Dale Hanley, Head of Investments Risk Management at New York Life, was recently honored in Crain's Notable Black Leaders and Executives list for 2021. We caught up with Dale to learn about his career to date, what being included in the Crain’s list means to him, and how he’s giving back to others.
What first stoked your interest in financial services, and did you always envisage you would have a career in the sector when you were growing up?
I have always been interested in finance and business. When I was growing up, my parents required we watch the news as a family. Near the end of the news, I’d see the Wall Street Report with stocks going up and down, and these things called ‘bonds’– it always intrigued me. At that time, I had a paper route, and I would read the business section while I was delivering the papers. It always captivated me, so I knew I was going to do something in business and finance. Exactly what that was, I didn’t know. Later, I was fortunate enough to get an internship working for a financial services company right before I started my undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland. I started in the sales office and did well there, and then the next year they moved me into the investments group. The team challenged me and literally built me up. I was doing things in my internship that I had yet to learn in college. They were amazing people that gave me a valuable head start to kick-off my career.
You’ve spent the large proportion of your career working in areas related to risk. What is it about risk management that is so appealing to you?
I have always felt risk management is such a vital part of everything we do as it enables sound decision making. Considering risk is an extension of my personality, it was natural for me to gravitate toward risk-oriented roles. Adding to that, risk management and investments are two things that pair well. If you’re an investor, you really need to understand the aspects of risk so you can build a portfolio that aligns with your goals and tolerance.
What is it that drew you to New York Life – why is it such a good fit and why did the company’s approach and philosophy appeal to you?
Prior to joining New York Life, I spent around 10 years with another major financial institution, which had given me a real sense of the benefits and challenges of working within a large multi-national investment banking firm. But, after the financial crisis, I decided it was time to seek new opportunities. I got a call from one of the senior leaders at New York Life Investments about an opportunity. During the interview process, I met with multiple members of the senior leadership team and gained insight into the culture and strategic vision of the organization. The culture really aligned with my values–doing things the right way, having a long-term vision and operating with a thoughtful approach to getting things done. New York Life Investments had also been assembling a talented collection of people with amazing backgrounds. All of these factors, coupled with the strength and reputation of New York Life Insurance, its parent, made the decision to join very appealing, and it turned out to be a great career move! Ten years later, I am now part of New York Life Insurance’s Risk Mangement Group. While still very focused on the investment business, its been a meaningful experience to work alongside my risk management colleagues focused on other areas of the enterprise.
The COVID-19 pandemic obviously thrust risk management into the spotlight. What measures did you take to steer the organization through the difficult initial period?
As an international company, we have had to manage a complex network of issues. Within the Investments division, we have operations in Asia and Australia, which were dealing with the impacts of COVID before our European and U.S. operations. The first-hand accounts from our businesses in Asia, coupled with the information from the news outlets, led us to act with a greater sense of urgency because we wanted to be prepared for worst case scenarios, given the many unknowns.
In terms of our response, our approach to managing COVID-19 really illustrated our ‘one team, one purpose’ culture. It truly was a team effort. My team and colleagues in Risk, along with members of the New York Life Investments leadership team, Human Resources, Legal, and IT worked together in unison for months, helping gather information and develop strategies and solutions to support executive leadership in keeping employees safe and enabling continued operations.
Fortunately, Investments was well positioned. Over the past four years, we spent a lot of time reviewing the business continuity program. Many of the boutiques and business units made improvements to ensure the majority of the key employees were able to work remotely, but this obviously needed to be expanded to all employees to enable us to fully transition to long-term work-at-home. It has been a challenging journey, but we have been able to keep our employees and stakeholders safe and continue to serve our clients.
You mentioned how grateful you are for the support you received when embarking on your career – and that’s something you now give back via your own charity work. Tell us about that work.
My work with Project Morry, as a board member, is a way for me to give back to young kids and teens who have, in some cases, a background similar to mine. Project Morry is a youth development organization that works to empower young people from under-resourced communities to help create a positive future. The organization makes a ten-year commitment to the students and their families starting in elementary school going through high school to provide a combination of academic enrichment, leadership development and, mentoring year-round.
Project Morry appealed to me because of their comprehensive approach to child development and the unwavering commitment of the staff and board. The long-term commitment establishes a partnership built on trust, consistency, and expectation that creates real opportunity for children to change the trajectory of their lives by helping to put them in a position to succeed – in whatever they want to do. It’s an amazing program, and we’ve just celebrated our 25th anniversary.
What’s also great about my involvement in Project Morry is that my connection to the organization came about from a conversation I had with a senior leader at New York Life several years back. I was at a point in my life where I was ready and able to make a commitment at this level to give back and make an impact, and subsequently, I happened to receive a call from one of his friends about this organization. I immediately told my wife about the opportunity and my desire to get involved; we agreed it would be a mutually beneficial and important endeavor, and are so proud of the success that the program has achieved to date.
Can you share some insights into your leadership style?
I believe in giving a team a sense of empowerment and ownership. Setting clear goals and objectives, establishing strong communication practices and being transparent, are all essential to building trust and fostering productivity. Mutual respect is also important, no matter what you do.
I also focus on career development by ensuring that my team receives formal training and effective feedback to help them achieve their goals. Additionally, I believe in stretch assignments with adequate support in place – getting out of ones comfort zone is a good thing, as it fosters development.
As a leader, it is my responsibility to do everything in my power to ensure the team is positioned to both develop and succeed.
How do you relax outside of work?
I think my two-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter ensure that I do not! Outside of being a dad, I enjoy cooking, and I’m an automotive enthusiast as well. It’s fun to share these interests with my kids too.
Finally, you were recently recognized in Crain’s Notable Black Leaders and Executives list for 2021. What does such an accolade mean to you?
I’m humbled and I’m grateful. I appreciate the values my parents instilled in me: to work hard and never stop learning.
There is an incredible pool of black talent in the workforce. It’s not only important to shine light on that, but to also reflect on strides that have been made in diversity across corporate America, though there is still much room for growth, especially in leadership roles. I hope that all of the recognized leaders inspire others to dream, define and act, just as others have inspired me.
Read the entire interview in Crain's.
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