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I was appointed as manager of Basel II group in technology department of BMO Capital Markets at the beginning of 2009. Margarita was promoted to position of team leader shortly after I joined. Margarita had been leading a team of eight business analysts and reported to me until she left BMO in May of 2010. I have communicated with her intensively throughout the whole period of our cooperation. We had weekly team lead meetings where team leads reported their status to me and I shared my ideas and suggestions with them. We also had weekly project status meetings for each of the outstanding projects in which Margarita was presenting the requirements collection and implementation status. Finally, Margarita often dropped by my office to discuss critical issues, concerns or questions she had.
Margarita began her career at BMO as a business analyst (BA) in 2006. I did not know her personally back then, but her previous manager communicated his satisfaction with Margarita’s performance when transferring the projects to me. Due to Margarita’s exceptional performance on NCR initiative she was promoted to senior BA six months after joining BMO. While at this position she made an immense positive impact on our organization, especially in the area of Basel II credit risk calculation and reporting for BMO Capital Markets. In addition, she put an enormous amount of efforts into streamlining and automating report generation. With all this effort Margarita not only helped to tremendously decrease reserve capital figures but also saved the bank money in report maintenance fees.
Topic: How does the candidate's performance compare to other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (250 words)
Margarita’s performance at BMO has been exceptional for the four years she was employed. This is evident from the impact she’s made on our organization, her fast career progress, and her annual performance reviews with the highest performance grades. Margarita was chosen twice as our group’s Employee of the Year for her exceptional performance and dedication.
The positive impact Margarita has made in our group is absolutely outstanding and well above contributions of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles. For instance, she transformed Basel II credit risk reporting from two reports with manually calculated estimates and poor trade coverage to seven streamlined reports with full data coverage and correct risk parameters. Two analysts working on Basel II before Margarita were unable to achieve such results: one left the company and another went on a leave due to stress. Margarita has made a long-lasting impact in many major projects, such as regulatory reporting for BMO’s Irish subsidiary, Integrated Risk Management Framework, building graphic user interface for Basel II, etc. Most importantly, she has infected members of our team with enthusiasm and inspired other analysts to contribute at the top of their abilities.
Career-wise Margarita has progressed faster relative to her peers. She started off as a business analyst (BA) at BMO, was promoted to senior BA in six months and then to team leader in 1.5 years. Although such a fast career growth is unusual for our organization, in Margarita’s case it was achieved due to her strong dedication, positive impact on our organization, and her leadership potential.
Topic: Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response. (250 words)
Being a top-performer at work, Margarita worked diligently to quickly find solutions to critical issues. This approach was effective when she worked as an analyst, but she continued to do that after becoming a team leader. She was the most experienced with financial data and credit risk calculations in her team, so she was naturally faster with issue resolution. As a result she continued to take control over critical problems, analyzing and resolving them personally.
I recommended the applicant to shift issue resolution to her staff. I reasoned that increased exposure of team members to issue resolution will improve their efficiency at work. Margarita keenly agreed with my suggestion but admitted that she had already tried to do that. She faced resistance from clients, who were accustomed to fast issue resolution. My advice to Margarita was to inform them of the training situation and the future benefits of having more trained staff on-site. Following our conversation, Margarita was indeed able to convince clients to lower their expectations for the time being. Meanwhile she split all major initiatives among analysts and distributed the critical issues depending on their area of responsibility. Margarita helped analysts out for a few months until they picked up necessary skills and were able to work independently.
Margarita was very enthusiastic about putting my recommendation to work, but later she told me that giving up control was one of the hardest things she had to do as a leader. The applicant admitted that this change helped to create a more knowledgeable and efficient team.
Topic: Please make additional statements about the applicant's performance, potential, or personal qualities you believe would be helpful to the MBA Admissions Board. (250 words)
While I worked with Margarita she has demonstrated a multitude of positive attributes including her confidence, intelligence, perseverance, integrity and competence, to name just a few. Most of all, she is great in communication, be it interaction with her staff or clients. Her maturity and a great sense of humour are important ingredients of this success. I was able to observe several times that she facilitates communication by making her colleagues and clients feel at ease. However, she always maintains a professional attitude by focusing on achieving the task and keeping a healthy balance between professionalism and interpersonal communication. In addition, her team members frequently observed that they could always depend on her help in stressful times. She stood up for her staff, accepted responsibility for their work and protected their interests at all times. Not a single one of her staff members left while she was their team leader and, as far as I know, she still maintains good relationships with them.
Margarita has worked very hard at BMO and went well beyond expectations. As a very determined individual Margarita has given careful consideration to her career plans and has discussed her plans of attending an MBA program with me on multiple occasions. I am confident that Margarita will succeed in her career path and I strongly support her application for admission to SCHOOL. I believe that she will bring a unique set of skills to the classroom and that she will meet the expectations of the new learning environment.
Question 1: What are the applicant's most outstanding attributes?
Margarita is very intelligent and competent at what she does. When working on a project she builds background knowledge thoroughly and becomes an expert on data and processes surrounding the project. For instance, working on Basel II she has mastered the credit risk methodology as well as Bank’s of Montreal (BMO) internal trade and loan data handling. Since then she served as the subject matter expert to others in the organization, held numerous training sessions and business presentations and wrote detailed documents to transfer information to other members of the group or to business clients.
Margarita displayed outstanding leadership potential while employed by BMO. She successfully supervised a team of eight analysts through the completion of a number of projects and initiatives. With Margarita as a mentor, her staff has made Basel II calculation engine much more robust and made a huge step towards complete automation of report handling.
Margarita also displayed tremendous dedication and perseverance at work. She always remained upbeat and persevered to accomplish a goal despite any obstacles that might occur. She displayed a positive attitude in all circumstances, which was visible to her peers and supervisors. For instance, Margarita faced a number of stressful situations being the lead analyst for Basel II reporting. A few people had to work compiling and adjusting Basel reports for days, working overtime, and from time to time important data could be deleted or modified by mistake. I must acknowledge that in spite of frequent late hours Margarita had to spend at work to fix such issues she always remained calm and positive and persevered until reports were complete.
Integrity is also one of Margarita’s outstanding attributes. Margarita has always displayed unquestionable sincerity and candour at work. Her work progress is always transparent to her peers/management and communications are clear. She possesses high moral standards that ensure her best performance when dealing with data or communicating with clients.
Question 2: What are the three areas of the applicant's professional performance that have improved the most in the time you have known him or her?
Confidence. Coming straight from university Margarita was a bit quiet and shy. However, with time she has gained a lot of confidence. Through her dedication she has positively influenced external image of our group and has significantly contributed to our group’s output. With time Margarita’s confidence level has caught up with her abilities.
Task delegation and control. After working for 1.5 years as an analyst, Margarita was promoted to position of team lead where she had to lead a team of eight people. Many of the leader’s tasks were new to her. For instance, at first she was uncomfortable with assigning particularly difficult and boring tasks to a staff member and requested my assistance on the ways to do it. After coaching from my side she was able to overcome her anxiety. She aligned every task she assigned with analyst’s interests and his or her area for potential improvement and stressed the potential benefits of completing the task. For example, when working on the IRMF project Margarita had to assign the task of researching and analyzing market risk component to a BA. This task was expected to be very time consuming as the analyst would have to drill down to minute details of VaR tree calculation and find gaps in reporting. She assigned this task to a relatively new BA with only credit risk exposure experience, explaining to her that exposure to a new risk methodology will widen her horizons. The analyst was strongly motivated by this reasoning and soon was very knowledgeable in the area of market risk reporting.
Leadership and Management Skills. Margarita had a transition period between being a business analyst and becoming a successful team leader. At first she had some trouble letting go off the details and transforming from a methodology expert to a manager. She shared her fear that without her direct supervision something could go wrong. However, she became very confident of her team relatively quickly and was comfortable without digging into minute details of each task.
Question 3. What do you perceive to be the applicant's weaknesses?
Margarita always made it her goal to perform extremely well and she expected the same from her staff. Hence, when staff did not perform at the expected level she became frustrated. She never showed her frustration to her staff, but she did consult me about the ways to handle the situation as it added to her stress level. I have advised her to set more realistic expectations for her team and to adjust her schedules. On top of doing that she also started having one-on-ones with her staff for individual performance check-ups. All of these worked for her; however she still expected excellent performance from her staff which can be a challenge with low performers in the future.
Question 4. Please address the following components of the applicant. Cite specific examples where possible. A. Intellectual ability (e.g. analytical and quantitative skills, communication skills, creativity, curiosity)
Margarita’s intellectual ability is well above average. She is known for her profound analytical skills and exemplary attention to detail. Upon joining BMO, Margarita was assigned to work on the freshly released Basel II reporting system which generated monthly credit risk reports for BMO Capital Markets’ lending products. It should be mentioned that considerable improvements in report data accuracy, comprehensiveness and format were required, because Investment & Corporate Banking group (IBG) consuming the reports spent many days each month trying to correct the data . Data set was incomplete with many products either missing or double counted and most risk parameters incomplete, resulting in an overstated reserve capital. The applicant worked with IBG and analysts from the Basel Central Solutions group, read through regulatory documentation and analyzed Basel credit reports for data and format errors. Based on that research she built a comprehensive set of checks and reports for Basel II lending product reports and run them on a monthly basis, correcting the errors and working as late as needed to ensure that reported figures were error free before being passed on to IBG group. Furthermore, she undertook a lengthy task of correcting risk factors and adding missing lending product lines to the report, thereby significantly reducing reserved capital and improving its accuracy. Soon, Margarita took over the remaining Capital Markets Basel II reports and established a similar set of checks introducing similar improvements on credit calculations for derivative products and various internal risk reports.
I was impressed to observe that Margarita voluntarily built a special tool that calculated variances between trades in Basel II reports and bank’s general ledger. Through discovery and elimination of such variance, she has further contributed to data completeness improvement. All of these achievements required excellent analytical skills.
Margarita seems to enjoy using polite humour to make people at work more comfortable and relaxed. She managed to create strong and positive relationships with a number of our clients, effectively expanding our group’s negotiation power and positively affecting our team’s morale. In my opinion, she achieved this by keeping internal clients updated on projects’ development at all times and by going above and beyond her responsibilities when helping clients. For example, from time to time IBG group would contemplate a change in risk calculations and was curious of their impact on reserved capital given various market scenarios. They approached Margarita, known for her analytical skills and speed, who then manually recalculated capital figures for all scenarios and presented capital impact to clients, often on the same day. This task was not a part of Margarita’s responsibilities; and it illustrates that the applicant has a sincere desire to be an active member of the company and maintain the business relationship with the clients. IBG group was always impressed with speed and quality of Margarita’s assistance and kept coming back for more services.
Love of learning
Margarita loves to acquire new skills and to get into new fields, over time becoming an expert in them. She displayed high interest in different areas and was trying to expand her expertise and knowledge continually. Together with that she always welcomed new assignments with enthusiasm and over time has become knowledgeable in many areas, including Basel I and Basel II credit risk calculations, operational risk methodology, market risk approaches, financial statement data reconciliation, as well as internal processes and departments.
B. Career performance (e.g. responsibilities and progression relative to others in the industry, impact on organization)
Margarita has performed exceedingly well at BMO. In her annual performance reviews I have awarded her with exceptional performance grades - the highest in our organization. In addition, Margarita was chosen twice in our group as Employee of the Year for her exceptional work.
She has also progressed through her career faster relative to others in the industry. She started off as a business analyst, was promoted to senior business analyst within six months and two years later she was asked to lead a team of analysts. Such fast progress was possible due to Margarita’s impressive impact on our organization. For instance, in her first major project Margarita tremendously improved the quality and coverage of Basel II reports. The reports very initially in a very poor state: missing chunks of data, limited information presented and most of risk parameters misstated. Margarita vastly improved data coverage, added more reports to the package and improved risk parameter coverage from approximately 10% to about 100%. In addition, she worked on streamlining and automating report generation. With all this effort Margarita not only helped to tremendously decrease reserve capital figures but also helped to save some financial resources in report maintenance fees.
In addition to completely transforming Basel II reporting, Margarita has made a long-lasting impact in many other major projects, such as regulatory reporting for BMO’s Irish subsidiary, Integrated Risk Management Framework, building a graphic user interface for Basel II report adjustments for IBG and many others.
C. Career focus (e.g. clarity of post-degree plans, active participation in his or her own career development)
Margarita has demonstrated a clear career focus through the following:
- She discussed her short- and long-term career plans with me and mentioned her plans to enrol in an MBA program on multiple occasions. Margarita evaluated her inventory of skills every six months and built a short-term plan to acquire additional skills or education in order to be able to reach her long-term goals. She discussed her findings and aspiration both as a part of the semi-annual review process and in one-on-one conversations
- Margarita demonstrated a strong interest in career growth in our organization and consulted with me on skills and requirements for the ones that were of interest to her
- Margarita attended and took an active part in weekly leadership learning sessions organized by me for group’s leaders thus working on improvement of her leadership skills
- Margarita attended a number of sessions with the BMO’s internal Career Coach to evaluate her leadership skill set and to establish a career path. She consulted with him on ways to improve her skills and to become a better leader driving positive influences
- Margarita maintained a strong focus on establishing career in the risk management industry. As part of her pursuit she obtained her Level 1 and 2 RMBA certificates surrounding business process and a CFA designation while working with our company
- Margarita has expressed a strong desire to obtain an MBA degree as part of her career path and to come back to the organization as a better and evolved leader
D. Interpersonal skills (e.g. maturity, listening skills, team skills, sense of humor, respect for different viewpoints)
Throughout her employment term Margarita demonstrated highly evolved interpersonal skills. Her maturity and a great sense of humour are important ingredients of her success at work. To promote team building Margarita has scheduled a number of team lunches and dinners for the group. She set the scene for friendly and open communication through her own example. She also served as head of party committee for our group and organized a few parties, such as Halloween and Christmas parties. This has positively impacted the dynamics in our group and has facilitated communication.
Margarita has excellent team skills – her team could always count on her in high pressure situations, such as Basel II month end reporting. I could see how she actively stood up for her staff, and protected their interests at all times. Margarita was able to create a favourable working environment so that no employee quit the job under her supervision. Moreover, a lot of her former colleagues say mention that they maintain good relationships outside of work.
Margarita can also listen very well and maintains respect for different viewpoints. This could be seen from the way she was handling calculation requirements for the IRMF project. Transactional data for risk reports was supplied by various groups. Sometimes, these groups, IRMF business client and technology team would have disparate opinions on how the data should be handled. Margarita then enquired about the opinions of each party and raised the issue at the weekly meeting. She would then carefully listen to each opinion and guide participants to achieve a compromise.
E. Leadership experience and potential (e.g. ability to influence others, initiative, contribution beyond expected responsibilities, integrity)
Margarita has an exceptional leadership potential. She could create and sustain a vision for the team and successfully guide others to the common goal. She could also inspire her staff to take on difficult or unpopular projects and to complete them successfully. The applicant achieved a lot by empowering members of her team. For example, Margarita asked the most experienced analyst to take over Basel II reporting and to train two other business analysts on the reporting process. By doing so, she nurtured responsibility and importance in the analyst and inspired him to deliver excellent results on his assignment.
Margarita has displayed extraordinary initiative during her time at BMO. On top of completing assigned work she volunteered her expertise for additional initiatives intended to simplify company’s work. For instance, she came up with an idea to document all credit risk parameter calculations used in the existing Basel II engine in a single document (which didn’t exist earlier). Before that anyone interested in particular calculation rules had to either try to find someone with that knowledge or implore a developer to find out by going through application code. This has slowed down the process of implementing new calculation methodologies. Margarita documented her knowledge and consulted with the support team and IBG group to solidify her findings. She also encouraged all other analysts to contribute when changes in methodology occurred. The document became a reference book for new analysts joining the group that is still diligently kept up-to-date.
Margarita also volunteered to work on other initiatives, such as to write up documentation for the Basel II redesign initiative, intended to simplify and streamline existing calculations, and offered a number of valuable suggestions on monthly maintenance procedures, which have since been implemented and have simplified processing greatly.
Throughout her employment at BMO Margarita has constantly exceeded expectations in terms of performance. Not only did she complete her tasks in a very effective manner, but she also demonstrated initiative and took on additional responsibilities, planned social events and was volunteering on the Peer Review Board (PRB). While on PRB she worked on solidifying the list of major competencies required for business analysts to be certified as RMBA Level 1, 2 or 3. Desired competencies included analytical abilities, negotiation skills and coaching experience. As a PRB member Margarita also reviewed analyst applications for obtaining RMBA certifications and made her decisions based on the level of competencies demonstrated. Finally she became the primary contact in our department for business analysts who had a hard time understanding what competency meant or what examples from their professional life to use to demonstrate the competency. As a result of her coaching more analysts from our group were encouraged to complete RMBA program, to learn important skills necessary for business analysis.
1. “How long have you known the applicant and describe your relationship to the applicant?
I was appointed as manager of Basel II group in technology department of BMO Capital Markets in the beginning of 2009. Margarita was a part of the Basel II group and was promoted to position of team leader shortly before I joined, so she began reporting to me. This is how we met and I have been in communication with Margarita since then. Margarita had been leading a team of eight business analysts and reported to me until she left BMO in May of 2010. I have communicated extensively with her on a daily basis. Some of the ways of our communication were weekly team lead meetings where team leads reported their status to me and I shared my ideas and suggestions with them; weekly project status meetings for each of the outstanding projects in which Margarita was presenting the requirements collection and implementation status; and informal meetings at my office when the applicant came to discuss work-related concerns.
- Please provide an example of a time when the applicant was particularly successful at interacting with others in a team (employees, peers, managers, etc.); how was the applicant successful? How does the applicant compare to his/her peers in this dimension?
While working with me Margarita made a large impact on the Basel II redesign project. Basel II was a sophisticated report generation system built for the Investment Banking Group (IBG). It lacked an interactive interface which would allow IBG analysts to quickly review and modify reports on the spot. One goal of Basel II redesign project was to build such an interface. IBG Vice President (VP) provided our group with a desired completion date and a firm budget for the interface, after which Margarita commenced gathering requirements.
As it turned out VP’s requirements were vast and complicated. He listed many desired functionalities, very fast response time of the interface being one of them. His requirements were not always attainable due to technology limitations and also due to constricted time and budget. Margarita cautioned the VP that not all of their functionalities may be implemented, but he was still optimistic.
After completing the requirements document, Margarita had to flip it back to the VP for approval and then to our development team to commence development. Instead Margarita went with the document to the project team first to confirm requirement feasibility. After reviewing the document developers bluntly refused to build most of the functionalities overcome by complexity of the proposed interface. VP soon became aware of the situation and was strongly disappointed with the fact that not all of his needs will be met. Still, he was completely unwilling to modify the budget or to shift the deadlines. It was up to Margarita to handle the situation and she did her job well.
First, Margarita called a meeting with the development team at which she emphasized that she is fully aware of requirements’ complexity. She admitted that requirements were convoluted but she also pointed out the value the new interface would deliver not only to IBG but also to our group due to reduced maintenance of Basel II reports. She did not pressure the team to deliver the exact package documented, but instead looked for their professional advice on what functionalities from the package can be realistically implemented within given time frame. Margarita’s handing of the situation opened the communication channel and suggestions started flowing. In three sessions Margarita and development team went through the entire document and broke requirements into three categories: doable, doable with modifications, not doable in the given time period. Given Margarita’s understanding and openness to discussion, development team has become much more co-operative and has committed on taking on more functionalities than before.
Finally, Margarita called a meeting between a development team and IBG. Margarita presented the findings to IBG and welcomed their responses and reactions. As a result of the meeting, both teams reached a number of compromises and settled on a package of functionalities that satisfied everyone involved. Moreover, VP grew aware of the amount of work it would take to bring his requests to life and became more appreciative of development team’s work. Margarita was also able to satisfy the development team, which was no longer overwhelmed by unrealistic demands and was very enthusiastic about starting their work. I relate this success to Margarita’s wonderful communication and negotiation skills.
I believe that compared to other people in similar situation, Margarita is able to better interact with her peers, managers or staff. She adds a personal touch to each of her communications and makes others feel more comfortable. I felt this ability of the applicant myself and enjoyed our interaction greatly. Unlike many of her peers, she maintains different approaches with various groups: with clients she shows dedication yet leaves room for negotiation, with staff she is positive, open and is not afraid to show her vulnerabilities and with peers she is committed and enthusiastic. All of these make her a great leader.
- How has the applicant’s career progressed over the time that you have known him/her? How does this growth compare to his/her peer group? Please describe the peer group that you are comparing this applicant.
Margarita’s performance at BMO has been exceptional for the four years she has been with us. This can be proven with accounts of her supervisors, peers, and staff. This is also evident from the impact she made on our organization, her fast career progress, and her annual performance reviews, in which she was awarded the highest performance grades and chosen an Employee of the Year twice.
I only came to know her in 2009 but Margarita began her career at BMO earlier in 2006 as a business analyst (BA) and was promoted to senior BA six months after joining. At each stage of her career she made an immense positive impact on our organization, especially in the area of Basel II credit risk calculation and reporting for BMO Capital Markets. At that time monthly Basel II reports were still very new and abundant with issues that led to reserve capital being grossly overstated. The two analysts originally responsible for Basel II reports were no longer available: one of them left the bank and another went on a long-term leave due to stress. Margarita took over the project and within the next few months enormously improved quality and coverage of Basel II reports. She relentlessly contacted portfolio managers for risk information on counterparties and spent hours manually mapping risk parameters. The risk parameter coverage for trading transactions spurred from about 10% to almost 100%; and the time it took to complete reports was cut by a few days. Our group’s reports were admittedly best in quality and comprehensiveness among all Basel II reports produced within BMO.
In two years span Margarita became a leader of an analyst team. Such fast progress to a leader’s position was unusual in our organization. As a team leader, Margarita has also made a long-lasting impact in many major projects (regulatory reporting for BMO’s Irish subsidiary, Integrated Risk Management Framework, building graphic user interface for Basel II). She was effective in her interaction with colleagues, inspiring them to perform better and sharing her enthusiasm with others.
On average it takes Margarita’s peers at least a few years at the senior analyst position and clear demonstration of leadership potential to even be considered for a position of a team leader. Moreover, Margarita’s peers usually join our group at the junior or senior level with a few years of full-time experience and an advanced degree (Master’s or PhD) in various disciplines. Therefore, it was remarkable to see Margarita – a fresh graduate with a bachelor’s degree – to progress so quickly through her career. Her dedication to completing CFA designation deserves another mentioning – she was so much interested in learning more about Finance and risk management that she obtained her CFA designation in record time, passing each subsequent level. None of her peers demonstrated such dedication to a study program.