Citi Senior VP Gaileon Thompson Creating a Legacy in the Finance Field
Gaileon Thompson `01 `03MBA leveraged her strong interpersonal skills to land a senior analyst position at SunTrust upon graduating from Crummer – she now funds a scholarship in her father’s name and hopes to inspire more women to join the dynamic field of finance.
If you told pre-Crummer Gaileon Thompson that she would one day become a senior vice president for Citi’s Global Consumer Bank, she wouldn’t have believed you.
Fresh out of graduating from Rollins undergrad with a major in international affairs, she found herself wanting to get into the world of corporate finance – but wasn’t sure what the path was to get there.
After thoroughly enjoying the high-touch educational experience of her undergrad at Rollins, she decided that going to Crummer to enhance her education with finance knowledge would be her best bet.
What she didn’t realize at the time, was truly how transformative her Crummer experience would be for her career.
Not Just a Consulting Project
At Crummer, Gaileon Thompson developed the concrete financial skills she needed to compete in the world of corporate finance – but it was the soft skills that set her apart when she entered the job market.
“What I really appreciate about my time there is that it was such a well-rounded business experience. Obviously, the training in finance and accounting helped me get a role in finance, but it’s the all the other aspects that helped me to be prepared and successful in the workplace,” said Thompson.
When she applied for a position as a senior analyst at SunTrust Bank upon Crummer graduation (she even says it was a bit of a reach coming straight out of school), it wasn’t the finance or accounting skills that the hiring manager was interested in, it was the hands-on experience she had gained in her global consulting project.
For Gaileon’s global consulting project, she was a part of the first Crummer team that traveled to China.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Thompson. “We really had to create our project, put ourselves in their shoes, and ask ourselves what they wanted and how could we help them be successful.”
Gaileon and her team really had to formulate the project entirely themselves—in a foreign country with a language barrier and in partnership with a company that had no previous experience working with a Crummer consulting team.
“When I was in for my interview (at SunTrust), my China project was all we talked about. The conversation had very little to do with my analytical skills, or past finance experience,” said Thompson. “He was really interested by my ability to think critically; it was that consulting project where I was able to demonstrate that and show how I could apply that coming into a new role in a new industry.”
Gaileon ended up beating out internal candidates for that senior analyst position who had been working in the finance space for years, largely based on her ability to tell the story of her Crummer experience.
“It was my critical thinking skills, my enthusiasm and my attitude that won the hiring manager over,” said Thompson.
Inspiring Women in Finance
After 8 years at SunTrust and many promotions later, Gaileon stepped outside of the finance realm to run a product management unit at SunTrust.
Gaileon explained, “because I had done such a good job as the finance officer, when it came time to look for someone to step into this leadership role, they thought who better than the person who manages our finances?”
Two years later, Citi approached her about a role in technology product management. It was within Citi’s Global Consumer Bank, which appealed to her love for international business as well.
“It really checked off that last box for me with international experience; it ended up being too good to pass up, so I made the leap from SunTrust to CitiBank,” said Thompson.
Gaileon went on to hold multiple roles within Citi’s Global Technology group. However, at her core, Gaileon is most passionate about the FP&A (financial planning and analysis) profession, so, when Citi had an opportunity for a senior-level role in finance, it was too good to turn down.
In her career thus far in finance, Thompson says she has never felt discriminated against or felt like a minority in terms of the gender representation.
“I’ve always looked at it as I am here to represent myself and my job. I looked at it in terms of being agnostic to what the other person looks like,” said Thompson.
However, her eyes were opened when she went to a conference for the Association for Financial Professionals, where she serves on the board of directors.
“I was walking around and found myself noticing that there are way more men here than women,” said Thompson. “I never saw the disparity in my career to this point, but as I reflect back, I realized the disparity did exist, just at more senior levels.”
As it started to resonate with her, she realized she needed to take action.
“One of the things I’m doing on the board at the Association for Finance Professionals is planning a session at the next conference on women and diversity in finance, and how important it is,” said Thompson.
She says finance tends to have many misconceptions, like most people working in it are tucked away in a cubicle working on spreadsheets all day. In all actuality, it’s much more interpersonal, strategic and proactive.
For any woman looking to go into business, she says FP&A is a dynamic field they should definitely consider.
“I think women are very well suited to be in this field, especially in this day and age,” said Thompson. “Today the role of finance has evolved so much where you have to be proactive, you have to be strategic, and soft skills and emotional intelligence have become so much more important.”
Creating A Crummer Legacy
When Gaileon Thompson reflects on her career, she is truly thankful for her Crummer experience.
“When I think about where I was before I went into this program, I had aspirations of getting into finance, but didn’t have a lick of experience in that space,” said Thompson. “I worked hard and my work ethic played a big part in it, but having gone to Crummer and having that influence really set the stage for how I wanted to go out in the workforce.”
Her steadfast commitment to Crummer led her to taking on the role as Alumni Board President while she was living in Orlando, and when she moved to Texas, she took on the role as the Dallas City Club president.
To continue to remain connected and involved with Crummer, she even started a scholarship in her father’s name.
The Col. Walter L. Thompson Endowed MBA scholarship is designed to benefit veterans who want to take the next step in their careers and go for their MBA.
Gaileon Thompson’s father is a retired coronel in the Army National Guard, so when she decided she wanted to create a scholarship, she wanted it to reflect on him.
“I want to help make that possible for former military to take that step to get their MBA, because I know of the sacrifice and commitment they made for us,” said Thompson.
She hopes the scholarship in her father’s name and a Crummer education have the same transformational impact on somebody else that it had on her.
“I feel like the education, the experience that you get is priceless,” said Thompson. “It’s my way to pay it forward.”