Good debt vs. Bad debt. Many people assume all debt is negative, however there are some things worth investing in to increase your net worth. Taking out student loans, for example, will help make you more valuable to future employers, and can in turn contribute to your earning potential. Don’t be afraid to take on debt to invest in yourself and your future.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackie Danchek, OFX, Head of Corporate and eCommerce Dealing — North America.
Jackie is the Head of Corporate and eCommerce Dealing — North America for OFX, a publicly-traded international payments company. Jackie is based out of the company’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto, where she oversees a team of nine. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA — Jackie loves to travel and enjoys spending weekends at her family’s cottage in Parry Sound.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?
Ibecame particularly interested in finance in college while I was studying math and economics. Not only were those the two subjects I was most interested in, but they are also a bit ambiguous with regards to how one can turn it into a career. I stumbled upon foreign exchange while I was considering different options, and I’m so happy that I did. It’s a great mix of the two and perfect for someone like me who has a knack for problem-solving and an outgoing personality. In my current role as the Head of Corporate and eCommerce Dealing for the United States and Canada at OFX, I’ve been able to marry my economic background and love for working with people. I’m not just sitting at a computer all day running numbers — I get to work with clients on a daily basis as well.
Working in foreign exchange is particularly interesting because it’s very relevant to what’s going on in the world. If there’s any major world news, my day changes and I have to pivot based on current events. I consider myself fortunate as this makes for a really interesting and challenging career.
Lastly, I love the global nature of this business. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people from so many different countries. I really enjoy getting the chance to interact with people from many different backgrounds — that’s rare in many other professions.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
One day that has had a memorable impact on my career, is when Brexit was announced in 2016. I remember waking up to a call at 2 a.m. that said I was needed at work right away. We worked all through the night, taking more than 200 phone calls throughout the next day from people around the world. It was something that I had never experienced before.
I remember leaving work that day completely drained and exhausted. It was one of the hardest days I had ever had. But, as tough as it was, it’s a story that I constantly look back on. This was such a unique experience to speak to actual clients and businesses that were affected in different ways.
I think that day really set the tone for things to come and changed the way a lot of people look at current events. There is no such thing as a “sure thing” anymore. The United States presidential election that same year is another good example of that. Something that didn’t go the way the public expected it to, and everyone had to quickly pivot as a result of that, too.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! We just launched our Global Currency Account for Business. This product is a new way for global businesses to pay and get paid in major currencies while holding balances in their own unique local accounts.
In today’s economic climate, small businesses’ ability to move money globally is both fundamental and high stakes. This product comes to market as many businesses are expanding into global markets to generate new revenue streams in the face of COVID-related losses.
They can easily manage their global cash flow with ease, and take advantage of competitive exchange rates. They can access all of their balances in one place on our platform. The product also links to Xero, making their accounting a breeze. Plus, it’s completely free.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In my opinion, the way that OFX manages customer service in its business model alongside its digital platform is what differentiates us the most. Not only do we have the platform and the technology, we have the people behind it who value true human connection. It’s hard to find a company that has both and can do both very well.
We are able to tailor our service to what clients want and need. Some of our clients are tech-savvy and prefer to do everything online while, for others, moving money digitally is a completely foreign idea. Some aren’t sure where to start and have questions on security, timelines, etc. So, they really need that person on the other end to walk them through the process from start to finish.
I hear my team on the phone every day, having 15 to 30-minute conversations with new clients, answering every question — whether big or small — about how our entire platform works. As simple as our process may seem to us, because we do it every day, it can be overwhelming for others. Our customer service team really helps give our clients the confidence they need — especially when it comes to transferring funds. We are there 24/7 and that’s not something you can get from a traditional bank.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
There has definitely been a shift in the financial world of late, but there is certainly a long way to go. It’s hard to say what ultimately caused that shift; however, I think the main reason is that you’re seeing more women getting into the financial and tech industries, and they’re getting more exposure. Female leaders are rising in the ranks, so we’re definitely headed in the right direction. That said, there’s plenty of room for more change on the horizon.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?
This is a great question. I’m happy to break it down into those three categories: individual, companies, and society.
- Individual: There’s been an incredible movement of women in many different industries championing progress as well as encouraging, mentoring, and teaching other women to do the same. However, I believe that one major gap that needs to be filled is that men also need to actively support this movement in the workplace. To call out sexism when they see it or critique a lack of diversity on leadership teams and boards. Men have to help take the onus off of women who already have to work harder to get to where they are and where they want to be. Women fight this battle every day, and fighting on your own makes it that much harder. We know that there is a lack of female leadership in this space, and I believe that male leaders need to step into mentorship roles for women and support them while they work to grow into leadership positions as well. This doesn’t just mean coaching female employees to speak up more often, it includes teaching them the business side of things and providing more opportunities to get good at it.
- Companies: For companies, I think the question that comes up a lot is: “Why aren’t women applying for these roles?” Companies have the power to adjust how they evaluate hiring practices and train those who make the decisions. It starts with making sure that women are involved in the interview process. This is especially important for leadership roles. Companies need to ensure they recruit from diverse places, and ensure that job descriptions apply to all genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, etc. Think ahead: when somebody is reading a company description, job descriptions, and online reviews, do they leave with a positive and inclusive perception of the company? Is it somewhere that women would want to work? I also think that it’s very important to improve metrics that can be measured on this front. For example, is the executive team reviewing their diversity metrics every year? If they’re not trying to improve diversity metrics or pay gaps, it shows that these factors aren’t important to them. The last suggestion is to conduct exit interviews for both men and women. I am a strong believer that exit interviews, if done the right way, can really identify and call out certain cultural issues that force women to leave companies.
Also, many countries are being forced to disclose gaps in pay between genders.
How fantastic would it be to see a company do this on their own — address the issue head on, and acknowledge where they can do more. Personally, if I were looking for a job and saw that, I would know I was applying to a company that valued equality. It would do wonders for recruiting, from not just different genders, but different backgrounds and ethnicities as well.
- Society: Finally, I think that the finance industry has always been designed for men in a way. For example, things like monotone voices, business professional attire, and assertiveness are all masculine traits that we associate with finance — mainly because it was a male-dominated industry for so long. It’s important that we continue to break down these stereotypes and realize the unique perspectives and traits that women bring to the table. The finance industry is still, today, an industry where men speak a certain way. They use certain verbiage around other men, but not around women, and suppress certain conversations such as pay equity in general. I think the finance industry — just like every other industry — can come a long way if everyone is spoken to in the same manner and if traditionally controversial conversations — such as this one — are normalized.
Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience, what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?
- Financial literacy starts at schools and universities. Financial management is very important for everyone to understand, whether you’re in the field or not. It has a big effect on everyone’s well-being and livelihood. The three main skills everyone should have a basic understanding of are: balancing a checkbook, saving money, and investing. Many times, unless one pursues a degree in finance or business, these skills aren’t learned at a deep level. It’s really important for young people to understand the impact that sound financial decisions will have on their adult life.
- Second, on the business side of things, I would encourage everyone to think globally. You would be shocked at how many major businesses move money internationally and they have no idea how to look at the rates or don’t understand what they are being charged. Companies do a really good job when they’re investing, but for some reason, foreign exchange isn’t an area they think of when it comes to protecting themselves from major catastrophic events. This ties back into Brexit. So many businesses were forced to go under because they didn’t have a good hedging strategy in place.
- Lastly, I would encourage people to read and learn about finance on their own as often as possible. Find the type of medium that works best for you. If you are someone that finds finance confusing and dull, look for an article or daily email that explains things in a funny, more light-hearted way. The Daily Skimm comes to mind here. They mix pop culture and funny references with real life Economic and Social updates. It’s a great way to stay informed without being too technical.
If you aren’t someone that wants to sit down and read a 400-page book, find an Instagram account where you can get information quickly and in smaller doses. There are so many options these days to help you get informed.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 4 non-intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.
- I think it all starts with educating yourself on being financially literate. Taking courses, reading, speaking to professionals in the field to get first-hand advice.
- Second, saving money — particularly investing in a 401k — is so important. That’s something that my grandfather drilled into my head when I was 11-years-old — and I had no idea what a 401k was, I just knew that it was really important to have one. Now that I’m in a position to put money towards a 401k, I understand the lesson he was teaching me at a young age. It’s amazing how fast that money compounds, but it’s also shocking how many people don’t take advantage of it. I tell people on my team all the time: “it’s free money, it’s crazy not to do it.” This is especially true for companies that match.
- Don’t spend above your means. Figure out how much you are bringing in each month, and set up a budget. Knowing what percentage of your income you can spend on rent, savings, bills, fun etc. and not exceeding that. Credit cards can be a great way to build credit and earn points if used properly, but you should never choose to spend above your means.
- Good debt vs. Bad debt. Many people assume all debt is negative, however there are some things worth investing in to increase your net worth. Taking out student loans, for example, will help make you more valuable to future employers, and can in turn contribute to your earning potential. Don’t be afraid to take on debt to invest in yourself and your future.
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 many people that I am grateful for, particularly my husband. I am so fortunate to have a spouse that is supportive and offers encouragement when I need it. In fact, we met in Austin, TX while both working in foreign exchange — before relocating back to his hometown of Toronto.
I am also very grateful for my grandfather, and the financial advice he gave me from a personal and professional perspective. He was the controller at the University of Pittsburgh. I was able to pick up little tips, and even the most basic advice left a lasting impact. He was just someone that was super responsible and worked incredibly hard. He didn’t cut corners, and worked his way up. It was great to have that kind of role model as I was growing up, and there are many things that I take from that and apply to my own life and career.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s not necessarily a quote, but more-so a mantra that I believe strongly in. Don’t be afraid to wear many hats. The most successful people don’t just follow their exact job description. They broaden what they do and gain experience in many different areas. People shouldn’t be afraid to branch out and learn more on the job. If there’s a skill you want to improve on, do it on your own. Don’t wait for the company to do it for you. I think it’s so important for people to take control of their own lives and their own roles. The most successful people will always have a multitude of different skills.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Well, I’m certainly not starting the women’s movement, but it’s something that is very near and dear to my heart. I think we have all made positive changes, and I have seen a really big difference in my field as of late. This is a movement that I’m actively supporting every single day, and honestly, I can’t wait for the day that I’m not. I hope we continue to see more female leaders in the world and more companies with different perspectives. This is something that is very important to me. I have faith that we will continue to move the needle in the future.