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Lisa Bair Peters

Lisa Bair PetersMarch 2014

In 2007, as The Bank of New York and Mellon Financial prepared for a landmark $16.5 billion merger, Lisa B. Peters ’80 was charged with creating a strong corporate culture and human resources system that today touches some 51,000 employees across 35 countries and 100 markets.

“It was an exhilarating and challenging assignment,” says Peters, chief human resources officer and senior executive vice president of BNY Mellon Corp. “We started by doing an engagement survey with employees and then literally went policy by policy, system by system, saying, ‘Is there a better way to do this for this new company?’”

Thanks, in part, to Peters’ expertise and quiet guidance, BNY Mellon continued to hold key global business rankings following the July 2007 merger and throughout the 2008 financial crisis. As a result, in 2008, Peters was named Human Capital Business Leader of the Year by the Society for Human Resource Management, which she calls one of the professional highlights of her distinguished career.

More than 30 years prior, when Peters arrived at the School of Management, a career in human resources was not a foregone conclusion. She came to UB for occupational therapy, but quickly changed her mind, graduating in 1979 and 1980 with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and business management, respectively.

“The combination of the two degrees was terrific,” Peters says. “The psychology degree is very close, from a business standpoint, to organizational behavior and the development segment and gives you some insight into people management.”

After graduation, Peters relocated to Pittsburgh with her husband, Russ, and landed her first professional position at Comshare Inc. (now Infor). A consultant and account representative, she pitched relational database systems and statistical models to Fortune 500 companies.

“When I made business calls at these organizations, I was given the opportunity to have direct access to the head of HR and sometimes even the CEO,” Peters recalls. “To gain admittance to these offices, at 22, was simply an amazing opening.”

Through that experience, Peters caught the attention of one of her clients, Mellon Financial, which created a research function in the HR space and hired Peters for that position in 1982. Using relational database tools and predictive analytics, she mined the company’s data to understand the employee population and make staff-related recommendations to senior leaders.

Four years later, Peters left HR and moved through various positions in the company over the next 15 years. In 1993, she was named head of risk management and compliance for retail banking, middle market and business banking. Her major promotion, Peters says, came in 1999 when she became involved in the company’s key strategic efforts and oversaw tactical projects as special assistant to the chairman and CEO.

In 2001, she advanced to director of human resources and assumed her current title after the merger closed in July 2007. With the global financial crisis in the past, Peters has been focusing on talent development with the opening of BKU, an internal virtual university for professional development, and the creation of a rotational development program for recent college graduates, launching this fall.

Peters says the School of Management’s high expectations prepared her for a long and rewarding career in business.

“The School of Management was rigorous in its curriculum. You had to carefully prepare in order to come in and execute every day, distinguishing yourself by your performance,” Peters says. “That’s how I approach my job.”

After 34 years in business, Peters will retire this summer. Always ready for a new challenge, she plans to assist the Pittsburgh nonprofit community and organizations that support women and children. She also looks forward to spending time with her two grown children and grandchild, and traveling to national parks with her husband and Labrador.

Written by Matthew Biddle

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