Hermina ‘Nina’ Batson: A Resilient Leader Who Is Making a Difference in Banking and Finance Industry

The 10 Most Successful Black Businesswomen Making a Difference in 2023

Resilience and perseverance are the two traits that have come to epitomize Hermina ‘Nina’ Batson, the Head of Regulatory Engagement at Barclays and the first Black President of the Financial Women Association (FWA). Whenever she has found herself in a difficult situation in her career, she has tapped into those inherent traits of hers to pivot and open the doors of better opportunities for herself. No setback or challenge could stop Nina from reaching the top echelons of the banking and financial industry. It is, therefore, no surprise that she chooses “resilient” to describe herself in a word.

Nina has won numerous accolades in her career spanning over 25 years. She, however, does not define success in terms of awards or recognition. For her, success means knowledge building, a sense of family, and a sense of purpose. It also means being passionate about something, working toward that mission, personally and professionally, and achieving it – sometimes laterally and sometimes, taking two steps back to leap forward, Nina says. “And realizing that you are making a difference in the world by changing one person, if not yourself – one person at a time.”

Over the years, Nina has defined success in many different ways; for example, in terms of promotion, becoming a leader and a manager of many while successfully navigating and balancing her career as a single mother or pivoting her career. One thing that didn’t change in control is, ‘I’m still Nina Batson’, she says.

From Memorizing Serial Numbers to Becoming Director

“A huge part of me would say, ‘Yes, it was,” Nina says, in response to the question about whether the banking and finance industry was always her first career choice. “And I think my mother would agree with me,” she adds. Nina’s more harmonious side, however, wanted to be an electrical engineer.

The story of Nina’s professional journey would be incomplete if one does not tell it from when she was approximately five (5) years old. According to her mother,

she was destined to be in banking since the age of 5. She remembers that when Nina was old enough – i.e., between 5 and 6 – she memorized the serial numbers of the dollar bill or other bills that her parents, her parent’s friends, or other family members would give her.

And Nina would start crying when the cashier at the store did not return the same money back. “It came across to me that someone stole my money. The concept of payment or borrowing did not resonate with me, nor should it have at the age of 5,” Nina says. “I kept asking my mom, ‘Why, mom, why, [quoting the serial number] that lady right there took our money, get it back, please, please’.”

Nina’s mother tried to explain that she had to use money to pay for the things she bought. That prompted her to learn addition, subtraction, and other basic math skills from her sister, who was a math teacher. Soon, Nina could do them in her head. “But I still was not getting the concept, ‘why I was not getting the bills back’,” Nina recalls. “It was still not a simple mathematical equation at that young age.”

She began to understand the concept of currency and fell in love with it when her mother took her on a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank at the age of 6. “After the visit, I thought that when I grow up and graduate, I would work for the Federal Reserve, and nothing else mattered to me in this world,” Nina says.

In school, Nina was a geek, placed out of regular classes, and took advanced placement college preparatory courses. After 8th grade, she got the opportunity to enroll in an elective course where she opted for electrical engineering. Nina says that she was the only female in the class, and her male teacher used to constantly tell her, “You don’t belong here.” Instead of discouraging her, his words spurred her on to do better and work harder. “That challenge was all mine, and he ended up taking me under his wing,” Nina points out.

Nina graduated as valedictorian (and drum majorette) of her high school. And a day after she graduated, she applied for a job at a bank. Nina says that when her father, who worked as a carpenter, used to visit the bank on Fridays to get his pay, she would watch him (from their car) standing in a very long line waiting for his turn to get his money. Often, he had to wait until the bank’s closing hours to get his check cashed, Nina recalls. At the time, she commented on customer service, saying how she could do better. Years later, she started working at the same bank as a drive-through teller while also attending college full-time.

She used to attend morning and night classes at Hofstra University and worked in the bank in the afternoon. As a drive-through teller, Nina’s goal was not to see the line wrapped around the bank, down the block, and everything in between. “So, I learned to count money fast and accurately,” she says. The bank manager took Nina under her wing and became her first-ever mentor in the professional field.

“When I graduated in getting that line down, coincidentally they decided to install ATMs, so I was promoted to coin teller and then to head teller,” Nina says. “After that, I was promoted to be a customer service representative, and then moved into private banking.”

Recognizing her potential, the bank manager recommended Nina’s name for a management training program. If selected, she would have got the opportunity to work in New York, but a friend of hers was accepted for the program and not her. He, however, put her name in instead of his because he felt that she was the better candidate for the position. “I still did not get it,” Nina says. But the woman who interviewed her thought that she was “worth the position anyway” and hired her permanently in the agent bank services area working in quality assurance. Nina began to work on the East Side of New York City. She enjoyed walking up and down Park Avenue as she commuted to and from Manufacturers Hanover Trust “Manny Hanny” which became Chemical Bank, Chase, and is now known as JPMorgan Chase. “I survived all of the mergers and acquisitions. I worked through the whole transition!” she says.

And then, according to her, she faced her first job loss when the bank decided to streamline, merge, and dismantle certain businesses. Instead of accepting the operations job they had offered her, Nina decided to pound the pavement and joined Goldman Sachs. She points out that she pivoted her career and started doing distressed debt European credit. Then the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center occurred, and the 1994 Bond Massacre crisis happened shortly thereafter.

“More people were now in distressed debt. My focus was on European credits, and that portfolio fell apart, rightfully so, because no one was paying,” Nina says. “The cycle repeated, I was out of a job based on no fault of my own, and I had to figure out what to do next.” She once again tapped into her inherent strengths, resiliency and perseverance, and decided to seek international institutions for a job opportunity. She joined the French bank, Banque Paribas, now known as BNP Paribas, and dabbled in loan operations; after that, she was promoted to work in their syndications area and then became an Account Manager – a position she had held at JPMorgan Chase before leaving it.

Nina desired something more and sought to find another job while continuing to be a value add for her then-employer. Thus, Nina joined Mitsubishi Bank (MUFG) in 1995, thereby fulfilling her wish to work for the number one bank in the world at the time. At MUFG, she built a career in securitized products. “I believe in customer service, and I always wanted to make sure that I am helping people. So, being on the liquidity side of banking was awesome,” Nina says. During Nina’s 25-year career at MUFG, she held various positions in corporate and investment banking (CIB), including being a commercial paper trader, asset-backed commercial paper conduit financing, compliance, tax, accounting, risk management, regulatory reporting, syndications, conduit administration, supply chain finance, audit-related aspects, and all types of securitization deal execution.

Right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, MUFG decided to streamline their portfolios and businesses, and Nina again found herself without a job. “I was devastated because that was the job, I thought I would retire from after Goldman,” Nina says. “When that rug was pulled from beneath me, Barclays came into my life, I pivoted my career once again, and decided also to take a long hard look at how I want to be impactful going forward.”

During the pandemic, Nina also got the opportunity to serve as the 58th President of the FWA. Under her leadership, the association continues to make a difference in multiple ways. “I have always been about finance, and I still remain finance related,” Nina says.

Financial Women’s Association

In 1956, eight enterprising women wanted to join a men’s club on Wall Street but were not allowed to participate, Nina points out. “So, they created their own, the Financial Women’s Association (FWA), where they met to share their professional experiences and further their knowledge.” Now, 67 years later, the FWA, a 501c3 non-profit membership organization, has approximately 800 members worldwide. “We are promoting the professional development and advancement of all women across the financial world,” Nina says. “And are doing so through education, mentorship, networking, alliances, and advocacy across the financial community.”

The FWA’s vision is a world where women have equitable representation and recognition across all levels of the financial sector. Nina informs that to date, around 6500 underrepresented and underserved individuals and countless others throughout the financial community have benefited from the FWA’s efforts. She adds that empowerment, community, and development are the three pillars that the association focuses on. Its members, along with non-members, achieve a sense of inclusion and equitable representation during their association with FWA, which typically spans 50 years. We say ‘once in the FWA, always in the FWA! We’re here for you throughout your financial services career.”

Nina first started attending FWA events as a non-member in 2007. “I got hooked,” she says. She probably attended 100 events that year, and the then President and other people associated with the FWA pulled her aside and said, “If you are going to be attending our events like this, you need to get more involved,” Nina, recalls. “So, I joined one of their many committees and ended up a few years later heading their membership committee.” Just like at work, Nina got promoted via the

FWA and transitioned from Membership Chair to Vice President of Engagement and Resources– all as a volunteer outside of work. “Eventually, I became the FWA’s Executive Vice President, followed by President- Elect, and now since June 2021, President. My two-year term ends in June 2023. Then I will become the immediate Past President and serve as an advisor,” Nina says.

Barclays: The British Universal Bank

Nina joined Barclays in June of 2021 as the Head of Internal Audit Regulatory Engagement.

Internal audit is the third line of defense and an independent function different from the area in which Nina spent most of her career (CIB – first line of defense, and her risk and compliance job functions – second line of defense).

“When I managed the asset-backed commercial paper conduit administration portfolio, I had risk, compliance, and regulatory reporting requirements, as well as oversaw the audit-related aspects of the portfolio. In addition (and while upskilling),” Nina says. “I also managed ops, front-office training, and anything else that you could possibly think of across many different asset classes.”

Role and Responsibilities

It is usually a long day at work for Nina, especially because of the time zone differences. She liaises with various subject matter experts, who need her and her team to assist them with answering inquiries from regulators and preparing for exams and meetings with regulators. She also helps coordinate and track all regulatory engagements and actions while maintaining a proactive, transparent, professional, and constructive relationship with the regulators.

“About 80 percent of my time during my 25-year tenure in securitized products was around deal execution, working with lawyers, and servicing clients.” She learned to read, critique, edit, and make things better in written form. “I obtained my paralegal license along with a few FINRA Series licenses. One of my favorite parts of that job was managing end-to end deal execution and working with lawyers.”

Nina had been audited innumerable times as part of her job. As the Head of Internal Audit Regulatory Engagement at Barclays, Nina can leverage and utilize her full spectrum of integrated capabilities, but now for the third line of defense. “It is now quite interesting to be on the other side where I get to help create and share information with the regulators on behalf of a prestigious institution such as Barclays,” she says.

Nina works an average of 12 hours a day. If she includes the hours that it takes her to commute from home to work and back, it could be a 15- hour day, which doesn’t include her volunteer work with the FWA.

Based on her 15-hour day work schedule, Nina points out that some people may assume that she is a workaholic. But, despite her long working hours, she squeezes in time for her daughter, whom she has been raising as a single mother. Nina says that when she is with her daughter on weekends or when she returns home late at night after work, she is with her. “I said to her when she was little, I’m with you when you wake up in the morning, and I’m going to be with you when you are going to sleep at night,” she remembers, adding that she has stuck to that even though her daughter is now in college.

The mother and daughter have a tea-drinking ritual. It makes them feel connected when holding their cups of tea to drink in the morning or night – even when they are not drinking it together under the same roof. “I love you, one of us says daily, and the other ‘I love you more!”

As a leader, Nina believes in the individual. She wants people to know that they are known, valued and appreciated. “I don’t believe in waiting until a performance review to share that,” she says. “I tell them every day because no one is promised tomorrow.”

“So, we start the day at work with a smile and we end with a smile,” Nina adds. When she picks up the phone to talk to somebody, she does that with a smile and does that constantly. And she is passionate about completing a job and doing her best to make an impact. She gets motivated when she knows that she has helped somebody, which is in addition to being a lifelong learner. Nina also likes to help other people learn – sometimes by training them. She reveals that she recently trained new hires, helping them better understand why they matter so they can do their jobs better. She always learns from those she trains or mentors as well.

Hardest Feat to Accomplish

One of the high points of her career, Nina says, was when she was made Director. “It was a hard feat to accomplish,” she adds. There were several opportunities where she thought she was ready and deserving, but the institution at the time thought otherwise. Nina recalls that it was hard to go from being a Vice President, the position she had held for approximately 17 years, to figuring out how to get to the next level. And, one day, it worked out for her. Nina says, “I asked, worked to continue to prove my value and worth, and then felt my mission was almost complete from that perspective once the title was achieved.”

“I’m still a director and unfortunately missed making Managing Director shortly before the pandemic, but the hurdles I went through to get where I am where well worth the struggles and adventurous ride,” Nina says. She feels her life has changed for the better since she became a Director. The title has increased respect for her and offered her opportunities to work on major initiatives for and with the firms she’s worked at. “Of course, after making Director, I still want to be promoted and grow, and I will.”

In the finance industry-titles matter, Nina points out. So, she knows what accolades she needs to reach while she remains her authentic self. She will continue to share her knowledge and stories while creating opportunities for not only herself, but also for people trying to figure out if they should be in financial services or why they should stay.

Plans for the Future

Nina enjoys what she is doing. She feels her current position at Barclays provides her with many learning and growth opportunities. “I started about 18 months ago, and many things have changed, lot of exams and reviews have happened, and there are many more to come!” Nina says.

As for her personal plans, she wants to travel. “I haven’t traveled outside of the United States – if one doesn’t include the Caribbean,” Nina says. So, ideally, she wants to get back to traveling (personally and professionally) – what a great way to see lots of different places and countries. She also stated that it would be nice to read a book that is not work-related. “I collect them, so I’m ready when the time affords.”

Message to Aspiring Leaders

“Dare to be different,” Nina tells aspiring women leaders in her message to them. “Don’t quit and remain your authentic self.”