Anna Paglia – Invesco US
Prior to COVID-19, the thought of her son interrupting a business video mortified Anna Paglia. But now, like other parents and professionals working remotely and juggling responsibilities, she knows it’s understandable if a child accidentally “shares” some screen time.
While many companies are preparing to move back on-site after the pandemic, Invesco US, her employer, isn’t planning a full return to the office anytime soon. It doesn’t need to, says Paglia, the global head of exchange-traded funds and indexed strategies at the independent investment management company.
From Invesco’s ETF headquarters in Downers Grove, Illinois, Paglia’s global team adapted to the crisis by using technology to connect with clients remotely. Filing reports, delivering data and market analysis, and consulting with clients is done from the comfort of home.
“Zoom is connecting us across the globe more personally than ever before,” says Paglia, who often hops on a 6:30 a.m. call without makeup. “It’s the most positive trend coming out of COVID-19, drawing us closer as human beings. You realize you can make important decisions without dressing in business attire.”
Adaptability: the name of the game
When Paglia joined the company as its head of legal 10 years ago, Invesco’s ETF business was still in its infancy, with less than $50 billion in assets under management.
Initially the only ETF expert in the legal department, Paglia was promoted to her current role in June 2020. Now she oversees a business managing nearly $400 billion in assets, including indexed mutual funds, ETFs and passive institutional mandates—essentially a “pile of funds” for clients worldwide that manufacture and distribute goods through Invesco’s main channels in Canada, the U.S., Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Before COVID-19, in-person meetings were a company priority. In order to safely adapt to global pandemic restrictions—while offering as much continuity as possible—Invesco moved to video conferences, podcasts and social media outlets to keep pace with client needs.
“We embraced and built upon a new virtual environment,” says Paglia. “Surprisingly, we found the same value as prior face-to-face discussions, but discovered we could spend more quality time walking through the features of our product suites or discuss trends.”
As a result, she says, Invesco’s ETF business has grown by 33 percent globally. Paglia is quick to credit the entire “Invesco village” of more than 9,000 employees.
“Hundreds of talented people are working to meet the needs of investors every day,” says Paglia. “I remind the team that managing assets is a privilege, that investor relations are based on trust which must be earned every day.”
As soon as the pandemic hit, Invesco’s marketing, analytics and IT teams set to work making the necessary customer service upgrades.
In March 2020, Invesco accelerated its analytics approach to distributing information. In June it added a team of ETF specialists to work with sales professionals to provide more expertise to clients. That group also shared its expertise with regulatory agencies, advisors, exchanges, peers and other market leaders to build business continuity and provide real-time feedback in a period of unprecedented market volatility.
For Invesco, responsive customer service was paramount, with the company analyzing everything from business practices to how employees answered the phone. Company strategists also compiled answers to frequently asked questions.
“We immediate sought to increase virtual engagement with clients via Zoom calls, phone calls, emails—whatever it took,” says Paglia, who reported interactions with clients increased by 300 percent in 2020 compared to the year before.
Paglia says new opportunities resulted from the thoughtful reallocation of resources and investment in technologies such as visualized analytics and even augmented reality (gaming) to incentivize financial education.
“Adaptation is a matter of trial and error,” she says.
Practicing what she preaches
Indeed, Paglia’s ability to adapt has in many ways defined her life and career. Growing up in Rome, Paglia became interested in law and finance and sought out a professional career—a far cry from her family life.
“I didn’t grow up in a wealthy household. Investment was not part of dinner conversation,” she says.
In 1996, she studied law for a year at London’s Kingston University. Returning to Rome, she earned her law degree at Luiss Guido Carli University in 1998.
She landed her first job as an associate in the corporate division at Carnelutti in 1999 and worked at the Italian investment law firm for five years before returning to England. In 2004, she became as an associate counsel at Barclays Global Investors Ltd., a role that further added to her financial expertise.
Tracking the ETF segment of the market was compelling for her, she says. She studied investment tools to help investors big and small, sharing that she learned of ways to open investment opportunities for people like her father.
“With as little as $25 anyone could buy an ETF share and get involved,” says Paglia. “It was revolutionary. I knew I wanted to use my skills to support business opportunities for all, to bridge the gap between the classes.”
Shifting to the states
Together with her husband John, Paglia moved to the U.S. in 2007.
“It was like resetting the clock on my career trajectory,” Paglia says. “Despite being licensed in New York I had to sit for the bar again in Illinois and tap into new financial and professional networks.”
While adjusting to life in Chicago, she became partner at K&L Gates.
“It was adaptation at a personal level,” she reflects. “I found a job in an investment management group and embraced the change.”
In 2010, Invesco was looking for a head of legal its ETF business. Given her passion for that field, Paglia saw an opportunity.
“Everything I hoped for materialized in front of me,” says Paglia. “I was at the forefront of innovation, pushing the regulatory envelope and leading with my colleagues a new investment revolution.”
Work during a pandemic hasn’t slowed down. Ask Paglia’s sons, Luca and J.J., however, and they’ll say their mother doesn’t work at all, but “talks to people all day in front of a computer.” Paglia says it’s proven to be quite the balancing act.
“I find myself working more than I have ever done before. There are no “dead times” in the day of going for lunch, or traveling to airports,” says Paglia. “It’s all blurred together.”
At a certain point in the day, however, it’s time to log out and connect with her family.
“I have an extraordinary group of good people in my life,” says Paglia. “The pandemic tested everyone’s ability to make the best of an unprecedented situation—and in many ways we’ve succeeded, and it’s drawn us together. That’s what teamwork is all about.”
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