Take 10 with Leslie Ann Curry

Leslie Ann CurryMeet Leslie Ann Curry, managing director and chief experience officer (CXO) for Raymond James Investment Banking. Starting as an associate in the Technology & Services Investment Banking group, Leslie Ann has shattered glass ceilings and become the first CXO to exist on the Raymond James Investment Banking platform. Prior to her role as CXO, she served as chief operating officer for the Technology & Services and Healthcare Investment Banking businesses. In this interview, Leslie Ann opens up about the Raymond James culture, her journey to CXO and her recipe for success.

1. You are celebrating a decade at Raymond James. How do you define the culture of Raymond James Investment Banking?

In a word, the Raymond James culture represents growth. Raymond James is a place where you can grow personally and professionally. Make mistakes. Learn. Be yourself. No one expects perfection – they expect improvement. It’s about working hard to grow yourself, our clients and the firm.

2. What has been the most impactful or surprising moment of your career?

When I started my career in investment banking, I never expected I would pivot away from being an advisory banker. But honestly, I haven’t looked back. It has been a rewarding journey to move from being the maker behind the deal to being the shaper behind an ever-growing platform. I get to find and execute opportunities to create a world-class investment bank for both clients and bankers. I’m thankful to be part of a firm that has helped me find a growth path that not only makes sense for the firm but also makes sense for me.

3. What has been your biggest career challenge?

Saying no. It is hard. If I see a solution to a problem, I want to go after it. Saying yes to too much is giving into your only real limitation – time. Overcommitting is under-delivering. I am not “through it” yet and probably never will be, but I understand the challenge much better now.

4. What steps have you taken to manage the challenge of “saying no”?

My recipe for keeping my commitment to “essentialism” is regular sessions with my internal and external professional coach, bouncing ideas off my mentor and regular alignment checks with my boss. I have also recently become obsessed with making a 90-day plan and meeting with the head of investment banking every 90 days to review and discuss my plan – its more interesting than quarterly goals, more agile than an annual review.

5. You began as a Technology & Services investment banker and are now chief experience officer! Tell us a little bit more about that journey.

I loved being an investment banker. Nothing beats the thrill of a deal. Bid days were as exciting as my birthday. I worked with different clients, companies and sectors – learned how they achieved success. I wanted to bring every one of our clients best practices to Raymond James. I couldn’t help myself. I thought, “We should do that, and that, and that, and that.”

In my free time (usually the wee hours of the morning), I found myself taking in best practices and implementing change. Before I knew it, I owned our CRM, reporting, training, you name it. At that point, I had to decide. Did I want to be a great banker or build a place for great bankers? The rest is history.

6. From your perspective, what are the steps Investment Banking can continue to take to further create a diverse and inclusive environment?

Training and discussion on unconscious bias and practices and workflows that thwart it. I heard Lori Mackenzie and Laura Liswood speak on unconscious bias at Raymond James’ annual Women in Capital Markets Symposium. Wow. If you want to have your mind blown wide open, I encourage you to read their books. We, as humans, bring our brain – fundamentally flawed in its ability to accept anything as unique – to every situation. It stays busy sorting, categorizing and filing. You have to be intentional to break from the processes our brain uses every day to simplify our understanding of the world. To see change, I think Raymond James will need to offer more tools and resources that helps employees work toward greater intentionality and remove that discretion. 

7. Junior banker burnout has been a major topic of discussion across the investment banking industry. What’s your philosophy for how to solve the problem?

I cannot think of a more important event in a company’s lifecycle than raising capital or changing ownership. Much as I wouldn’t want a surgeon operating on me after multiple sleep-deprived days, I wouldn’t want bankers executing on fumes to sell my company.

There is a better way – better for both clients and employees. While I don’t have all the answers today, the one thing I do know is that better way is going to be the Raymond James way.

Ubiquitous access to email, Zoom and a live-at-work mentality have increased the pace of dealmaking with little change to the industry staffing construct or deal team roles. The “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality does not fly with me. I will ask questions, listen and learn from our bankers what would improve their experience. I am committed to implementing solutions based on that feedback and keeping the dialogue open over the long term to avoid stagnation.

We are already walking the walk. We have implemented several initiatives to alleviate burnout in the short term and more are underway that I initiated when I took the role of CXO in January of this year.

8. For individuals who want to reach the C-suite level, what is one piece of advice you would give them?

Find a role where you are passionate about what you do and a firm you passionately believe can be and do more. Passion energizes others, sparks confidence, drives work ethic and turns work into fun.

9. With a busy calendar, a lot of emails and regularly competing priorities, what are some of the tools or practices you apply to stay organized?

I give myself ...

  • Time to think – I block three hours a day where I do not take calls. That is when I think and get things done.

  • Time to listen – When I am on a call or in a meeting, I give it my undivided attention.

  • Time to plan – I have a custom-made agenda that I use to plan each day and week in advance so I can work with intention.

  • Time to recharge – Whether at home or at work, I am not my best self if I am running off fumes. Sometimes it’s a five-minute break, sometimes a few days or a week.

Most importantly, I give myself grace to accept who I am and the choices or tradeoffs I make without judgement.

10. Lastly, tell us a few non-career-related fun facts about yourself!

I love my Peloton (race me @labcurry). I have three daughters, all under the age of 5. I am terrified of ceiling fans. Jigsaw puzzles are my jam. My favorite TV show is the "Golden Girls". I am a self-help book junkie. I drink 12 La Croixs a day. I listen to pump-me-up music before any big meeting/pitch or to energize myself before a call.