These days, it means a lot to stay at a company for five years. So when team members remain at an organization for nearly two decades, it speaks volumes about the company culture and work environment.

Just ask Sameer Manelkar. When he joined wealth and asset management firm Northern Trust 18 years ago, the first thing he noticed was the people and the culture they had created. And although some faces have come and gone, the feeling it gave him remains the same. 

“The culture is what sets us apart,” Manelkar said. “We’re still going strong after all these years making progress, and we continue to challenge ourselves every day.”

As a senior vice president, he gets to watch the organization’s evolution continue, carried out by a leadership team he considers “highly adaptable” and more than willing to mingle with employees on the office floor. 

 

“The culture is what sets us apart. We’re still going strong after all these years making progress, and we continue to challenge ourselves every day.”

 

With a strong, tight-knit culture in place, the firm remains committed to crucial initiatives, such as driving client satisfaction and philanthropic work. 

The data governance team is proud to be a part of these initiatives. The firm places an emphasis on innovation, and employees are encouraged to leverage the latest technologies and explore new trends influencing the financial industry, including AI. As such, the company’s focus on technology continues to evolve: capabilities have grown, so individuals and teams have been able to do the same while shaping the firm’s future. 

The organization also provides plenty of opportunities for individuals to get involved in technical areas in many different ways — and even in areas that are just emerging. While technology plays a leading role in Northern Trust’s continued transformation, it’s the people behind the projects who have kept the mighty ship sailing for more than a century. 

According to Vice President Betsy Bonitatibus, it’s for this reason that she and her peers call each other “partners” rather than employees — a nod to the relationships that bind each of them together as they drive the firm forward. 

“I have yet to encounter someone who isn’t willing to sit down, have a conversation and share their background and experience,” she said. 

 

WRITE YOUR OWN JOB DESCRIPTION

When Bonitatibus joined Northern Trust, she knew nothing about the financial services industry. With a major in history and French, she was unsure how she would fare at the firm. Now, after 16 years, she feels as though she plays a leading role in driving the firm’s technology product initiatives, including the adoption of Salesforce. 

The firm’s data governance team has also expressed their appreciation of the ability to drive change within the organization, explaining that they “get to write their own job description.”

 

 

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Partners in Transformation

At the heart of Northern Trust’s success lies a set of technological fundamentals that fuel the firm’s ongoing initiatives and projects. This foundation, built on cloud capabilities, data and analytics, and key platforms, is the support that is enabling the organization’s “digital metamorphosis.” This technical foundation is made up of various elements, including the way in which team members tackle their work. 

On the product side of the firm, Bonitatibus and her peers have benefited greatly from taking an agile approach, which she considers a “game changer” for response times. 

“If something urgent comes up from the business, we’ve proven that we can have a super-fast turnaround and be incredibly efficient around our work,” she said. 

With everyone operating at the same cadence, the firm has managed to deliver new capabilities more quickly. Now, a process that used to take months to reach fruition occurs every two weeks. 

Cloud technology has had an equally positive impact on innovation at Northern Trust. It has expanded the firm’s computing capabilities and resources and has reduced the hardware constraints that existed previously. 

Of course, with increased output comes an immense amount of data. The data governance team leverages advanced data analytics to extract valuable insights that benefit both clients and internal decision makers. 

Given its scale, flexibility and speed, cloud technology is a priority at the firm. Manelkar said his team was built intentionally to ensure the right people and processes were in place to drive the firm’s cloud-based engineering initiatives. 

“The goal was to get the right talent and then establish the engineering principles and culture that we put in place to create a high-performing team,” he explained. 

 

“The goal was to get the right talent and then establish the engineering principles and culture that we put in place to create a high-performing team.”

 

This culture included the adoption of extreme programming, which is a form of agile that results in even faster turnaround times, resulting in one-week iterations. Manelkar added that his team also uses test-driven development (writing tests before actually writing a single line of code), and uses a fully automated pipeline that ensures everything is checked even before being deployed into a test environment. 

He believes that the consistency and speed that defines his team’s culture has proven to create a “highly successful model.” But without cohesion across the firm’s business, product and engineering teams, this work wouldn’t be possible to achieve. 

“Our business, product and tech teams come together to operate in a one-team fashion to break down barriers,” Manelkar said. 

 

TRANSLATING THE TIMES

As Northern Trust navigates this latest phase in its more than 130-year journey, team members have embraced change as a constant. Knowing that this can be overwhelming to some, the data governance team produces content that breaks down the complexities of this transformation and makes it easily digestible for everyone across the firm.

 

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‘The Door Is Open For You’

Given the amount of innovation taking place across the firm, everyone at Northern Trust is enabled — and encouraged — to grow alongside the organization. This is something Manelkar has learned over the course of nearly two decades, during which time he has developed countless skills. 

“As long as you have the interest and the motivation, then the door is open for you,” he said. 

Manelkar noted that this is especially true for early-career professionals, including interns who take part in the firm’s rotational development program. With access to a mentor, interns are also fully supported on their journey to entering the workforce. 

This level of care is accessible to everyone, regardless of where they are in their career journey. According to Bonitatibus, the firm encourages team members to constantly question the status quo, giving them the freedom to test out their own ideas. It’s for this reason that she, and many others, feel called to stay at the organization long term. 

“It’s not uncommon for people to stay at Northern Trust for 30-40 years,” Bonitatibus said. “I think you see that a lot because team members are respected and know their ideas are important.”

 

“It’s not uncommon for people to stay at Northern Trust for 30-40 years. Team members are respected and know their ideas are important.”

 

Bonitatibus added that the firm values its people’s opinions so much that time is set aside for team members to brainstorm together, which includes setting up hackathons across the organization. 

These opportunities give teams the freedom to explore new possibilities for themselves and the broader organization, making them feel like students again. 

People stay at Northern Trust for a long time for all of these reasons. The fast-paced nature of the work team members do, coupled with ongoing technological progress, makes them excited to see where the organization is headed. 

 

 

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