It can be argued that Peter J. Muñiz has three jobs within GE: he is vice president and general counsel for GE Capital’s commercial distribution finance unit, colead of GE’s legal diversity and inclusion council, as well as managing director of Chicago business development. In that last role, he is making an effort to expand GE’s presence by adding 1,000 industrial and financial services jobs in Chicago. According to GE, the new positions will double the number of GE employees in Chicago and make the number 5,000 across the state.
It’s a tall order, no doubt, but according to Muñiz, the city has a huge talent pool to leverage. GE is already deeply invested in Chicago. The company’s massive presence in the city includes headquarters of four GE Capital businesses: GE Antares Capital, GE Commercial Distribution Finance, GE Corporate Finance, and GE Rail Services. Chicago is also the home to GE Energy and the new global headquarters for GE Transportation.
This year marked Muñiz’s 19th year with GE. For him, the five years within the company’s equity venture capital arm have been the most crucial of his career, informing his leadership style as vice president and general counsel and nurturing the skills that would help him become a long-term strategic thinker.
Hesitant to characterize his leadership style as any one thing, Muñiz admits that it’s evolving and being influenced by each new role. There are practices he draws upon no matter the situation, however. “I’m a strong believer in being open and transparent,” Muñiz says. “In order to make the team better, you have to invest in it. Identify the gaps honestly but with patience.”
Early in his career as a first-year associate, the firm Muñiz worked for did pro bono work and he spent three months with the Legal Aid Society. “The reason I chose to do it [then] is the same reason I continue to volunteer my time and recommend others do the same,” he says. “I was given the opportunity to study law. It was a privilege afforded to me, and I want to reciprocate. Giving back to my community is something my parents instilled in me, but GE makes it easy by fostering a culture of community stewardship. I’ve taken advantage of that since joining the company.”
Muñiz says that GE is intentional about how it gives back. With an interest in increasing its Chicago footprint, GE invests in young people, and in particular, inner-city youth. “It’s about how you leverage your resources for the greatest impact,” Muñiz says. “And, as we all know, investing in young people is an investment in the future.”
Muñiz feels he is himself a product of this sort of investment. Having been placed in leadership roles throughout his career, he had to constantly adapt. “I don’t think I was born a leader. I had to learn characteristics you would associate with leadership, like having an outgoing personality, and it took me a while to get here,” Muñiz says. “As a kid, I was very introverted and shy. My transformation was brought about by the opportunities that were provided to me, and I’m grateful for that because the skills I’ve acquired allow me to excel in my work and will inform my role with the Windy City Initiative.”