A Conversation with Sobani Warner
Editor's note: Sobani Warner is Head of Equities at Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC and has spent more than 20 years with the firm. In honor of Women's History Month, our colleague in the Diverse Financial Institutions Group, Kendra Key, sat down with Sobani to discuss diversity within the firm and industry, as well as the firm's longstanding partnership with Citi.
Kendra Key: How has being a diverse-owned firm influenced your company's approach to growth?
Sobani Warner: Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC was practicing philosophies of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) before there was a neat way to say it. Those ideas and approaches got us to where we are today. I think our success has been because we have a diverse, creative group of people sitting at the table figuring out how to approach problems in different ways and working together for collective good.
It's important to recognize that time in the market matters. Diverse-owned and women-owned firms are small, but they are also very young. The oldest one is 50 years old, while most are under 25. Give us some time. We're moving and growing! In fact, our size and strength today is the result of a merger in 2019. We come from two solid firms that decided to come together to become stronger. For us, it removed the issue of succession, it resolved issues of economies of scale, and it helped us flourish.
Kendra: Large financial institutions are increasing their supplier diversity efforts. How has this shift impacted your company and what is its importance?
Sobani: In the past few years, we have seen increasing willingness to invest in supplier diversity in the financial services arena. We are seeing all players becoming more intentional about how they are engaging with us. Companies are getting increasingly comfortable that you can diversify suppliers across the entire platform. We know we can't be everything to everybody, so we focus on our strength to compete. In particular, we've seen real traction on buy backs, which is an area where we are piloting efforts with Citi to rollout later this year. We find it easiest to build on our existing, longstanding partnerships. They know our firm, understand our progress and know what we stand for.
Kendra: Citi and Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC have a history of working together. In 2019 and 2020, Citi hired Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC as lead managers of bond issuances to commemorate Women's History Month. In the fall of 2020, Citi also engaged Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC on its first Affordable Housing Bond, the largest-ever social bond from an issuer in the private sector at the time of pricing. As your company embarks on new collaborations with Citi, can you speak to why it is important of financial institutions of different sizes and types to collaborate?
Sobani: We can do more good together than by going head to head. Our collaboration with Citi opens us up to clients that may not come to us directly. If we're talking to a client and they want a broader package than what we can provide, our alliance with Citi is a helpful selling point. Collectively, we are working on increasing the attractiveness of the package that Citi is offering to its clients and opening us up to clients in this line of business. Beyond the client opportunities, we find the knowledge sharing and exchange of ideas between firms immensely valuable.
We're just at the beginning. We are starting with equities, but we know there are other products to partner on in a way that's beneficial to both of us that we haven't explored yet, such as opportunities in the fixed income space.
Kendra: Your company is owned and led by a woman. What does that mean to you personally?
Sobani: Suzanne Shank, our President and CEO, is phenomenal. It is inspirational to see another woman charting a path with a firm that hasn't been done before. She's taking a woman-owned and led firm to new heights in all segments – equities, fixed income, munies. She is aiming to double the company size. To be able to see a woman in a position of command – that's inspirational to 21 year old me and to me today.