According to Rashaan Reid, Director in the Mortgage & Securitized Products Sales Group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the most important factor in succeeding on Wall Street is drive.
“Having the passion is the first thing – it takes a lot of energy and stamina,” she explained.
Next important, she continued, is the willingness to learn. She encouraged people just beginning their careers in the industry to hone their curiosity and build a broad foundation of knowledge. “Seeing different aspects of the business gives you a well roundedness and a better ability to provide solutions for your client. You have to ask questions and learn the business from the ground up.”
Creating Career Partnerships
Reid, who grew up in New Orleans, developed an interest in business at an early age. She watched her godfather, an inspirational person in her life, get involved in many entrepreneurial endeavors. “That piqued my interest,” she said.
She went on to study business, finance, and management at Tulane University, and through a program called Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), which BofA Merrill Lynch supports, she landed an internship at the firm. “After experiencing the Street during my summer internship, I was hooked,” she recalled. “Then I received an offer in debt capital markets at Merrill Lynch. I was able to experience the banking world coupled with sales and trading.”
“Eventually, I realized the pace of sales and trading suited me best, and I was intrigued by how institutional investors are motivated to invest, and how they choose products at a large firm like Bank of America Merrill Lynch,” she continued. She decided to go back to school to earn an MBA, so she could focus on her interests.
“That’s an important part of being at a firm like this one. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is supportive of those kinds of decisions, and values talented people. And it’s willing to form partnerships to retain that talent.”
Reid applied for a diversity fellowship through BofA Merrill Lynch, and when she got it, she went on to study at the University of Chicago. “I maintained relationships through that experience and came back as an associate in the mortgage & securitized products sales division. I learned that once you decide to make a shift and you have an employer that will support you, leverage that. I was able to come back and pick up where I left off, and that has been important to my success.”
Currently she is interested in the way the market is evolving. “Coming out of the housing crisis, it’s an interesting time at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. We’re adjusting the scope of how we do business. We always do business in a way that is client focused, and new regulations are making us think differently about how to engage them. It’s almost like the mortgage market 2.0, and that feeds into all of our products.”
As a co-leader of the group DEAL (Developing & Engaging African American Leaders), Reid is also a strong proponent of diversity at the firm. “Diversity and inclusion remains near and dear to my heart. It’s a big topic and I think Wall Street is on its way to doing a better job at it.”
She continued, “For us at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as the diverse professionals who sit here, it’s about how to make that concept mutually beneficial.”
She explained that DEAL’s members come together to network, to support one another, and to host client focused events, but also to elevate one another’s profile in front of senior management. “We want to discuss how do we bring something to the table and deliver value to the firm.”
“This is something I remain very passionate about,” she added. “The firm has given us the resources to do something different in addition to the standard diversity initiatives.”
Making Her Mark
Reid shared her advice for young people on Wall Street.
“Coming in, you’re trying to understand everything, to grasp an understanding of the firm and what the business is, and dealing with the complexity,” she said. “But I really do believe in the concept of defining your own brand up front – whether you’re all about product knowledge or the ability to network and forge relationships, or something else.”
That means explaining how you can be of service to your colleagues and clients, she explained. “Define that brand early on and figure out how to frame yourself in the context of the organization so they can leverage the best of you and you can leverage the best of them.”
For Reid, that meant developing an external client focus, coupled with her credit intensive background. “I used my background in the capital markets, and that framework helped me understand credit risk – then I was able to leverage that when analyzing and selling non-agency securities for example. I use my own ideas, coupled with leveraging our firm’s research ideas, and I do it with a little bit of an attitude,” she said with a laugh.
In fact, one of Reid’s proudest memories was executing an innovative trade back in 2007 that enabled her to establish herself and her brand within the firm. “The markets were really booming, and I had the opportunity to cover a small but growing hedge fund. Through my efforts and the firm’s efforts, we were able to cultivate a strong, mutually beneficial relationship,” she recalled. “It turned out to be an innovative trade idea in the market at that time and as a sales person, I was able to make my mark.”
Women at Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Reid says she feels women face some challenges in the workplace. “It’s a double edged sword,” she explained. “It’s in all industries in some shape or form, including Wall Street. At the end of the day, it’s about each professional, but I think women do have more challenges when it comes to making your personal core values fit in the context of a rigorous, demanding career.”
She continued, “Those choices are personal and everyone has to figure them out how to make it work.”
“We have a strong network of women at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, via the Women’s Leadership Council,” Reid said. “The Council provides programming that helps us reach across to one another for the benefit of clients and for our personal benefit.”
She shared that she has benefited from the firm’s Women’s Leadership Development Sessions. “It’s a day-long forum for high performing vice presidents and directors to prepare you for the next phase of leadership. It helps you think about your objectives and milestones.”
BofA Merrill Lynch is also focused on retaining talented women at the managing director level through the Managing Director Women Connect series. “It’s a network for leaders in the banking business to share their perspectives,” Reid explained. “This is a big place, and it helps to take a step back and recognize what other professionals are doing in other areas of the business.”
She added, “The Women’s Leadership Council, and obviously DEAL are very important to me as a diverse woman in particular.”
In Her Personal Time
Reid, who mentioned that she has a baby on the way, says she and her cultured husband are avid travelers. “It’s something we do probably too much,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s really about experiencing new cultures. It’s helped me become a better person, I believe, on a professional and personal level.”