Marie Dzanis of Northern Trust Asset Management on the polar explorer who inspires her leadership

Marie Dzanis is a huge fan of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the British explorer who gave up his Antarctic expedition in 1915 when his ship Endurance was trapped in sea ice, forcing him and his crew to flee on foot and in lifeboats.

The 53-year-old, who became head of Northern Trust Asset Management’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operations in 2018, took inspiration last year from the renowned polar explorer, whose unfortunate journey provided a wealth of material for Business School -Lectures and leadership books.

“It’s about leadership in times of crisis and challenge, and it resonates with me because you have to make sense of what you do,” says Dzanis, who speaks about Zoom with Financial News from her home office. “And people have to be assigned roles in order to cope with difficult times.

“Covid taught me a lot about culture and the new management level required. We were in a situation where there was no set of rules and decisions had to be made with the best available information. “

In more normal times, Dzanis heads Northern Trust’s Emea wealth management business from the US bank’s London headquarters in Canary Wharf, the financial metropolis that has turned into a ghost town since the Covid hit last year.

“The team misses each other. There’s no question about that, ”says Dzanis with the eagerness of someone desperate to return to the Bank Street office. “In the future there will certainly be a hybrid way of thinking about where we can have less personal meetings when they are not so necessary and optimizing the time with the technology.”

Pennsylvania-born Dzanis moved from the United States to London to take up her post after overseeing the sales and servicing of Northern Trust’s exchange-traded funds for three years. She joined Northern Trust in 2011 after three years with iShares – BlackRock’s publicly traded funds division.

One of her big roles since assuming the top position has been promoting Northern Trust’s wealth management capabilities across Europe, a region where the name is more synonymous with its custodian and wealth management activities.

Given their experience so far, it is not surprising that Dzanis’ other role is to build Northern Trust Asset Management’s ETF offering in Europe – not an easy task when the booming sector is highly competitive and dominated by three established players, including her first employer iShares.

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In March, Northern Trust Asset Management, which manages $ 1.1 trillion worldwide, announced the launch of its first two FlexShares ETFs in Europe, both with a climate focus. Focusing on the climate is a good place to start. Overall, investment funds in Europe focused on environmental, social and governance issues, with inflows and assets at record levels, were one of the big winners of the Covid crisis.

Dzanis is confident that while Northern Trust is a latecomer in the $ 1.5 trillion ETF industry in Europe, it can stand out from the crowd and build on its experience in the US ETF market which it launched its first products in 2011. It is now one of the top 20 ETF providers in the US, where industry assets have soared to an all-time high of $ 6.3 trillion.

“An important aspect of any product you bring to market is having a solid investment thesis,” says Dzanis. “Credibility helps in terms of the space and the knowledge and expertise and very good experiences, and there is no proxy for that experience.”

Speaking with great energy during an hour-long interview, Dzanis is one of only a handful of senior women in the UK wealth management industry and little progress has been made in empowering the number of women in leadership positions across the industry.

A recent survey by the headhunter Heidrick & Struggles showed that among the 50 largest asset managers in the world, only 3% of managing directors are women. The regional managers, including Dzanis, were only slightly higher at 4%.

Dzanis has been committed to enhancing all areas of diversity at Northern Trust since she took over the helm and boasts that Northern Trust Asset Management’s 17-strong global leadership team has seven women and six ethnic backgrounds .

At Northern Trust Asset Management in Emea, 39% of the employees are women.

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“Diversity wins,” says Dzanis, who also sits on the board of the UK Investment Association, which has tried to become more representative of the industry it represents.

“Once you’ve acquired diverse talent, you need to know how to incorporate them into power and management to get the most out of them. That means your company has to be committed to it, ”she says.

“A company has to be willing to be vulnerable and accept the fact that you have people at your table who think differently from you. We’re working very hard on that. We still have more to do, and the industry still has a lot to do. “

Dzanis, who got her first job in finance from cold calling firms, is keen to attract the best talent, but she wants to foster a culture that rewards the hard work of her employees with promotions.

“You can only live forever if you have a team of people who go ahead and do things a lot better than you ever could,” she says.

“The little piece of you lives on through it. This is my contribution. “

curriculum vitae


June 1967



CIMA, University of California, Berkeley


BA Political Theory, Catholic University of America



Executive Vice President, Head of Northern Trust Asset Management Emea


Head of Emea, Northern Trust Asset Management


Senior Vice President, Head of Intermediary and Wealth Distribution, Northern Trust


Senior Vice President and Head of Exchange Traded Funds Sales and Servicing, Northern Trust


Director, Eastern US Manager, iShares, BlackRock


Vice President, Eastern US Manager, JPMorgan


Various positions including commercial, product and sales management roles, Smith Barney

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