Jul 27 10 Questions for the Chief of Staff: Carlos Guillen

carlosCurrently: President, BasisCode Technologies LLC

Previously: VP, Chief of Staff, Fixed Income Investments for ING Investment Management

#1) What is the most satisfying part of being Chief of Staff?

For me its the ability to touch all parts of the business – all the variety and diversity of the role. It is more varied than even a COO position. I needed to regularly interact with legal, compliance, IT, client services, operations, HR, marketing and sales.

#2) What is the most challenging?

The toughest part is competing for resources from all the shared services areas. You need to fit your business needs into the overall strategic priorities of the larger organization. It is a matter of effectively communicating and making your case for the required resources.

#3) What is the biggest misconception people have of the position?

The biggest misconception is that people think it is only an administrative role. However, in reality it is very strategic. In particular, you need to connect the dots of all department areas to align with strategic goals.

#4) Why do you think the Chief of Staff position is important?

It enables the head of the business to focus on their core competencies and strengths by having a capable Chief of Staff handle the other areas. So in my case the business leader could focus on investment management and gathering assets.

#5) Who makes a good Chief of Staff?

I feel the best ones come with an operations and technology background. Further, they need to be willing to spend time and understand all the functional areas of the business. The operations and technology mindset comes into play because you must be able to see how processes and IT interconnects all the staff departments. With the Chief of Staff having a broad handle on the business it allows your boss to focus on high-level priorities.

#6) What was your role in the strategic planning process?

I played a key role in determining the internal priorities for our business. So when my boss set overall business goals I would work to determine what the staff priorities needed to be to achieve those goals whether they were for IT, client services, operations etc. I also worked to provide accurate and timely data for senior management to make strategic decisions.

#7) What was your role in monitoring the strategic plan?

I met regularly with the internal and external stakeholders in our business that included the investment professionals and our clients. Plus, I also met regularly with the internal and external support areas for our business including operations and IT staff and outside vendors such as Bloomberg. Through these meetings I made sure there was continuing progress and that issues were addressed. With this information I then had frequent meetings with the head of the business to discuss plan status and next steps. In addition, I represented the business on numerous committees and task forces.

#8) What types of projects did you lead?

Because of my background I often led technology based projects. Examples could be systems for risk management or projects to better use Bloomberg data for decision-support. Other typical projects included reengineering of client service reporting and creating a process to better organize and prioritize legal resources.

#9) What training is important to be a Chief of Staff?

I would focus on getting training on process improvement, technology trends, and relationship building skills.

#10) What advice would you give a new Chief of Staff?

Become familiar with all aspects of your business. These are your constituencies that you need to represent. Learn about their processes; what is working well; what their pain points are; and how you can help. You need to let them know you value them and they are important in achieving the overall business goals. These different areas need to feel you understand them and that you will treat them fairly.