to offer.
ALT: American Express Canada is a company with a long history and a bright future. A Canadian employer since 1853, Amex has created a culture that nurtures extraordinary talent and turns careers into unparalleled experiences. A company where every employee is given the opportunity to learn, grow and excel, Amex is always on the lookout for driven, forward-thinking and creative people ready to take their career to the next level. So, if you share our passion for excellence, our dedication to great service and our excitement about innovation, there’s a world of opportunity waiting for you in a career with American Express Canada.