Nuno da Silva has a unique skill set that has carried him from a career in diplomacy to his current role as managing director and regional head of Latin America for BNY Mellon’s Depositary Receipts business. Fluent in five languages, da Silva manages client relationships and develops new business across the diverse landscape of Latin America. He draws on experience cultivated during six years with the Portuguese Embassy in Washington, D.C., to help clients navigate regulatory regimes, capital markets and economic challenges. He recently chatted with Behind the Scenes.
You started your career in Portugal’s diplomatic corps. What was your academic background, and how did your path lead you to BNY Mellon?
Although I grew up in Portugal, I decided to attend college in the U.K., where I studied European studies and German. I was already fluent in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, and was also becoming very interested in politics at that time. My tutor at the University of Buckingham was from UC Berkeley, California, and at her urging I applied for an internship with the U.S. Congress. I spent six months in Washington, D.C., after graduation, working for the House Budget Committee. While I was in Washington, I met people from the Portuguese Embassy. I was offered a position as an economic attaché. One thing led to another, and I was in Washington with the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for six years.
When my time with the embassy was up, I started working my network. I just put myself out there. Through contacts at a law firm, I ended up being introduced to BNY Mellon, and I joined the Bank of New York in 1999. I was in London until I came to New York to assume responsibility for Latin America in 2006.
How does your diplomatic experience help you in your current role at BNY Mellon?
If you think about it, both roles are about representing an entity. First it was a country, and now it is a financial institution. Both positions are about understanding how to build relationships and trust. The dynamic is not dissimilar.
There were also similarities between what I was covering for the embassy – economic affairs and capital markets – and the role I took on at BNY Mellon. Lessons I had learned in the past about working with regulators came in handy. And communication is a skill they teach you in the foreign service. If you communicate well, you can progress in any field.
What is your current role?
I’m head of Latin America for Depositary Receipts. I have two hats and two teams I work with. In Latin America, my job is primarily to run a sales and relationship management team. I travel from New York regularly and spend substantial time in Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and other cities. I support my team by creating a vision for what they do and ensuring we achieve our financial and qualitative goals through excellent client service.
I also support new business development and branding in Latin America. It’s about making sure our clients have a positive experience.
What drives the depositary receipts business in Latin America?
Latin America has very good companies with missions to grow, but the local capital markets are not deep enough. To find other capital channels, these companies often need to look outside their home country. To further their growth and/or to raise equity, many come to the U.S. and raise capital through depositary receipts, because U.S. markets have greater liquidity and trading volume. This is an important business for BNY Mellon, as we are viewed as the largest depositary receipts program provider by number of companies and market share in Latin America.
What do you enjoy about your role?
In 18 years with BNY Mellon, I have developed a lot of affection for the firm. We have very talented people and an exceptionally strong brand. We have a culture where people are really supportive of one another, and we have insightful, visionary management. That helps immensely with our clients, who value our commitment, stability, expertise and leadership.
I love the whole region of Latin America. Mexico City is exciting, Rio de Janeiro is very beautiful, and Buenos Aires is charming – I could go on. Business executives in Latin America have a high level of professionalism, and they value relationships. Many companies we work with are the cream of the crop, including large multinationals and companies that are global leaders in their respective industries.
Your job is very demanding. How do you achieve balance in your work life?
I have a keen interest in classical music (mostly Baroque), and I enjoy traveling, cooking, and reading. I have served on three nonprofit boards, where I’ve done everything from stuffing envelopes to fundraising to helping organizations connect with potential partners. When I was younger I did judo for 20 years, and have a black belt. For some time, I competed and was very into that…..but I am too old for that now – I now jog a few times a week.
What’s your advice to people just starting out on their professional path?
Focus on quality, and be strategic, not tactical. Developing strong basic skills will serve you well over time. Communication, leadership, vision and strategic insight are competencies that cut across the board in every discipline and can take you anywhere you want to go. Above all, be a team player and don’t let your ego get in the way.
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