Features

Neil Rosolinsky – Citizens Financial Group 

On the money for Citizens’ private banking 

This isn’t Animal Farm, Neil Rosolinsky emphasizes during a Vanguard interview in March. At Citizens Financial Group, all customers are treated with the same high-quality service, though those with high net worth may have needs that set them apart from the typical client. 

Neil Rosolinsky | Deputy General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Legal | Citizens Financial Group 

Neil Rosolinsky | Deputy General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Legal | Citizens Financial Group

In recent years, as Citizens’ profile and footprint have grown and evolved organically and through acquisition, Citizens saw an opportunity to grow and better serve particular customer segments, such as high net worth. Hence the opening of Citizens’ private bank in Boston last year, and by all metrics, Rosolinsky says it’s doing fine, having raised more than $1.2 billion in deposits by late December.  

This year should see Citizens opening more private bank branches in Palm Beach, Florida, Mill Valley, California, and other enclaves well represented by existing and potential customers with an investment profile that could benefit from the private bank’s offerings. 

As a decade-long member of the Citizens legal staff and, since June 2022, deputy general counsel and chief operation officer of all matters legal, Rosolinsky and his team had a strong hand in launching the private bank, which required much of their input on the employment and administrative fronts as well as ongoing communication with the regulators. He says the responsibilities don’t differ much from the rest of his agenda. It still comes down to using his legal and business smarts to help all Citizen units operate within legal parameters and managing the risk that confronts any big-ticket enterprise.  

“As the private bank continues to evolve, keeping regulators appraised will be crucial, especially as we hit its first full year in business,” the affable Rosolinsky says from his New York City office. “We’re always monitoring proposed regulations that might impact Citizens and addressing any issue to ensure the best path forward.” 

An expanding role 

It’s all part of Rosolinsky’s expanding role that encompasses every legal operation and has him answering to Polly Nyquist Klane, who in April celebrated her second anniversary as general counsel—she came to Citizens after an eight-year stretch at Capital One. There has been much transition in the legal department, and Rosolinsky is ensuring that the vacancies are filled with the right people, that there’s connectivity and interdepartmental collaboration, and that the department has the tools to operate effectively and efficiently.   

Neil Rosolinsky | Deputy General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Legal | Citizens Financial Group 

Rosolinsky says that regulatory compliance is vital. Such compliance has become more complex, given that citizens are expanding their business model and the broader regulatory landscape.  Given the recent bank failures, there is heightened scrutiny to ensure banks operate safely and soundly, and ongoing regulatory proposals impact banks. Staying abreast of this and maintaining positive relationships with our regulators is critical to the bank’s success.  

While Rosolinsky acknowledges it’s been a learning curve, he’s comfortable helping to ensure Citizens is doing what it must to keep up with regulatory change and remain legally compliant.  

Then, there are the responsibilities on his plate since Rosolinsky joined Citizens in April 2014 as a deputy general counsel for litigation and employment. Only now is he more likely to oversee those he delegates, be it to in-house colleagues or outside counsel.  

Brainstorming is always in order, and he welcomes cross-sectional ideas from his direct reports, broader team and those across the department and enterprise. Teamwork and collaboration are always key, and this is particularly true as everyone is adjusting to the post-pandemic three-day-a-week in-house policy that’s become de riguer for much of the financial industry.  

“I’m not sure that five-day-a week will ever return,” he says. “People can be very effective while working remotely and balance their professional and personal lives better. Even the regulators have adapted.” 

Post-pandemic adapting 

The industry has evolved in other ways since COVID-19 disrupted the banking business. There being a surplus of commercial real estate, landlords are reducing rates, which has Citizens, like other financial institutions, consistently examining its portfolio and real estate strategy.  

Neil Rosolinsky | Deputy General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Legal | Citizens Financial Group 

Artificial intelligence seemingly has a wealth of possibilities, and it is rapidly changing, but it’s still a nascent tool in many respects, subject to evolving rules and regulations. Rosolinsky is trying to anticipate what will be necessary for compliance while at the same time trying to figure out appropriate use cases to help those in Legal operate more efficiently. Monotonous as some chores might be, he reckons there’ll always be much need for them to be handled by people.  AI may be able to do many things, but a “human check” will be important. 

“Fortunately, I’ve inherited a strong team and hired some good people,” he says. “I’m able to trust them and don’t have to micromanage. I’ve never been one to look over someone’s shoulders.” 

It’s a modus operandi that’s made Rosolinsky a good fit at Citizens, just as he was in his preceding role from 2008 to 2014 as The Royal Bank of Scotland’s head of employment law for the Americas. During that time, Citizens was a wholly owned subsidiary that, in 2015, was spun off, with Rosolinsky’s services as part of the deal. Citizens now have nearly 1,100 branches in 11 Eastern and Midwest states and the District of Columbia, the nation’s 13th largest banking operation. 

Coming to the role 

As to how Rosolinsky arrived in this role, it was partially happenstance. 1997 A New York University poli-sci undergrad, he graduated from The George Washington University Law School three years later and honed his skills with the New York City Law Department for three years.  

Neil Rosolinsky | Deputy General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Legal | Citizens Financial Group 

Afterward came a year and a half with Abbott, Reis & Allen, and then a 2005-to-2008 stretch with Reed Smith LLP, also in New York City. The Royal Bank of Scotland being a client in need of a loaner lawyer, the firm offered the young Rosolinsky, who took the role with misgivings. 

“I was reluctant to make that move as I was happy at Reed Smith,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to derail my career path and upset the connectivity. I was on track for partnership.” 

As it turned out, he was on track for other things. Six weeks into his role at the Royal Bank of Scotland, Rosolinsky was asked to stay and lead its employment law group for North and South America. The Citizens crew also reported to Rosolinsky, and that relationship was consummated after Royal Bank sold that entity through an initial public offering. 

“It wasn’t something I was looking for, but when you’re asked to take on something like that, it shows they have confidence in you,” he says. “You have to have a pretty good reason to say ‘no.’” 

Ten years later, Rosolinsky is glad he said yes and how his position has expanded to be a key partner to General Counsel Klane. His personal life is also satisfactory; he and his wife are raising a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son in their home in New York City. He also volunteers with the SIFMA Foundation, which, among other things, introduces teens to financial literacy and a possible career path in banking and investments.  

Maybe even do as Rosolinsky and mix it with law and people skills that can be just as important. 

“Being a good people manager is actually what I’m most proud of,” he says. “It’s a skill that can be developed, but not by everyone. I think with my personality and how I interact with people, I had many traits that would lend themselves to being a good people manager.” 

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring III 2024 Edition here.

Published on: May 1, 2024

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