Jacqueline Joyston-Bechal forged a collaborative leadership style during 12 years with the Bank of England, where she played a significant role in the central bank’s response to the global financial crisis. She joined BNY Mellon in January 2016 as head of the compliance advisory team in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for Investment Services. “Behind the Scenes” recently caught up with Joyston-Bechal to talk about her formative professional experiences and how they prepared her to take a leading role in compliance at BNY Mellon.
Tell us about your career path. How did you end up where you are today?
I studied Spanish and philosophy at Oxford University. The discipline of logical analysis I acquired there was fantastic training for my next pursuit – a law degree from the London College of Law. I went on to work at the law firm Clifford Chance for ten years, gaining experience in litigation, derivatives, and acquisition finance. After this, I joined the Bank of England.
I want to focus on your time with the Bank of England before we get to your current role. What were the highlights of your career there?
Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England during my first nine years there, once said “a successful central bank should be boring.”1 When the global financial crisis came along in the summer of 2007, it certainly changed that. Working to solve the crisis was never dull, and it was the highlight of my career so far.
The crisis catapulted lawyers into the center of decision making and policy making. I ran legal teams for three directorates: Markets, banking, and bank notes. My job included helping to ensure that liquidity was provided to the market, and at times to specific institutions. That role got larger as shocks spread through the financial system and liquidity pressures rose.
Creating the Special Liquidity Scheme, which enabled banks and building societies to swap illiquid assets for Treasury bills, was a huge undertaking and it was put in place over a weekend. It was a life saver for many financial institutions. In 2009, we began quantitative easing. We also started working with other central banks on foreign-currency liquidity swap lines, enabling us to offer liquidity to our domestic institutions in a range of currencies. It was an extraordinary time to work at the center of the economy.
I also had some unique experiences. I’ve seen the gold vaults and held a million pounds in bank notes in my hands. Have you seen those James Bond films where they hand over the suitcase with a million pounds in it, the money all fits so neatly, and the suitcase is easy to lift? It’s really quite a pile and it’s a struggle to hold onto it!
So after 12 years at the Bank of England you joined BNY Mellon as Head of Compliance, Advisory in EMEA for Investment Services. What does your team do?
My team is the second line of defense after management and before internal audit. We advise business-line management on implementing regulations and evaluating new business opportunities. We are there to work with them as a business partner, but at the same time we are independent, and we challenge them. And we own the relationship with the regulators.
Compliance has changed dramatically in the last five years. Today, it is so much more analytical and judgment-based. Before the financial crisis, regulation in the UK was more rules-based. Now regulators expect us to do far more than follow the rules. It has always been expected that banks would act ethically, but that is the overarching requirement now.
What did you take away from your past experiences that help your professional performance today?
Certainly, I have become a crisis manager. I don’t think anything fazes me now. I have good risk management antennae in terms of what can go wrong. When we were in the throes of the crisis, there were surprises around each corner, and I learned to try to spot them.
In a crisis, you gain experience putting solutions together quickly and bringing the right people together. I sharpened my project management skills and experienced how you must sometimes pull together your contacts to solve problems.
It sounds cliché, but being effective is all about the team. You need to build up the expertise and diversity of your team. I’ve prioritized that here at BNY Mellon.
Finally, an awful lot of the power that lies with a central bank resides in its reputation. I’m acutely aware of reputational risk and reputation is equally important at BNY Mellon. I approach compliance with the knowledge that we have to show ourselves to be an example in the market.
What priorities have you identified for EMEA Compliance Advisory?
The first one is shared across all compliance areas: Getting people with the necessary mix of expertise, regulatory experience and analytical skills. There are plenty of people in the job market, but finding the right ones takes focus.
Keeping up with regulatory change is another top priority. We’re coming to the end of the huge wave of regulation, post-financial crisis. Now we’re embedding that regulation and ensuring that the way we move forward is in compliance and takes into account the spirit of that regulation.
Finally, embracing best practices is critical. UK regulators are not going to set rules around every type of behavior. Instead, the onus is on each financial institution to manage conduct risk and demonstrate that they are using good judgment.
You clearly work hard. How do you maintain a healthy balance?
First of all, I delegate. I have two teenage sons who were very little during the crisis. My husband picked up the slack for me when I needed it, and I got additional support.
Second, I exercise. Mark Carney, who was governor of the Bank of England during my final years there, always managed to work out. If he has time to go to the gym, so do I.
I took up ballet after a long gap. I was laughed at by my teenage boys -- “Mum, at your age?” But I’m never the oldest person in the class. It’s just wonderful. I do it for an hour and half every Monday night. There’s live piano music, and it’s heaven.