Yvonne Garcia ALPFA Most Powerful Latinas

ALPFA Yvonne Garcia, the impact of Latino leadership on global markets


Yvonne Garcia, National Chairwoman of ALPFA

Yvonne Garcia, National Chairwoman of ALPFA

I first contacted Yvonne Garcia to write her profile in 2007 as the Experto de Hispanos for, . She impressed me with her assertiveness and dedication to her career, which has grown and blossomed into national exposure. Yvonne is the National Chairwoman for the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), a 48,000-member organization that thrives to empower and develop Latino men and women as leaders of character for the nation in every sector of the global economy.

This year, over 3000 ALPFA members gathered in the Big Apple to advance the role of Latinos not only in the national stage but also in the world markets. “We had a record-breaking convention this year in New York,” she shared with LIBizus. “Not only has it been the largest convention ever but the one with the most memorable highlights,” she affirmed.

Among the memorable programs was the Women of ALPFA Day, which featured an invitation-only breakfast with guest speakers discussing the global gender gap; panel discussions and workshops focused on soft skill development for Latina leaders; and the Women of ALPFA Luncheon where the accomplishments of Latinas were highlighted and celebrated.

“Our honoree this year for the Latina Excellence Award was Nina Vacca, Chief Executive Officer of Pinnacle Technical Resources, and Chair Emeritus of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” Yvonne said. “She talked about her journey to over 2000 attendees during the Women of ALPFA Luncheon,” she said.

According to the ALPFA National Chairwoman, Latinas in corporate are making headways and preparing for landing leadership roles. Knowing the personal sacrifices Yvonne made to build her professional career, a topic of our first conversation back in 2007, I was curious to know if the path has become somewhat easier for the upcoming Hispanic women eager to climb the corporate ladder.

“If anything, I believe it is harder now,” she said. “Although we are more aware of the importance of supporting Latinas to ensure more diversity in the workplace, they are now demanded to make even more sacrifices, working longer hours not only in their day jobs but also contributing to professional organizations,” she said.

ALPFA is committed to lead the support for Latinas through a more concerted effort in finding the right mentors to help those in the pipelines. “This is the commitment we ask from top corporate management; there must be a mandate from CEOs to mentor and train our women in order to build not only technical skills but also to develop leadership strength and charisma,” she added.

At her day job, Garcia, presently the Senior Vice President and Global Head of Client Solutions and PMO of the Investment Manager Services group for State Street Corporation, has global responsibility for developing new client relationships, deploying cutting-edge technology and operational processes, and delivering complex consulting engagements for existing and potential State Street clients.

Nina Vacca, Yvonne Garcia, Josefina Bonilla at the Women of ALPFA Luncheon.

Josefina Bonilla, Nina Vacca, Yvonne Garcia at the Women of ALPFA Luncheon.

She was born in Queens, New York, from the marriage of a Lebanese mother and a Dominican father, who came from the Dominican Republic in 1961. Yvonne had diverse experiences growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood but spending the summer months at her father’s country of origin. She learned Spanish as her first language.

Since she was a child, she was interested in the concept of money. At age six she organized a book sale in front of her house. She played with stamps making believe the papers she stamped were bank transactions. Always a saver, even when her brothers asked her to borrow money she would charge them interest.

Yvonne graduated with an MBA from Boston University in finance and marketing and a BA from the Sorbonne in Paris, France, where she lived while studying its economy and culture.

Beginning at the very bottom in sales in 1995, answering calls from customers in Spanish for a small community bank, she was promoted to the department of international staff given her fluency in English and French.

Yvonne Garcia ALPFA Chairwoman Closing Remarks

Yvonne Garcia ALPFA Chairwoman Closing Remarks

She then moved on to Merrill Lynch as a Financial Adviser and decided to continue her studies obtaining a master’s degree in business administration from Boston University, focusing her career in Finance and Marketing. By that time, she had also started a family and had a small baby. Yvonne found a new passion in marketing that, despite being also demanding, allowed her to manage her time in a more flexible manner.

Yvonne was appointed as Vice President of strategic assistance of the Construction Bank of China in America. In this role, Yvonne and her team were responsible for the creation and implementation of sales processes and service within the bank’s capitalization centers, which included implementation of roles, responsibilities, and tools for the sales force and the management team.

In the midst of her travels to China, Yvonne also spent more than seven weeks in North Carolina, where she acquired her certifications as Six Sigma Green and Black Belts.

She recalls China as the largest professional sacrifice because she had to leave her son to travel to China for three weeks in a row, but was also her greatest professional achievement.

She was then offered a position at Liberty Mutual as the VP and Director of Marketing to consumer market segments. In this role, Yvonne was responsible for the creation and implementation of integrated marketing strategies that resulted in the penetration of selected consumption targets throughout the country.

Student of the Year Award ALPFA Convention 2015

Student of the Year Award ALPFA Convention 2015

“I found this role through my network of ALPFA, which opened the doors for this opportunity,” she recalls. ALPFA’s is committed to grow aggressively to 100,000 members within the next two years. Anybody who is seriously devoted to their professional career must consider joining this national organization,” she added.

And she concluded, “Moreover, as the ALPFA Chairwoman in this year’s convention, all the sacrifices I made were well-rewarded when I saw the happy faces of over 40 students who received scholarships in recognition and celebration of their academic achievement and demonstrated leadership skills. We witnessed the talent of Latino students from across the country; they work hard through the year to deserve such important recognition.”

Ileana Musa, Head of Global Client Segment and Strategy at Merrill Lynch.

Ileana Musa developing ALPFA Latina leaders for a global society

Ileana Musa, Head of Global Client Segment and Strategy at Merrill Lynch.

Ileana Musa, Head of Global Client Segment and Strategy at Merrill Lynch.

While traveling to Miami to receive our Hispanicize 2015 TECLA Award, I had the opportunity to meet personally with Ileana Musa for an exclusive interview. Ileana’s remarkable background precedes her: the Head of Global Client Segment and Strategy at Merrill Lynch, she formerly held leadership positions at Bank of America’s Global Wealth & Investment Management (GWIM) Banking group, BankBoston and JP Morgan Chase.

A soft-spoken small attractive Latina, she captivated me with her passion and conviction about the leadership role of Latinas in the corporate world, which speaks for her own story.

Ileana was born in Cuba, and came with her family to the United States in 1971 at the age of three. Raised by her single mom, who always instilled in her the eagerness to succeed through preparation and hard work, Ileana was awarded with a scholarship for her undergrad studies at University of Miami. She then pursued an MBA from Florida International University.  In 2004, she was sponsored for the Executive Development Program at the Kellogg School of Management. Ileana holds FINRA 4, 7, 24, 63 and 65 securities licenses, as well as her Life and Health Insurance license, and is Six-Sigma Greenbelt certified.

“Three years ago, my company encouraged me to represent them at the ALPFA Convention in Orlando. I was so inspired by their mission that I decided to get involved with the organization. Many ALPFA senior leaders impressed me for their aim at empowering Latinos–and specially women– to take the leadership role they deserve in the corporate world,” she said.

ALPFA, the former Association of Latino Professionals in Finances and Accounting, has recently been renamed as the Association of Latino Professionals For America, in a quest to expand their mission and influence to all industries and corporations where Latinos can play a headship role.

She was offered to jump on board joining ALPFA’s National Corporate Advisory Board. Six months later, she became the Chair of Women of ALPFA, the strategic initiative for leadership and empowerment of Latinas in corporate.

“I spent the last three years helping the organization increase its influence, as we launched a national platform for women and members to collaborate and share experiences. The 3-year strategy includes an umbrella theme, ‘Building the Legacy of Latina Leadership,’ with a specific focus for each year: the first year was The Power of Influence; the second, Using the Power of You, and the third one –currently underway–, Making an Impact in a Global Society,” she explained.

WOMEN OF ALPFA Building Impact in Global Society

The idea behind the initiative is to create and develop a competency model in which Latinas at all levels can acquire skills in each topic. The program sustains three tracks, an entry-level track for student Latinas, and mid- and senior-level tracks for those waiting in the pipelines.

Another important goal of the program was to conduct activities at a local level to encourage Latinas’ participation and attract corporate sponsors. With 135 university chapters and 43 professional chapters across the country, Women of ALPFA promoted the importance of Latina leadership by exploring these topics through a series of events that included panel discussions, presentations and networking. It was also an opportunity to provide its 23,000 members with a relevant voice.

“It was very important to work locally to convoke Latinas so they bring others along in every city. The program has three strategic pillars that are instrumental to their success: how we continue to develop Latina leaders in the workplace; how we connect these women; and how we leverage the Women of ALPFA brand so that companies can attract and retain Latino talent,” she said.

Ileana believes one of the most imperative aspects of the initiative is to connect Latino women, who bring extraordinary experience to the table.

“There is vast experience out there and many stories that need to be connected so we can help one another,” she noted. With the support of Charles Garcia, recently named ALPFA’s CEO, and Lori Ruff, Chief Brand Evangelist, the organization brings extraordinary value to corporate sponsors around the nation.

Ileana sustains that these corporate sponsors are very eager to engage because they understand that developing this talent will only reflect of their gain in Hispanic/Latino market share and employee retention.

Ileana Musa, Head of International Credit & Banking, Bank of America and Indhira Arrington, SVP, Diversity and Inclusion, Bank of America, receiving her Latina Style Magazine award.

Ileana Musa, Head of International Credit & Banking, Bank of America and Indhira Arrington, SVP, Diversity and Inclusion, Bank of America, receiving a Latina Style Magazine award.

“When corporate sponsors send their employees to an ALPFA event, and they experience a conference or summit for the first time, they become much more connected to their companies. They better understand the opportunities that might lie in front of them and become more committed to make them happen. It is really a win-win situation,” she shared.

Although Latinas are still sorely under-represented in the C-suite and under-recognized in corporate America, Cuban-born Ileana believes the future holds great possibilities for Latinas. “I believe that, as Latinas, we bring uncommon skills to the table. In addition to our technical and professional competence, we are naturally endowed with a special set of soft skills related to our understanding of a global culture, our creativity, our willingness to collaborate and to be inclusive in getting the work done,” she concluded.