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Women in Asset Management: Melanie Seymour

BlackRock’s Head of Global Client Services on her non-traditional career path and why building a breadth of experience is important than subject matter expertise.

Melanie Seymour, Head of Global Client Service at BlackRock, never intended to have a career in financial services. “When I graduated from college I moved to Canada to show jump and thought that was going to be my career,” Seymour says. However, after a year she returned home to the UK and decided to try a job valuing bonds at a bond house. “It wasn’t a career choice by any means, I had promised my father that I would try working for a year and it was supposed to be temporary,” Seymour recalls. “However, once I started earning money and enjoying life in London, I decided I wouldn’t go back to show jumping.” 

That was just the beginning of an unconventional career journey for Seymour. She’s held a number of senior roles in technology, operations, and change management at major financial institutions. Seymour also spent nearly a decade as an entrepreneur, running a successful startup that she grew to a team of over 200 with over £20 million in annual revenue.

Seymour’s entrepreneurial spirit has paid dividends in her time at the world’s largest asset manager. Prior to taking her current role, she was charged with building the firm’s innovation hub in Budapest. When she arrived in Hungary it was just her and a laptop, but when she left it was an office of almost 800 people and an integral part of BlackRock’s global operating model. Seymour credits her time as the founder of a startup to her success at BlackRock. “When you own your own business, you can't just think about what you’re doing today. You have to anticipate the impact of everything around you and what's coming up,” says Seymour. “I think that's definitely helped me as I've moved into different roles, having that peripheral vision of a whole business.”

Now Seymour is focused on transforming the firm’s digital client experience across the globe. She’s seen first-hand not only how the pace of technology has increased, but how much clients are asking for it. “Clients used to look for products and now they are looking for partners to help them deliver solutions. The companies that have been really successful have all truly embraced technology and their offerings today, compared to even 10 years ago, are unrecognizable.” 

Seymour predicts her eclectic experience will also become the norm in the industry. “When I started in financial services, there was a belief that you needed to be a deep subject matter expert to succeed,” Seymour says. “However, I think more and more breadth is just as important as depth. Having lots of different experiences is key to unlocking opportunities.” Looking at her own career, she thinks that some of the sideways moves and things that weren't stops on a traditional career path have helped to shape her the most.

For the past nine years, Seymour has sat on the Advisory Board of Women in Banking and Finance where she has mentored women of all levels in the industry. Drawing on her own experience, the key piece of advice she gives to young women is to build a breadth of experience. “I talk about having a metaphorical backpack and over the first 10 years of your career, fill that backpack with skills, experiences, and people because as you move through your career, you're going to need a number of tools to be successful. I think this is true now more than ever because with the pace of technology today, everything is evolving so quickly.”

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