Faces of the Atlanta Fed: Sumitra Haddad of Supervision, Regulation, and Credit

August 12, 2019

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Sumitra Haddad finds value in every job. That attitude has made her an asset wherever she has worked, particularly in the varied roles she has held in banking, from being a part-time teller to her current position as senior examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Haddad worked in other jobs before she found banking, including selling department store goods and waiting tables. She will tell you that she never had a job that didn't impart value or a new skill, which is why she always gives her best effort.

"I've worked in lots of areas within the Federal Reserve, and there isn't one area that I didn't learn something from," said Haddad, who was born in India and raised in Philadelphia. "That's why I tell people it doesn't matter what the job is, just do it the best way you know how."

photo portrait of Sumitra Haddad
The Atlanta Fed's Sumitra Haddad. Photo by David Fine

An examiner looks at the financial condition of individual banks and assesses risks, financial and operational soundness, and compliance with laws and regulations. Haddad, a member of the examination team that works with SunTrust, has established a reputation for dedication and excellence during the 28 years she has worked at the Federal Reserve, the past four at the Atlanta Fed. She has received awards for innovation as well as operational excellence.

Bringing a wide-ranging understanding of banking

"She has had many different roles in supervision and is able to connect various systems, services, and operations with the Reserve Bank as well as financial institutions," said Cynthia Goodwin, vice president in the Large Bank Group in the Supervision, Regulation, and Credit (SRC) Division at the Atlanta Fed. "She is able to identify and evaluate levels of risk and connect the dots well." Being confident in her knowledge and in her role as an examiner, Haddad holds bank managers accountable and will challenge them when necessary, Goodwin added.

Haddad's confidence comes from the breadth of experience she amassed in a range of banking jobs. She started during her college years as a teller at Ohio's Society National Bank, a predecessor company to KeyBank, and went on to manage back-office retail operations, credit card accounting, and mergers and acquisitions for credit cards. Throughout her career in banking, Haddad has trained and shared her knowledge with tellers, managers, and examiners. She was a longstanding trainer for the program that prepares examiners for their commissioning test.

She was later hired at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and took on jobs supervising Treasury services, which involved reconciling banks' electronic tax payments and managing the auction process for bonds. Many departments at the Cleveland Fed were moving to automate payment systems and other operations, so Haddad spent a lot of time involved with that work, which included time at the Treasury and Federal Reserve Board offices in Washington.

To acquire more knowledge as well as to learn more about the Federal Reserve, Haddad took a job as a human resources benefits specialist, exposing her to the Cleveland Fed's broader workforce, including senior leaders. A senior vice president there noted Haddad's experience with payment systems and asked her to join the credit risk management team as a coordinator, a job that required monitoring commercial banks' reserve accounts with the Cleveland Fed and ensuring timely and accurate settlement. She also oversaw the unit that handled overnight overdrafts and managed regulatory reporting. Eventually, Haddad received an offer to move into bank supervision.

"I love change, so it never bothered me to take on different or additional responsibilities and try something new," Haddad said.

She began as an examiner in community banking, reviewing smaller companies, and then joined the team that specializes in reviewing and evaluating operational risk, corporate governance, incentive compensation, information technology, and other bank operations. She transferred to the large bank unit and was promoted to senior examiner. After a few years, she was named a deputy central point of contact for one of the four large banks in the Cleveland Fed's district. In this job, Haddad helped develop supervisory strategies and monitored and ensured that annual examination plans were executed and issues resolved in a timely manner.

Arriving in Atlanta

When her parents decided to retire and move in with her, Haddad set her sights on relocating southward to warmer weather. She arrived at the Atlanta Fed in 2015.

Around the Bank, Haddad is known for her positive attitude and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.

"She makes my life much easier," says her boss, Bess Tang, a director of examinations in SRC.

Tang recalled a time when Haddad was off work for two weeks visiting her newborn grandson in Seattle. An important project was under way, and the staff in Atlanta needed help to make a deadline. Reluctantly, Tang called Haddad for advice, who instead decided to chip in while on vacation, saving time and keeping the project on track. "She was turning around work at 2 o'clock in the morning," Tang said. "When she's needed, she will be there to help."

Colleague Gene Shin, a senior examiner who has worked at the Atlanta Fed for three years, said Haddad's knowledge and experience equip her to detect when a bank's management practice doesn't seem right and needs to be scrutinized further. "She has a strategic high-level view, and even if she's not in the details, she can recognize the potential implications and risks that might affect a certain situation," Shin said. "It's been a great experience working with and learning from her."

Haddad's participation on initiatives and projects with other Reserve Banks makes her well-connected, Shin added. "I've met a lot of people throughout the [Federal Reserve] System through her," he said.

She revels in going on big family vacations that include her husband, two sons, siblings, and parents. In her leisure time, she enjoys traveling and playing tennis.

She said a key influencer was a grandfather who was not well-educated and had many life struggles, including raising two daughters and a son alone after his wife passed away. But her grandfather, who worked for the British railroad company during the Indian independence movement, understood the value of education and made sure her father would be able to attend school and have a better life. Her father, in turn, studied hard and earned his PhD, keeping in mind the sacrifices her grandfather made to enable his accomplishments. "Hard work, and remembering what others have done for you and the support they provided, is important," Haddad said.

"No one lives in a silo, and one good deed leads to another and another and another," Haddad added. "Make sure everyone succeeds, and you will succeed."

photo of Karen Jacobs
Karen Jacobs

Staff writer for Economy Matters


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