“Equality is about having a voice at the table”
We talk to Karla Maloof, Managing Director in Corporate Banking Americas and Co-Chair of the Barclays Win network for the Americas, about leading with integrity, “going the extra mile” for colleagues during the coronavirus crisis – and why she’ll never stop pressing for change.
For Karla Maloof, supporting other women to reach their potential has always been a priority. Now, as Co-Chair of Barclays Win for the Americas, she’s enjoying continuing to lift up, enable and inspire colleagues – despite the challenges caused by the coronavirus crisis.
“While we have seen progress, the financial services industry still has considerable challenges,” says the Head of Insurance, Healthcare and Consumer Retail Banking Coverage, Corporate Banking Americas at Barclays. “You have to persevere and be confident that if you continue to do the right thing, you will find the path to reach your fullest potential.
“If you come up against headwinds, there is a lot you can do personally to try and overcome them – but it’s also equally important to have advocates who are aligned with your objectives. And when you are in position to pay it forward, help others to reach their potential.”
You have to live with your decisions. Even if something doesn’t work out, if you know you approached it with integrity and in a way that is consistent with your values, that’s okay and you can learn from that
Managing Director, Corporate Banking Americas at Barclays
Karla grew up in Seattle, Washington, going on to study at the University of Pennsylvania, and was driven from an early age to take control of her career.
“My father is a first-generation Lebanese American and my mother is from Germany. Growing up in a multicultural and multilingual household, I was fortunate enough to travel extensively and live abroad. This exposure definitely influenced my professional path.”
Starting at a small boutique wholesale bank post university in the early 90s, Karla went on to hold several leadership roles in the global banking arena before returning to New York to join Barclays in late 2011.
“Barclays Corporate Banking has a long history in the UK and Europe, but in the US the bank is still relatively young,” she says. “It was a great opportunity to leverage the client relationships that I brought with me, and to spend time on strategy and building the business. Today, I am fortunate to run three coverage teams for the International Corporate Bank across Insurance, Healthcare and our Consumer Retail businesses.”
Her guiding leadership principle is to stay true to yourself while listening to others’ perspectives. “One thing that is important to me is to lead with integrity,” she says. “You have to live with your decisions. Even if something doesn’t work out, if you know you approached it with integrity and in a way that is consistent with your own values, that’s okay and you can learn from that.”
Karla credits her first banking boss as a major influence: “He became my mentor – he trusted me with many important strategic projects and I gained responsibility quickly. To this day, I draw on this experience and exposure. I have tried to pay that forward in my own approach to leadership.”
Need to know
Karla Maloof is Managing Director and Head of Insurance, Healthcare and Consumer Retail Banking Coverage, Corporate Banking Americas at Barclays. She grew up in Seattle and studied at the University of Pennsylvania before going into financial services. She joined Barclays in 2011 after holding numerous leadership roles for global organisations and recently became Co-Chair of Win Americas. She lives in New York with her husband.
Supporting her teams, all of whom are currently working from home, has become even more crucial during the coronavirus crisis: “It’s more important than ever to ramp up communication with one another and go the extra mile in reaching out to colleagues and clients who are all experiencing this crisis in different ways. With my own teams, we speak daily as a group and also find one-to-one time throughout the week – even a few minutes can make a difference.”
Karla says that making the effort to inspire and keep in touch with colleagues can also make a big difference to the remote-working day.
“I try to infuse humour and daily motivation in the form of quotes, sharing my weekend ‘adventures’ at home, and hosting the occasional virtual team happy hour on Fridays.”
To be able to celebrate and connect with colleagues around the globe with a common goal of achieving a better gender balance is exciting and creates a lot of energy
Managing Director, Corporate Banking Americas at Barclays
Levelling the playing field
Throughout her career, Karla has championed gender equality and education. By making Barclays a place where everyone can feel included, she says, clients, colleagues and the organisation benefit.
“With a team that is more diverse, better ideas and solutions are brought to the table, which in turn drives better business outcomes.”
It’s that passion for inclusion that led Karla to join the Barclays Win network, going on to become its Co-Chair in 2019. Karla is also a member of the Board of Directors at the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) – a non-profit college access organisation dedicated to the underserved population in New York City through supplemental education and youth development programming.
She says Win’s mission is to “enhance our culture by supporting ways to attract, retain and develop women at all levels diversity, for women in particular” – while her passion for HEAF has led other Barclays colleagues to get involved in supporting the advancement of students in New York City.
“It’s a real joy to see something I am so passionate about become others’ passion,” she says. “I’m proud of the citizenship culture at Barclays – the bank does so much to serve the broader community.”
Karla’s own experience as a woman in financial services has informed her passion for change and advancing women in leadership – and inspired her to mentor others.
“I’m a big believer in connecting people – I think that creating visibility and connection for others is really important. I’ve become a better listener over time, and I try to build circles of advocacy and feedback that will not only help business outcomes, but also help me and my teams be the best we can possibly be.”