From Crisis to Catalyst: Reflections from Wachovia to the Future

May 22, 2023

By: David McInis, President of Willard Powell

Reflecting on my past experience at Wachovia, I am immediately brought back to a time of immense change, challenge, and learning. We were there, in the eye of the 2008 financial storm that shook the world, a crisis that exposed the fragility and interconnectedness of our global financial system.

Life as we knew it changed overnight. The fear and pain were palpable as homes were lost, Main Street businesses shuttered and stores boarded up, leaving once bustling neighborhoods echoing with emptiness. The fallout was colossal, with many innocent bystanders absorbing the collateral damage of a disaster created by few. The labyrinthine web of derivative instruments, understood only by an elite group of math wizards.

I remember the days before the crisis vividly – the exhilaration of building an elite trading technology team with members from around the world. We were a myriad of talents and experiences from the states, India, China, Russia, and Mexico, among others. I felt the vibrancy of NYC, witnessing the rise of the new Bank of America Bryant Park building, and the spectacular city sunsets that graced our long working nights.

I still recall my encounters with great leadership, like our female executive, who wielded brilliance and style in equal measure, commanding respect and setting the tone for the team. Or the young executive who quickly advanced but never lost touch, always finding time to discuss code with the team.

But the image that remains etched in my memory is that of the last bits of paper on the 48th floor of Tower 49 – a stark contrast to the bustle that once characterized our workspace.

The transition was sudden and challenging. From growing a dynamic team to standing amidst the remnants of a once-thriving bank, the impact was staggering. Amidst the uncertainty, I found myself in an all-hands call with the head of the investment bank at the time. The question asked by one of the bankers, “Why should we stay here,” resonated deeply with me. It was a raw expression of vulnerability and courage that underscored the importance of taking control of one’s destiny in times of crisis.

Now, as I see a fresh wave of disruption hitting the banking industry and big tech, my experience at Wachovia serves as a reminder of resilience, hope, and optimism. I believe these displaced professionals, like myself during my Wachovia days, will be the seeds of new industries and firms.

Today, as we navigate through these times, it’s crucial to remember the value of meaningful professional relationships and embrace the opportunities that lie in disruption. Just as we did in the aftermath of 2008, I have faith that we will rise, re-invent, and transform.

In times like these, we are reminded of what is real – our ability to endure, learn, adapt, and make a difference. So here’s to all the brave who are stepping out into the unknown, transforming adversities into opportunities, and shaping a brighter future for us all.

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David McInnis

President & Founding Partner

David has two decades of global recruitment experience and is Founding Partner of Willard Powell. Prior to founding Willard Powell, David worked with Leathwaite International, a global executive search firm. Before his employment with Leathwaite, David worked for Wachovia Securities (now Wells Fargo Securities) supporting the firm’s Investment Banking & Capital Markets Technology group. David is a graduate of Lasell College in Newton, MA, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a concentration in Management Information Systems. David also serves as a Trustee on Lasell’s Board.