BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
With a drive to achieve, Lidija Nikolic, the senior vice president of Business Banking Market Executive for New York City Outer Boroughs, strives every day to grow within her company on a professional level and pay it forward by mentoring young women.
Nikolic, who was born and raised in Serbia, moved to the United States in 1992 with her parents and brother. This was during a time of great instability in the former Yugoslavia. The strife in her home country ran counter to Nikolic’s parents’ beliefs in freedom, love of humanity, peaceful coexistence, hard work and education, so the family packed up and left the country in search of a better life in America.
Nikolic first landed in California, where she continued her education at Fielding Graduate University, obtaining her master’s in organizational development and leadership. In 1997, Nikolic relocated to New York, moving into the same Jackson Heights building as her brother.
Nikolic now has 20 years of experience in the banking industry, having worked for JP Morgan Chase, Credit Swiss First Boston, and Bank of America and winning numerous awards for merit and contributions to the community. She attributes her success to her family, who shaped her, and “resilience and optimism, advanced education and the wonderful people on our team.”
Nikolic said that, 20 years ago, she would not have imagined joining the banking industry since she had previously thought that banking, law and economics were boring.
“Something clicked for me while in college when I realized that the global balance of business, finance and economics shifts every day, which is what makes it so fast-paced, varied and keeps everyone on their toes,” said Nikolic. “Those made me excited about making a career of helping projects come to life through the magic of financing.”
Although Nikolic joined the Bank of America team in 2008 during the financial crisis following the failure of Lehman Brothers, she said that with the help of her team, she was able to lead “the bank’s expansion into strategic growth markets of New York City outer boroughs where, for the first time, we have commercial bankers on the ground to serve and help growing companies in Brooklyn and Queens.”
Although she has had a successful career, Nikolic said she measures her success in personal terms.
“What I am always very touched by is when young women and, sometimes, women entrepreneurs who I mentor turn to me and say they see me as a role model,” said Nikolic. “If I can help them achieve what they want to achieve, then that’s meaningful. That’s success.”
On top of her professional responsibilities and being a mother of three, Nikolic makes it a priority to mentor young women in her industry.
“I view it as my legacy to support women on their paths to empowerment,” said Nikolic. “Despite record numbers of women graduating from college and entering the workforce, data still points to a ‘leaky pipeline’—a large chasm between the number of women starting out on the professional track and how many advancing to senior positions. It is very important for young women in finance to be not only mentored, but also championed in order to help leakproof this gap.”
Nikolic said that women have come a long way in the United States, but that the wage gap continues to be a major issue. She believes this issue can be solved by providing financial education for young women and men.