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  Christina Ksoll
© Nathan Mandell
Christina Ksoll '98
Christina Ksoll
Banker links mentorship with dynamic career

By Shannon Sweetnam

Soon after Christina Ksoll '98 began her banking career at Harris Bank, a colleague handed her the Kellogg School's Executive MBA application package and told her she had to enroll. Since then, no matter where Ksoll goes, Kellogg seems to follow.

"Kellogg is woven into the fabric of all my successes, and I can track each one of them back to Kellogg," she says.

Just when she considered starting her own bank, a Kellogg friend encouraged her to talk to management at The PrivateBank. A 15-year-old premium financial services provider, The PrivateBank displayed the entrepreneurial spirit Ksoll was looking for. She left Northern Trust, where she was a senior vice president, to become managing director at The PrivateBank's new Gold Coast Chicago office in April.

"It was a perfect fit," said Ksoll. "Starting up a new office for The PrivateBank was in line with what I wanted to do, which was build something from the ground up."

In the past few months, Ksoll and the bank's other managing director, fellow Kellogg School graduate Dave Neilson '04, have begun doing just that.

"This is exactly what I would have wanted to create this exciting, stimulating, entrepreneurial environment," says Ksoll. "I've never seen anything like this bank, which operates on a business model similar to that of a law firm. All partners take care of clients and all directors have experience as proven service providers in banking."

In a service business like banking, Ksoll feels she must be "client obsessed." "Our clients are extremely sophisticated, so our solutions must be complex and technical. You must be a loyal adviser and part of a team with your client," she explains. "This is where my Kellogg education has paid off."

When Ksoll entered banking in her early twenties, she had her youth and gender working against her. She went to an image consultant to gain advice on how to look and act more like a banker. "The consultant told me to cut my hair short, taught me how to carry myself and how to speak so I didn't look like my client's daughter," says Ksoll. "It was a huge boon to my career."

As for other setbacks Ksoll has experienced as an executive in a male-dominated field, she says her support system at the Kellogg School has helped her over any hurdles she may have faced. "It's a huge security blanket," she says.

One of the founders of the Kellogg Executive MBA Women's Leadership Network, Ksoll is dedicated to mentoring other women and helping network the women of the EMBA program. "I mentor two types of women: younger professional women and women who are in administrative positions because life put them there. When I see great potential in administrators, I try to encourage them to think beyond themselves and their current situation," says Ksoll, who claims that mentoring is in her blood.

"Kellogg taught me that I didn't have to change who I was to be successful. I just had to be a better me," she says. "That's what I try to teach women, how to be more effective while still being true to themselves. There's a lot of pressure in big corporations to be like everyone else there. When you try to be what you're not, you won't achieve what's inside you."

Ksoll also feels strongly about giving back to the community. Not only is she active with the Women's Leadership Network, she also is a member of the Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board. Beyond Northwestern, she is involved in the Chicago Finance Exchange, Juvenile Diabetes, the Harvard Club, the National Strategic Forum, the American Council on Germany and the Atlantik-Bruecke, a group of young professionals from Germany, Italy and the United States who meet to discuss global policy issues.

"I think it's important to be globally aware and active," says Ksoll. "My involvement with the American Council on Germany and Atlantik-Bruecke are especially meaningful to me. I feel like I am doing something to keep connected to the world and keep conversations about global policy alive locally."

Continue to Vicky Free '04

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©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University