We are honored to have Chandra Stempien, VP of RBC Risk Management as our DSS speaker. Ms. Stempien has a diverse finance background and brings 20 years of risk management experience to her role as VP, Stress Testing & Credit Analysis and Measurement.
– Event Summary-
Chandra Stempien’s Background:
Chandra was originally enrolled in a Bachelor of Chemistry program at the University of Alberta. After she went through several “funny accidents” such as causing a fire in a lab and a flood to her professor’s research work, she started to reconsider her education path from Chemistry to Mathematical Finance, which totally changed her life. Chandra graduated with a Mathematical Finance degree. When she first threw herself into the job market, it didn’t go as well as expected. She could not land a job at that time and ended up working at a hotel as an audit manager. She decided to continue to pursue a masters degree in Mathematical Finance. After 16 months, she was the last one to land a job in her program.
-Early Career Stage at Equity Market Risk Management-
Ms. Stempien joined RBC in September 2000 as a Senior Analyst, Equity Market Risk Management. As she said, the very important lesson from there is that you have to understand what you are doing for the current job. If you are not 100% sure about it, ask as many questions as you can until you understand it. For example, how does that portfolio generate potential risk? Moreover, Chandra mentioned that in order to make yourself stand out and not follow the status quo, you really need to look for vulnerabilities and inefficiencies around the workplace. That way, you can increase the efficiency of the entire business unit and bring value to it. The third key skill Chandra emphasized is to practice your presentation skills. At the very beginning, everyone gets nervous with voice changing, which is totally fine; however, you need to get past that at some point. There are two things which really helped her to get over that. First, you need to remind yourself that you are the person who knows the most about your presentation and you need to add value to your audience. Another thing is just to remain confident because nobody really wants you to fail. The fourth lesson Chandra wants to share with us is that when you think you are ready for a promotion but do not get it, don’t be too upset. It might be that you simply are not ready for it yet. But the most important thing after this is to ask your manager for feedback. The final point Chandra wants to share with us during her first work experience at RBC is to network naturally both during work and off work. In other words, you need to stay connected with your colleagues, peers, managers in any necessary cases to leave a great impression and maintain a good relationship.
-Leadership Development through Promotions-
She was promoted through a variety of roles to one of Director, Market Risk Analysis and Reporting. She stressed that being a people manager requires the ability of prioritization. As a manager, you will make a lot of decisions based on the current information you have. You have to make the best one at that time, even though there will be people doubting your decision maybe 2 years later. In addition, you need to keep learning new products and strategies, keep a great relationship with IT, cultivate your communication skills to negotiate with stakeholder and continue to build relationships.Chandra stressed that when you become a people manager, you need to consider what motivates your whole team and how to keep people engaged. Another challenge faced by people managers is how to make the hard decisions because there will be many difficult situations that a people manager needs to handle correctly. The next topic Chandra raised is the pitfall of early promotion and understanding your limits. As we all know, doing is much harder than talking. If you just sit there and watch other people do the work, you cannot be a good leader. Additionally, emotion management skill is also essential in both life and work. When people accidentally say something or do something which could touch your limit, try to tell yourself saying “ok, this is my limit, I need to overcome this and react more naturally” would be better.
In 2008, when the financial crisis happened, RBC made an incredible move to swap all the senior managers and let different people to re-measure and re-consider the same problems, which led to substantial success. During that time, Chandra took a step back by moving from a manager to a contributor. Chandra said reporting to a person who is the same level as yourself is not that bad. It is OK to take a step back and it doesn’t necessarily hinder your career progress. More importantly, you can still learn from each other and you now have a chance to do the “interesting work”.In May 2011, Ms. Stempien shifted roles again as Director, Counterparty Credit Risk Analysis and Measurement in which she oversaw the implementation of the Internal Models Method for both Counter-party Credit Risk and CVA capital while evolving credit risk analysis for the OTC derivatives portfolio. During that time, Chandra spent three weeks in New York and one week in Toronto every month. Ms. Stempien then transferred to Hong Kong to take the role of Head of Market Risk, APAC in which she oversaw the market, counterparty credit risk, liquidity and Enterprise Risk for the region. There are pros and cons of relocating. You need to take care of taxes, personal relationships, networks, and family. Moreover, you need to keep ties to the head office, the method varies. You can have coffee-chat with your old colleagues or you can just say hi whenever you come back.In January 2016, Ms. Stempien was appointed as an executive officer of RBC and assumed the role of Managing Director and Head, Counter-party Credit Risk in which she had oversight of all counterparty credit risk exposure within the trading book. In November 2018, Ms. Stempien moved into her current role as VP, Stress Testing & Credit, Analysis and Measurement.
Chandra raised some other good points and lessons she has learned, and we are very lucky that she shared those with us. Due to the page limitation, I will select some of them. For example, embrace the uncomfortable, laugh, apologize when you say something hurtful, ask questions when you have questions, make mistakes frequently, just don’t make them twice and so on. These are really practical and valuable points that all young professionals should embrace and apply for their entire careers.
The last part of this Distinguished Speaker Event is the QA session. We are happy to have Molly Li as our moderator. The first question raised by the audience is about the biggest challenge in current credit risk management. Chandra explained that risk can vary and she does not focus on the most fundamental risk in the current market, she cares more about the risks that are not that obvious, which could be even more adverse. The second question is about the necessary skill sets that could help recent graduates step into the counterparty risk. Chandra claims that counterparty credit risk is another type of market risk, but it can be massive. One needs to have transferrable skills towards market risk and be familiar with financial products, portfolio management, and derivatives. In terms of technical skills, Chandra does not recommend taking too many certification exams such as CFA and FRM. She mentioned that these things matter to some extent, but not as valuable as if you really understand the function and job.This distinguished speaker event provided the audience with a valuable opportunity to speak to a senior professional in the financial industry. We hope everyone has learned something from Chandra’s work and life experience. We sincerely appreciate Chandra’s time and we look forward to our next distinguish.
Great thanks to all the panelists Chandra Stephen for providing those great insights to the audience and special thanks to Molly Li for being an excellent moderator! We hope young professionals and new graduates who attended this session benefited from this great learning and networking platform built by NHC.
Forrest is a dedicated volunteer at NHC. He is also a member of the Job Posting Group. As an MA economic graduate, he works as Manager-Analytics at RBC.