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Amy Peterson on “why a leader should not be afraid to be terrified”

Don’t be afraid to be terrified. I was passionate about soccer at a very young age. When I reflect, I believe that is where I started to shape my values, behavior, and competitive energy that transcends from the field to how I approach business and life today. Soccer is a team sport. But at times, […]


Don’t be afraid to be terrified. I was passionate about soccer at a very young age. When I reflect, I believe that is where I started to shape my values, behavior, and competitive energy that transcends from the field to how I approach business and life today. Soccer is a team sport. But at times, such as when, as the goalie, I found myself in a double overtime shoot-out, it does come down to the individual. And in those times of pressure and stress, where you are highly visible and highly scrutinized, you start to learn who you are. Do you freeze? Do you cry? Or do you stare the shooter straight on and believe you can stop the high-speed ball that is coming your way? I stood. I stared. And I stopped some of the balls from entering the net.

And in a life defining moment, I had the privilege of coaching my 10-year-old daughter through the exact same situation. I understood the stress and the courage it took to stand. What was new to me was the combination of my experience with the intense respect and awareness that my role was not as player, but to encourage and support with empathy so that she could find her soul and competitive spirit. As a coach, I learned how much I enjoyed being in a leadership role. I think of experiences like these, of being uncomfortable and testing limits and abilities, that help shaped me as a player, as a coach, as a mother, as an employee, as a person. So embrace the challenge or scary situation — there are lessons to be learned.


I had the pleasure to interview Amy Peterson. Amy is the Executive Vice President, Operations, Technology, Control, and Client Engagement at Fiera Capital. Amy leads oversight and strategic responsibility for the core internal components of Fiera Capital’s U.S. division’s operations, technology, client service, and enterprise risk processes. She is a member of the Management Committee, where she is a key partner in determining the future direction of the firm. Her vision and direction have been instrumental in the development of Fiera Capital as a unified, scalable, technologically innovative, client-focused firm. Amy is also involved in global strategic planning around operational efficiency and scalability. Amy previously worked at JP Morgan, where she was a managing director and spent 18 years in key leadership roles in the Asset Management Division, the Private Bank, Chase Wealth Management and the Investment Bank. Amy began her career with Bankers Trust in 1995 and she has over 20 years of experience in the finance industry. Amy received her MBA in Finance from NYU and her BS degree in Business and minor in Labor and Industrial Relations from the Pennsylvania State University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I, like many undergrads, did not have a good understanding of what finance “is” so I was pleased to have been accepted into a rotational training program at a large financial institution. There is a fantastic array of opportunities, positions, and environments within the industry — and I was lucky to be exposed to quite a few in my first job. What appealed to me was the pace; a premium is placed on quick thinking, quick acting, and constant production of results. I know this could be trying for some people, but it is exhilarating for me. My background in competitive soccer was important in preparing me for this, and it’s one of the reasons I have done everything I can to support my own children playing team sports today. I found my career niche at the intersection of finance and technology — a challenging environment where there are both tough problems to solve and innovation to match.

Can you share an interesting story that occurred since you began leading a team at your current company?

I started at Fiera Capital at a pivotal point — at the time it was a young firm formed from boutiques with a lot of history. So, you had this dynamic environment of multiple specialized viewpoints and experience that needed to be unified. Everyone was very excited about the future vision for the firm as a multi-boutique asset manager focusing on delivering innovative solutions for clients, and there was a true opportunity for radical change within the organization. I spent my first weeks listening and observing and understanding. I felt like I had just received this massive download of information and it was a challenge to intake and digest it all at rapid fire speed. Those weeks of discomfort could have been really discouraging, and I think it’s times like that when many people start to get a sense of imposter syndrome. But you have got to persevere and remember this is all par for the course. So, I kept at it, and continued to talk and gather viewpoints until finally I had this a-ha moment while sitting on the train on my commute home where it all crystalized for me and right there on the train I laid out the outline of my vision for the future of my team. And that vision became a key part of Fiera Capital’s global strategy.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

While I laugh easily, I don’t know that I can identify a mistake I’d consider funny — I’m too competitive! I think the main thing about mistakes is not to dwell, but to learn and then let them go. In soccer, if you continue to replay the goal you missed, the shot you didn’t take, or the bad pass, you miss the opportunity to react and turn the tide, and you eventually become afraid to play at all. In the workplace, developing the ability to recover is one of the most important skills you can nurture as a leader.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Fiera Capital is in a position of growth in an industry marked by major trend shifts, regulatory changes, evolution of passive investing, and fee compression. This firm is rigorous about its identity as being at the forefront of the investment management science. If you look at the history of our firm and the people that lead it, it is a group of entrepreneurs with a history of building successful companies and empowering every single employee to contribute. I think it’s rare that you have that type of start-up culture in a firm of our size. One of the most common things I hear from interns at the end of their program is “I felt like I had an impact” and I really believe we empower employees at every level to effect positive change. And all of that is grounded by our focus on advocating and problem solving for our clients and tracing all our actions back to them.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are going through a large transformation at Fiera. We are re-thinking how we work, how clients engage with us, and how to build scale globally. When we align to a shared vision, it gives us a common goal and informs our actions, our training and development, and our shared definition of success. But at the individual level, everyone on the team must play up that level. We push each other, we support each other, and we drive towards the basket. Depending on a few super stars will not lead to long term success. The team must anticipate, has to work together, and be vulnerable enough to recognize weaknesses & pivot when needed. Elevating the game, elevates the players!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

My advice would be — do not be afraid of fear and being out of your comfort zone. Accept that adrenaline and use it as fuel to drive your success rather than feeding your doubts. Encourage your team to make decisions and not be paralyzed by the idea of perfection. Enable them and spotlight their achievements.

When I first came to Fiera Capital and thought about what we were trying to accomplish, I really wanted to harness the entrepreneurial energy I felt at the firm. So, I piloted a program for all employees to nominate one another in recognition of the extra effort that was being made throughout the firm to improve procedures, proactively solve problems, and advance our mission. By empowering all employees, we were able to crowdsource our intel on these initiatives and reward the entrepreneurial action that is so key to our culture.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

It’s a privilege to lead a team and I always start with that. For me, the key element is trust — my team has to know that I operate with integrity and empathy. And that means listening, understanding, and doing the right thing, even when it might be unpopular. I look for a diverse set of perspectives and backgrounds in my hiring — I want to have a 360 view of the issue and that means looking beyond just what I see.

I also think that one of the most powerful things we can do as leaders is to build our network and leverage it on behalf of our teams. Every time I encounter someone I can learn from, I try to establish a connection so that I can tap that network for insights. I operate from the perspective that people generally enjoy helping others and being a resource — so I’m never afraid to ask.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are a few people along the way that helped shape my journey. Early on in my career I was lucky enough to meet a gentleman that was very successful and championed my career. I was not the only person he did this for, there were many. He was incredibly smart but took his opportunities to shine the light on young rising stars that he had the opportunity to work with. This person was from modest means but made personal and monetary success off the back of his intelligence, hard-work and continuous success. I watched as he was confident and strong enough to support below him and raise all of us up. Interestingly enough, he was a single gay man in an environment and time where it was not always incredibly accepting. He used his platform and represented an example of strength, courage, and humility. That I carry with me.

I will mention that there have been successful figures along the way which have had an opposite impact on me. I have observed their actions or listened to their speeches, town halls, fireside chats, or “words of wisdom” and knew I did not agree or relate. One such woman spoke about “work life integration” as the new “work life balance”. Having a young family at the time and having this senior woman discuss how she can work while watching children’s games or multitasking on her mobile into the late hours of the night created a visceral reaction in me. My point in using this example is that as you continue your individual journey, observe and decide what echoes your values and let that influence how you want to partner, lead and inspire. It is just as powerful to recognize what behaviors and perceptions you want to ensure you reject and do not mimic or create.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I find direct impact really satisfying, and although I dream of one day creating change on a larger scale, I devote the majority of my time to promoting, mentoring, and supporting the people around me. Developing and coaching leaders is fulfilling. Watching young people come in and move on into strong, powerful, battle tested leaders who can be change agents themselves is meaningful to me.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1.Don’t be afraid to be terrified. I was passionate about soccer at a very young age. When I reflect, I believe that is where I started to shape my values, behavior, and competitive energy that transcends from the field to how I approach business and life today. Soccer is a team sport. But at times, such as when, as the goalie, I found myself in a double overtime shoot-out, it does come down to the individual. And in those times of pressure and stress, where you are highly visible and highly scrutinized, you start to learn who you are. Do you freeze? Do you cry? Or do you stare the shooter straight on and believe you can stop the high-speed ball that is coming your way? I stood. I stared. And I stopped some of the balls from entering the net.

And in a life defining moment, I had the privilege of coaching my 10-year-old daughter through the exact same situation. I understood the stress and the courage it took to stand. What was new to me was the combination of my experience with the intense respect and awareness that my role was not as player, but to encourage and support with empathy so that she could find her soul and competitive spirit. As a coach, I learned how much I enjoyed being in a leadership role. I think of experiences like these, of being uncomfortable and testing limits and abilities, that help shaped me as a player, as a coach, as a mother, as an employee, as a person. So embrace the challenge or scary situation — there are lessons to be learned.

2. Create networks. Put yourself out there and be a connector of people and thoughts. Attending conferences is half about the content and half about the people there. There are some smart people out there who want to collaborate and help others — be one of them, it will come back to you.

3. Sometimes you have to go first. I have been in many meetings where it’s like being on an empty dance floor. If that’s the case, I feel like it’s my responsibility to lead the way by getting out there first and take the burden off my team. It is easier to edit than to create, so you can enable your team’s brilliance even with your bad ideas (or dance moves).

4. Champion others. When it is earned, it ought to be visible. People appreciate recognition but for some reason, this is not more broadly practiced. Women, and especially young girls, need to lift each other up.

5. Model behavior that you aspire to. Watching the best perform their craft at the highest level, how they perform, and the level of commitment really made an impression on me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

For women to help develop, inspire, and support other women. At the workplace, this translates to providing feedback, mentoring, and presenting opportunities to advance when possible. Having been given these opportunities in my own career, I know how important it is for women, especially earlier on in their careers, to feel empowered, to seek knowledge, and to find mentors.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“A leader is a dealer in hope.”

— Napoleon

I recognize that I do not work at NASA. I’m not sitting in the White House. I am not saving the world, but I am still impacting people’s lives daily and vice versa. I prefer to lift us all up and make each day a bit better, a little more connected and inspired.

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