Herman Santiago is Business Partner and Head of Global Client Relations, Social Media & Technology at Nabas International Lawyers. Previously, he has managed multi-asset, multi-currency portfolios for Deutsche Bank in London and Nova Scotia in New York. He cut his commercial teeth at Scotiabank in New York, where he worked on a variety of projects across the business. Now based in London, Herman is constantly applying and growing his vast amount of commercial experience.

Interview

Q. You have lived and worked in London and New York. Where are you from originally?

A. My family are Puerto Rican, but I was born and raised in New York. Before I moved to London in 2002, I had lived in New York my whole life, apart from a period of around two years in my mid-20s when I was in Toronto one week out of every month as part of a training programme.

Q. You mention that you worked briefly in film media with Paramount Communications before getting into banking – did you have a clear idea of what kind of career you wanted to have from a young age?

A. Absolutely not – I had no idea! I just knew I needed to work. The media experience was just a four-month stint, but I am a very driven person and moved fast from one position to another. I was hard-working, but there was nothing I really wanted to do in this industry. So I accepted an opportunity to move into the banking sector.

Q. What are the greatest challenges in managing the law firm?

A. Business is a challenge in itself, but there are two specific aspects which I find difficult. Firstly, as I have said, I am very driven, and I often expect the same from others. When this isn’t the case, I have a tendency to take on other people’s work. That’s why it’s helpful to have my business partners around me to remind me when I’m overloaded, and I delegate instead. Secondly, there’s only so far you can spread yourself – it’s hard when you are torn between two opportunities and are unsure which to follow. At the end of the day I am always able to convince myself that I’ve made the right decision!

Q. When you’re torn between two options and have to be decisive, is it a question of following your heart, or are you very analytical about it?

A. I analyse the pros and cons of each – sadly, the heart doesn’t bring in the bacon! I would say, however that where the heart does come in to it, is when you’re getting new ventures off the ground – that’s when you really need to throw your enthusiasm and creativity behind something.

Q. How did you acquire the strong social media and technology skills that help you keep up with the evolution of technology? 

A. This is an interesting story. When I was working at Scotiabank in New York (1994-97), things were very different – there was no such thing as a desktop; there was only one computer per office. Each employee had these ridiculous diary cards on which to input all the information. I was interested in how we could improve this and did a lot of reading about technology. I went to speak to Head Office about my idea of installing a desktop computer per desk so that we could move on from the diary card system, and instead input information directly onto a central network. They asked me to come back and do a presentation on my proposal, which they loved. I was asked to head up the project, which at that point, at the age of 22, I had not even considered! I hired the best tech guys I knew and worked very closely with them so I understood at least the concept of everything that was going on. At this point, I was still very much developing professionally in the corporate banking sphere, and since then, I have always been interested in successfully combining technology with the corporate side of affairs. It’s so important to remain aware of the responsibility of maintaining traditional face-to-face communication with clients and colleagues.

Q. Is there one piece of advice you could share about how to gain value from effective use of social media in business?

A. There are various groups that are really good to join – Meetup or TableCrowd for example. There are people talking about the influence and disruption of social media on the traditional world, and it’s a good environment to ask questions and absorb lots of information. Obviously courses can be good, but I have no formal training – if you want to keep your costs low, then these kind of groups are great.

Q. You are responsible for introducing new product opportunities. How do you do this, always ensuring that you help businesses maintain a competitive edge?

A. I ensure that the organisation is run as effectively as possible. You can’t go into the future without first ensuring that everything is fine in the present, which means ensuring you are on top of client service first and foremost. In terms of introducing new opportunities, I go to talks, to conferences, to events, etc. and I gauge potential opportunities for us in terms of where we would fit as a service provider. When I have an idea, I then go and do the research to see if it’s feasible.

Q. Could you tell me a little more about how you got involved with London Bridge Networking? Is networking a skill that you can acquire and strengthen?

A. London Bridge Networking is based on BNI (Business Network International), an enterprise which started in the States and is now present all over the world. It’s a very structured way of networking, which can be a little daunting, but the truth is that you need some structure for it to be effective. At London Bridge Networking, we meet every Thursday just before 7am, and it lasts until around 8.30am. It’s a means to grow our understanding of others’ businesses. At first, some people don’t realise the value of a 60 second pitch, but with time and the constructive criticism of others, we work collectively to make sure we are more concise. Shyness and intimidation fades – even those who haven’t kept up with the 7am start (!) confirmed how much it helped their confidence even over a short period. Perfecting your business pitch in front of an audience means that you are then confident to present it in any other forum when you need to.