It’s easy to assume that, in order to succeed in hyper-competitive environments like the legal and financial industries, one must be ruthless. Intensely ambitious. Good at playing the game. Mariel Creo may be diligent and determined, but she’s never been one for cutthroat behavior or office politics. And she’s succeeded anyway—in fact, it is precisely her commitment to teamwork and collaboration that has helped her become a top legal leader at one of the most prominent institutions in the banking industry.
Born and raised in Mexico, Creo received her JD from Tecnológico de Monterrey in 1995. Upon graduating, she accepted a position as corporate counsel at CEMEX, a global building materials corporation known for its ready-mix concrete, cement, and aggregates.
This position exposed her to many different aspects of the business, Creo explained, as well as to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, the New York-based law firm that represented CEMEX. In 1997, when Creo traveled to New York for a business trip, the firm seized the opportunity and offered her a role as an associate. Creo accepted.
Creo worked at the firm for the next four years, during which time she continued working with CEMEX and also completed a master’s degree in banking, corporate, finance, and securities law at Georgetown University. Soon, though she had never spent time in the US before, Creo had cultivated a deep network of professionals and colleagues. It is that network, she emphasizes, that supported her as she advanced to associate and senior associate roles at Mayer Brown and White & Case, respectively.
But Creo also credits her network with her most important career move: her decision to transition back into an in-house legal role and join banking giant Citi in September 2010.
Over the past decade, Creo has become a go-to advisor for Citi employees both in the United States and around the world. As director and assistant general counsel for emerging markets in Latin America and the Caribbean, she led several business and internal legal teams located throughout those regions. During her tenure as director, Latin America experienced many serious social and political challenges, including, as Creo Iberian Lawyer in a 2016 interview, “distress . . . driven by corruption scandals, investigations, and scandals.”
To Creo, the solution to these challenges was clear: collaboration. “It’s very important to hire the right advisors—financial, legal, local. Partner up with the right people to do the diligence in the country you’re [in],” she told Iberian Lawyer. “Local advisors can be for diligence purposes, engineers, accountants, auditors—there’s a wide variety of advisors that are on the ground and can help.”
In fact, after she was promoted to general counsel and managing director, Creo’s “collaborative and personable manner” was one of the primary reasons she was nominated to Legal 500’s GC Powerlist for Latin America Specialists. “She has an always-cheerful [demeanor,]” one nominator told the Legal 500, “and our work experiences with her have been consistently positive.”
In recent months, in her new role as managing director and chief administrative office for Citibank Europe, Creo’s collaborative skills have been put to the test. A subsidiary of Citi based in Dublin, Ireland, Citibank Europe serves markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). It conducts business in more than sixty countries, Creo explains, and has established a physical presence in nearly sixty countries and jurisdictions.
As managing director, Creo has worked to reinforce her working relationships with internal stakeholders, external partners, and clients—despite the inevitable language and legal barriers that arise when working in a dynamic region like EMEA.
Today, Creo and her team are ready to tackle whatever challenges come their way. This is thanks in large part to Creo herself, who knows how to persuade others of her point of view but also knows the importance of compromise. As a legal leader, she prioritizes the accomplishment of a task or project over any one person—including herself—claiming the honor of being “right.”
You can’t always get want you want, Creo knows, but you can try to get what you need.
Community at Citi
In addition to being a leader in the finance world, Citibank Europe also leads the way when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The company is deeply committed to building an inclusive workplace, says Managing Director Mariel Creo, and has been recognized for its efforts to support both women and working families through flexible working policies, a shared parental leave policy, and an emergency childcare policy for Citi employees working in the United Kingdom.
As Creo adds, Citibank Europe has also partnered with external organizations such as Paralympic Ireland and supported internal affinity networks such as CitiDisABILITY, CitiPride, CitiWomen, CitiRoots, and Families Matter Network.
“We are proud of our long friendship with Mariel. She has already emerged as a true leader and we are excited to see her many future accomplishments as well.”
–John Vetterli, Partner, Global Head of Capital Markets, White & Case