In the fast-paced world of gaming and entertainment, leaders who possess both inclusivity and empathy can make an impact. One such leader is Mike Nieves, senior vice president of finance and treasurer at PENN Entertainment. He oversees the company’s financial planning and analysis, treasury functions, and investor relations—areas that require extensive collaboration and communication across a diverse group of internal and external stakeholders.
As a finance leader, Nieves believes in listening to others and encouraging team members to bring their authentic selves to work.
“I’m very fortunate to have stepped into a role with an enormously talented and dedicated team,” Nieves explains. “To foster collaboration and camaraderie, we have weekly calls, which I often start with an ice breaker and encourage smiles and laughter. We pride ourselves on having a flat organization and value perspectives from across the organization.”
The SVP continues, “In a virtual world, it is oftentimes easy to cut right to business, but on our team calls I try to keep the floor open personally and professionally for everyone to contribute and share insights, questions, quirks, and achievements. It’s a judgment-free zone where team members feel comfortable speaking and are able to learn and engage. Creating an open dialogue from diverse groups leads to better decisions and thus better outcomes for business.”
The benefits are boundless for a leader like Nieves, a passionate mentor and firm believer in empowering others to build relationships and drive results.
After earning an economics degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from American University, Nieves began his career as a corporate attorney at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. In addition to getting experience with securities matters and M&A, he was fortunate to work in a collaborative culture alongside excellent mentors.
Nieves spent an enriching three years at the firm, and he became increasingly interested in the complex business issues of his clients. So he decided to pursue an MBA at University of Virginia Darden School of Business. In addition to developing a more robust analytical toolkit, he further enhanced his leadership skills. “At Darden, I learned to approach problems from multiple points of view which has led to better decision making and more effective management,” he adds.
The experience introduced him to the world of finance and gave him the tools to join Citigroup in 2014 on the real estate investment banking team. He went on to become vice president and covered real estate, leisure, and lodging, managing multiple transaction and project deal teams. Those experiences paved the way to a real estate M&A and corporate advisory director role at JLL, where he worked for three years.
More Career Advice from Mike Nieves
“Building relationships is critical to having success, and it takes work to keep them warm, authentic, and not transactional. Maintaining a strong network fosters collaboration, support, and growth, often at times when you least expect it or need it the most.”
After being a strategic advisor for ten years, he was ready for another change. “Through the years of being a lawyer and banker, it was a lot of advising and counseling clients,” Nieves reflects. “I really wanted to transition to a role where I could take a longer-term view and have the opportunity to implement strategies that influence the success and direction of a company.”
He joined PENN Entertainment to do just that in March 2022. Though he didn’t have any prior experience in the gaming industry, he has leaned on his previous career experiences in business and law. “I learned to listen carefully, act with a sense of urgency, and treat every interaction as a learning opportunity,” he says. “I also learned in my previous roles to be coachable and view constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth.”
Outside of his role at PENN, Nieves is a board member of Friends of Karen, a New York metro-based organization that offers emotional, financial, and advocacy support for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families to help keep them stable, functioning, and able to cope. “You don’t always know what other people are going through, and my involvement has helped me keep an open mind, have patience and perspective, and appreciate my wife and my children,” he says.
Nieves advises young professionals to make a habit out of raising their hand. “Volunteer to do tasks that no one else wants to do,” he adds. “If there’s a void on the team, just raise your hand and provide support because you’re going to learn new skills and meet new people, which will pay dividends throughout your career.”
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz congratulates Mike Nieves of PENN Entertainment on his recognition by Hispanic Executive. Mike brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to PENN and we celebrate his leadership and commitment to excellence. Wachtell Lipton proudly supports diverse leaders across industries.