In his quarter-century in finance, John Gallo, Co-Head of Global Markets for BNP Paribas in New York City, has developed an expertise in such areas as stocks, bonds, capital formation, hedge funds and asset management.
He drives commercial and institutional client strategies across Global Markets America (GMA) in his current position, while also serving on BNP’s management committee.
Before assuming his role at BNP, John Gallo held executive positions at Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and Lehman Brothers. He was the Head of Institutional Client Group at Deutsche Bank from 2015-17, where he led fixed-income sales for the Americas. While at Citigroup from 2008-15, he was Head of Investor Sales for Global Markets in North America.
John Gallo, a graduate of Fordham University, began his finance career in 1992, in the back office at Lehman Brothers. He later became, at the age of 30, the youngest managing director in the firm’s history and capped his 13-year career at the firm by rising to the position of Global Head of Liquid Market Sales — one of Lehman’s largest divisions — where he specialized in such asset classes as commodities and FX. At various times he also served as Head of the Risk Solutions Group and Head of Global Rates and FX Sales, and served on the firm’s management committee.
John Gallo sits on the executive committee and the board of The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine in New York City, while also chairing the school’s finance committee. He has also served on the boards of various companies, including Clickpay, Adjuvance Technologies, AMN, Inc. and Hourglass.
Our Interview with John Gallo
Question: What’s the most important thing we should know about you?
John Gallo: I’m the father of three awesome kids — two daughters, ages 14 and 10, and a 12-year-old son.
Question: Name the most impactful lesson you learned from failure.
John Gallo: I tell my kids that it’s good to fail; you cannot take risks without failing. It’s a matter of whether you gave it your best effort, and learned from your failures. There are those in finance who would do well to understand that. Some are so afraid of failure they will not take risks and some are completely derailed when they are unable to close a deal or earn a promotion. In essence, they compound the failure by handling it poorly. The bottom line is that we all fail, myself very much included, and you must be resilient and persistent. And you can learn to be both.
Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
John Gallo: Starting out with very little and putting myself through college, and becoming the youngest managing director at Lehman Brothers. I was able to cobble together a skill set that enabled me to compete and succeed, the result being that I was running a $2 billion business in my early 30s.
Question: What did you waste the most time on when you were first starting your career?
John Gallo: I was overly concerned with spending time in the office, thinking that being the first to arrive and last to leave would curry favor with my superiors. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was the case. Hard work mattered far more than how long you were at your desk.
Question: Name a tool you use for work that you can’t live without.
John Gallo: This may sound antiquated and boring in the Digital Age, but I still use my notebook to compile my to-do list and write down key things I’ve learned.
Question: Name one small habit that positively impacts your productivity.
John Gallo: I tended bar to put myself through Fordham, and the people skills I learned in that setting have served me well during my career in finance. As a bartender you learn to read people, and learn to negotiate. It’s no different when you’re trying to close a deal.
Question: What excites you the most about your industry right now?
John Gallo: In finance, you never know what the day is going to bring and what issues you’re going to face. Like everyone else I have a routine, but I’m surprised on a daily basis. It keeps the job interesting and engaging. Were it not that way, I’m not sure I would still be doing it.
Question: What concerns you most about your industry right now?
John Gallo: We should be evolving faster than we actually are. While a number of sophisticated fintechs are doing things differently, those in investment banking and venture capital are proceeding as they have for an extended period of time. That needs to change.
Question: What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?
John Gallo: Early in my career I recommended that our firm consummate a deal, only to be met with resistance from a number of my superiors in our organization, who weren’t convinced it was the right move. I had done the legwork on this transaction, and was confident it would work out in the end. As a result, I chose to go ahead with the deal, and was vindicated — it was extremely profitable.
I have also taken chances with some of my job changes, notably when I moved from Citigroup, where I was entrenched, to Deutsche Bank, which at the time was facing its share of challenges.
Question: Do you value intelligence or common sense more, and why?
John Gallo: I can’t say I value either one more, because I believe you need both. People blessed with only common sense usually have much lower plateaus than those who have only intelligence. But in order to be successful, you need a combination of the two, among other skills.
Question: What’s been your greatest career disappointment?
John Gallo: The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. I put my heart and soul into the place. The firm had a lot of special qualities. We built industry-leading businesses — at least the ones I was involved in. But I think we all know what happened.