Women in Capital Markets: Charlotte McLaughlin

To celebrate Women’s History Month, SIFMA sought to spotlight several of its female board members. In this edition, we spotlight Charlotte McLaughlin, President and Chief Executive Officer, PNC Capital Markets. We ask her several questions on how she found her start in finance as the only female in her program, what drives her mentoring philosophies, and how she is cultivating an inclusive environment for her team.

How would you describe your role and responsibilities at PNC?

I have the privilege and honor of leading PNC’s Capital Markets business, including our Financial Institutions client coverage, with oversight responsibilities spanning product strategy and sales, as well as risk management and financial accountability. I set the strategy and oversee the execution of activities of diverse teams of talented, high-performing individuals, who drive our sales and trading, relationship management, investment banking and product development efforts.

When did you decide to pursue a career in financial services?

I never intended to pursue a career in finance. My background and passion were math and science. To earn money in college, I worked in public accounting during the busy winter season and attended classes in the summer. My resume stood out because I was a math and science major with 21 accounting credits. I joined the credit training team of a major bank with about a dozen other recent MBA graduates, which required me to take postgraduate-level courses in economics, banking and business law. Whoa, I was in over my head!

I was the first non-business major — and the only woman — hired into that program. I enjoyed the challenge and eventually gravitated toward capital markets because I loved the fast pace and dynamic nature of the markets, and appreciated the opportunity to apply my mathematical skills. Over time, I also learned an incredible amount about softer skills and client focus.

Who is one of the biggest influencers/mentors in your life and career? Why?

I have had many mentors and role models over the years, and am very grateful for their influence. But what I’ve come to understand about mentoring relationships is that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to learning from only those with seniority. Some of the best lessons come from individuals with less experience who aren’t afraid to try new things. I’m always taking note of the approaches and skills others use to excel. Then, I adopt fresh ideas and approaches that hold promise for my own performance.

Within my teams, I encourage two-way mentoring, with seasoned leaders and junior talent working collaboratively. The junior talent gains in-depth product and market knowledge from the more seasoned members of the team, while the seasoned leaders often begin thinking differently about how they approach projects and challenges.

What was your experience as a woman in financial services at the beginning of your career and how has it changed over time?

When I started out on the trading floor, the industry looked quite different than it does today. It was unusual for a woman to have a trading career, let alone rise to a leadership position. I soaked up all of the knowledge I could and acted on opportunities to advance without hesitation, even if I was not totally qualified going into the position. I knew that by continuing to move forward, I would one day have the authority to create a culture inclusive of the women and minorities who had been underrepresented for too long.

Now as I look over this Capital Markets team that I have led for the past 20+ years, I am so proud of our client-focused culture and diverse talent. We are intentionally inclusive, not only in our hiring practices but also in ensuring that every member of our team is respected and has a voice. I’m delighted to see this commitment spreading throughout the capital markets industry, which still has a way to go but is definitely on the right track.

What are the most important attributes of successful leaders today?

Transparency, honesty, empathy, and effective communication skills that spark employee and client engagement. These have always been hallmarks of good leaders, but today they are more important than perhaps ever before.

Our nation has been challenged by a perfect storm over the past year: a once-in-a-century pandemic, extraordinarily divisive politics and civil unrest decades in the making. And while each of these has affected individuals differently, and at varying levels, as leaders we need to acknowledge and respect the stress, the grief, the pain. The term “business as usual” no longer applies. We need to address the very human aspects of supporting one another as we work together toward our common business goals.

What book(s) can you recommend focused on being an impactful leader?

How I Built This: This isn’t a book but rather a fascinating series of podcasts, recommended by one of my talented mentees, about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists, featuring stories, tactics and team challenges designed to inspire the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Energy Leadership: Bruce D. Schneider identifies energy-giving versus energy-taking behaviors, and the effects of various types of leadership on attracting success or negatively impacting the energy and momentum of those around you.

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life: This short book by Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and Rosamund Stone Zander draws parallels between creating music and the reality we create for those we serve as leaders.

If you could have dinner with any woman, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

This is a hard question — how to pick just one from so many amazing women? To name a few: Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest; space pioneers Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride; painter Frida Kahlo; and primatologist Jane Goodall, who famously said, “The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”

Yet, above all of these impressive women, I would choose to have one more dinner with my late mother. She supported me unconditionally and inspired me to reach for the stars in everything I pursued.

We thank Charlotte for her service on SIFMA’s Board and remain humbled by her leadership, achievements, and mentoring pursuits. It was a pleasure to speak with her as part of this series and collaborate with her as an organization.

To learn more about SIFMA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts, visit sifma.org/diversity.