Singapore, 10 February: In the ICC Academy’s latest series on women in trade finance, we took the opportunity to speak with Nuria Reveco Garcia, a trade finance specialist at BNP Paribas. Ms Reveco has seven years of trade finance experience within the banking industry and is one of our recent Certified Trade Finance Professional (CTFP) graduates.
Unlike most countries where gender disparity is a persistent norm, Ms Reveco undertook her education and most of her working life in Spain. The European country has consolidated its position among the world’s top 10 in terms of gender equality, as per the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020.
In this interview, we take a look at Ms Reveco’s journey, her experience within the banking sector in Spain, and how upskilling has helped her career progression.
ICC Academy: Can you tell us about yourself?
Ms Reveco: I began my career working for Banco Popular as a Management Assistant in the International Legal Services and Compliance (Bank Guarantees) department. I then moved to Banco Santander as a Trade Finance Analyst, and for the last six years, I have worked for BNP Paribas as a Trade Finance Specialist.
I am a firm believer of upskilling. In today’s ever-evolving global trade landscape, keeping up to date with current industry trends and practices is not a matter of choice, it’s a must. Hence, why I took up the CTFP programme, for which I am glad to have completed with a high score.
ICC Academy: Can you talk us through your journey to reach your current position?
Ms Reveco: I started my career with BNP Paribas back in 2014 as a Trade Finance Middle Office Operation Officer (Bank Guarantees and Letters of Credit). With hard work and perseverance, I progressed to become Trade Finance Specialist and worked at BNP’s international offices in Germany, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Spain. I was then appointed to Head Issuance’s UK Guarantees Hub, a project that gave me the opportunity to travel and work within diverse teams.
I am now based in Spain. It has been a long journey, of constant learning, evolving, and adapting, to reach my current position at BNP Paribas. But then, I was always keen on building my career in an international business environment, where we work to tight deadlines and operate under immense pressure.
ICC Academy: Describe some important elements of your work. What does a typical day or week involve?
Ms Reveco: As a trade finance specialist, I am responsible for supporting client’s practice of international domestic guarantees, standby letters of credit (LC), commercial LCs, and documentary collections. My day to day task includes checking and managing changes to wordings in non-standard or pre-validated formats that are acceptable to overseas bank, liaising with clients to obtain agreements and processing requests in a timely manner.
During a typical working week, I support the front office for processing LCs, export and import, collections, Standby Letter of Credit in coordination with the back office ensuring conformity with client’s instructions and UCP 600 Publication/ISP98. Performing controls to ensure compliance with internal and regulatory regulations, processing sensitive transactions and reporting to management in case of an unusual transaction are also some of my other key responsibilities.
I feel it is very important to have a solid trade finance background. We deal with complex operations that require a customized set of approaches. Adapting our offerings to suit client requirements is of utmost importance.
ICC Academy: How has the pandemic affected the way you work and what is your strategy for 2021?
Ms Reveco: We all know Spain has been in the midst of a balanced economic recovery in recent years; however, the COVID-19 crisis led the country into an unprecedented downturn, with GDP falling by 12.8% according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one of the largest contractions in Europe. Due to heightened uncertainty, access to trade finance is more vital than ever. In a situation such as this, banks come in as an essential part of the solution. BNP Paribas has not halted any of its trade finance activities. Our integrated model helped us operate in full strength last year when the pandemic was at its peak. This year, we will continue to step up our digitalization efforts for all our offerings.
Beyond serving our customers, we consider it our duty to ‘contribute to a better future’, which has been BNP Paribas’ company engagement manifesto since 2018. Now more than ever, sustainable trade finance, which has been in the spotlight through the COVID-19 crisis, should be at the forefront of the world’s recovery.
ICC Academy: What skills have helped you reach a senior position within the team?
Ms Reveco: I have been fortunate to work within the trade finance sector with major international banks. Especially in BNP Paribas, working with diverse teams in Frankfurt, London, and Madrid has helped me gain exposure to the regional nitty-gritty, and at the same time, understand how to customize offerings to attain new and retain existing clients. A unique feature of this sector is despite the international rules, local laws always prevail. That is why it is always important to know about the specific regulations of the country and then tread accordingly.
Even though I have been in trade finance for quite a while now, I quickly understood in order to progress in my career, I needed to further my knowledge. I am pleased that I signed up for the CTFP programme, as it provided me with solid expertise on trade finance products, alongside the opportunities that have been provided to me by BNP Paribas to continue to improve my skills.
Finally, my ability to handle stress, be a team player, and be passionate about my work has helped me operate in a complex international environment. I am very focused on finding tailor-made solutions for clients, which is my utmost priority.
ICC Academy: The trade finance sector is undergoing unprecedented change. With an accelerated digital adoption, due to the pandemic, do you think it is an exciting time to be in trade finance? If so, how, and why?
Ms Reveco: Digitalization has made the operational process more efficient than ever, by reducing the risk of financial loss, improving the data quality, and scalability to volumes. As a result, the lead time, for both the client and the bank has gone down significantly. This has helped improve the quality of our services.
For trade finance to achieve its full digital transformation, the industry needs to adopt technology, which has been turbocharged due to the pandemic anyway. What we also need is transparency, trust, connectivity, commercial, and collaboration. BNP’s vision in this area is articulated around three pillars: connect, provide, and move up. The aim is to meet client’s expectations while remaining agile and anticipating market trends.
ICC Academy: Describe your experience with our CTFP programme?
Ms Reveco: I think there are two distinct aspects of the advanced-level CTFP programme. The first is the industry-validated syllabus. Authored by leading trade finance experts from ICC, each course has been tailor-made to teach the essentials of global trade finance – from letters of credit to supply chain financing techniques, things that I need on a day to day basis.
The second is the digital platform, which made the learning experience easy and engaging. The combination of text, videos, and quizzes made each e-course interesting and easy to comprehend. Especially having a full-time job, being able to learn anytime, anywhere has been an added advantage.
Also, the use of case studies within the course helped me actively engage in identifying the trade finance principles and theories. The course is comprehensive and by the end of it, anyone can have a good understanding of key trade finance products, techniques and compliance issues.
ICC Academy: Do you see a lack of diversity at the top in terms of leaders in trade finance?
Ms Reveco: To be honest, I consider myself lucky to work for BNP Paribas. For several years now, we have been pursuing a proactive policy to promote gender equality and diversity in our workplace. Our “Diversity and Inclusion Agreement” has come into force recently and consolidates our commitments to introduce new mechanisms that ensure everyone feels fully respected and included.
That said, we are all aware this not always the case. But at the same time, I feel it’s too early to say the trade finance industry has failed on diversity. There are many indicators that the sector is moving in the right direction. However, the pace of change needs to accelerate. COVID-19 could be a stimulus to expedite that change. Mindsets are shifting, with diversity being seen as contributing to strong and resilient businesses rather than being a problem that needs to be fixed.
As an industry, we have to keep doing a better job at getting the message out to women that this is now an industry where you will be treated with respect and promoted on merit, an industry that provides constant intellectual stimulation and opportunity for impact both personally and socially, and so is a great sector to build a rewarding career.
ICC Academy: What advice would you give women aspiring for leadership positions?
Ms Reveco: For women aspiring for leadership positions, my advice to you is:
– Recognize your potential: Unlock your ability to take charge of your professional development. Learn on the job and learn from the people in your network.
– Don’t wait to be asked: Develop the confidence to proactively seek assignments. This is an important step for women in accepting their potential for promotion.
– Be visible: Don’t just sit at the table, make sure you speak, and ensure your voice is heard.
– Focus on the long-term goal: Don’t give up. Take the time off when you need to, for example when you start a family, but then go back to work, and start building up your career again from there. Maybe some of your peers will have gotten ahead of you temporarily, but there is time to catch up.
– Embrace a good leadership style: When you reach the top, create a rounded and distinctive blend of leadership skills and a nurturing behavior that encourages other women to follow your lead. Create mentoring groups and make sure you provide support to women around you.
ICC Academy: What advice would you give to junior employees who want a career in trade finance?
Ms Reveco: For those who are just starting a career in trade finance, now is an exciting time.
– Build a firm understanding of the trade finance fundamentals before specializing in any particular area.
– Seek opportunities to take on different roles within your organization. Be proactive in solving problems, think out of the box for solutions, and get the job done. Never say it’s not my job.
– Master the art of client management. A ‘one size fits all’ approach does not always work.
– There is no shortcut to success. Work hard, be patient, and wait for the right opportunity. Try and get experience on all sides of the business. It will help you resolve issues and manage conflicts.
– Keep yourself up to date by taking up industry-validated certifications, attend events and webinars. Never stop learning!
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