Eric Banta – Voya
Eric Banta fell in love with Colorado as a young man, drawn to the mountains, the skiing and the climate as a backdrop to his studies. By the time he joined the corporate legal department for ING U.S. in 1996, the state had become something else: home.
So when the financial services company (rebranded as Voya Financial in 2014) asked him to take a leadership position with Voya Investment Management in Atlanta in 2011, the move was bittersweet. What made the relocation easier, Banta says, was knowing he would continue working for a company with an award-winning culture and mission: stewardship of client investments and products that help Americans prepare for retirement.
Voya, he says, is focused on workplace-based savings and retirement solutions. This line of business complements Voya Investment Management’s asset management business, supported by Banta and his staff.
“In developing savings, investment and insurance products, Voya is offering employers more choices for their employees to make saving for retirement easier,” says Banta.
Getting down to business
Voya has three main businesses: retirement products and services, investment-management and employee benefits insurance products. For 15 years, Banta’s been in a senior role providing legal services primarily supporting Voya IM’s specialty fixed-income investment management business and derivatives products.
Voya IM’s clients include large corporate and institutional accounts, mutual funds, pension plans, private funds and separately managed accounts. A significant portion of its assets under management are owned by Voya’s insurance company affiliates. His team supports the legal and regulatory aspects of the investment management for the affiliates whose investment activities are highly regulated under state law.
One aspect of Banta’s work is managing trading relationships with investment advisory accounts—specifically with derivatives, financial products used primarily to reduce risk and the volatility of returns. It’s a key responsibility for Banta, who oversees the negotiation and execution of all documentation for derivative investments. He’s also responsible for regulatory surveillance and analysis of derivatives rules and regulations.
“The intense global regulatory scrutiny in this area which stemmed from the 2008 financial crisis led to a wave of regulation, including the Dodd-Frank Act,” Banta explains. “A lack of robust regulation of derivatives markets by policymakers around the globe was deemed as a significant cause of the economic downturn.”
As financial markets recovered, Voya IM initiated a multi-year project to implement the regulatory changes designed to provide greater protection for clients and reduce market risk. The work entailed considerable regulatory and contractual work that continues today, including mandatory clearing obligations, new margin requirements and reporting regimes.
“Our job is to do the best we can to protect the assets of our clients and the firm,” says Banta. “That’s a responsibility we take seriously. It’s a privilege.”
Ethical high ground
Banta says its essential he and his colleagues—especially in this industry—take the “ethical high ground.” That approach resulted in Voya being voted to the list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute for eight years running, he notes.
“A culture of compliance and high ethical standards is part of our DNA. We take the view of doing the right thing based on our core values first, and then base our decisions on ethical propositions,” says Banta. “It touches every corner of our work.”
Banta’ says workplace values also matter. Those include supporting diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as eco-friendly green initiatives. Voya also promotes volunteering by employees education and job-training initiatives for those with special needs; Banta likes volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, animal shelters and with Junior Achievement, a nonprofit youth organization.
“I get a lot of personal satisfaction working for a company that’s providing products to improve that critically important journey to financial wellbeing,” Banta says. “But it’s also important to be part of an organization that has values you believe in—that align with the needs of the community.”
Foundation for Success
Banta’s journey to high finance started after his graduation from Colorado College with a degree in history and political science, followed by a J.D. from the University of Denver – Sturm College of Law.
Landing a job at ING/Voya in Denver as a staff attorney in 1996, Banta spent his first 10 years working in capital markets, corporate governance and with institutional investment products. He completed a rigorous three-exam CFA program to better understand the technical aspects of the investment advising and in 2006 was awarded the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.
“Everyone benefits from continuous learning,” Banta says. “Gaining a more detailed understanding of our client’s business—as well as the business side of our practice—makes us better attorneys and business partners.”
Hard work paid off and Banta became vice president and counsel for Voya IM for five years before being promoted to his current role in Atlanta in 2011.
In addition to supporting more traditional high-quality investment management services, Banta’s team supports current initiatives that include active fixed income and target date strategies; environmental, social and governance product development efforts; and expanding its specialized investment management products and advisory services internationally.
And while he misses hitting the slopes, the company’s mission—and most importantly its people—that still make him feel close to home. “From my perspective, it’s important to work with colleagues you respect for the betterment of our clients,” says Banta. “It’s a team effort and we don’t succeed if our clients don’t succeed.”
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