When Brenda Sklar, Global Chief Operating Officer at Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM), reflects on her impressive career one thing that sticks out is having a role model early on. “Very early in my career, I worked with a female portfolio manager, which back then was really rare. She was an exceptionally strong woman and that has always stuck with me,” Brenda says. This is why Brenda believes it’s so important that companies deliver on their diversity promises. “Firms need to walk the walk when it comes to diversity,” Brenda says. “This includes calling out areas where diversity is lacking, as well as championing those that do a great job.”
As someone whose track record in delivering operational excellence has made her sought after in the industry, Brenda is doing her part to be a role model for young women. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Sklar joined LGIM, the UK’s largest asset manager, last year in the midst of the global pandemic after 23 years at BlackRock. She held a number of global roles at BlackRock across client and business functions, rising to the Global Head of Client Services and then ultimately the Global COO for Operations and Technology. In her current role, she oversees LGIM’s technology, operations, change, and client service functions across Hong Kong, Europe, and America.
While Brenda has spent her whole career in asset management, she didn’t start out in operations. She interned at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers during her junior year of college and upon graduating from the University of Delaware was offered a full-time role as a research associate in the emerging markets portfolio team. “Back then, being a research associate meant you did a little bit of everything,” Brenda explains. “Of course I helped research companies but a big part of the job was working with our traders to make sure trades got settled, which gave me strong foundation for understanding operations.”
Brenda attributes her success to the broad set of roles she’s had in her career. “Not all the moves I made were for a bigger job or a promotion,” Brenda notes. “Some of those moves were quite lateral but they gave me the opportunity to learn and build out my skillset, which I believe has made me much more valuable to organizations.”
Like many, Sklar feels that technology and digitization have transformed the industry and is allowing it to innovate at a lightning speed. “I've always said that, compared to other parts of financial services, the buy-side has felt kind of sleepy on things like self-service and digitization,” Brenda says. “But I think we’re waking up now and it's causing this boom in FinTechs across a number of areas.” She expects this trend to continue, with the most successful asset managers becoming truly data-led organizations.
A key piece of advice Brenda gives to women entering the industry is to surround themselves with the right professional and personal network. Having this network can help woman feel more comfortable to take more risks and embrace failure. “I have learned most in my career when I failed,” Brenda says. “However, being able to rely on a circle of people who I trusted when I was struggling was critical to my success and career growth.”