Sandra Primiero took over the roles of global head of structured commodities trade finance (SCTF) and commodity trade finance (CTF) at Deutsche Bank from a renowned industry stalwart in April and September 2019. It’s been a transition that’s not only been ostensibly seamless, but has also resulted in portfolio growth. She tells Shannon Manders her story.
Sandra Primiero (née Hack) was handpicked for her current roles at Deutsche Bank by her predecessor, acclaimed commodity financier John MacNamara (Mac) and her now boss, the bank’s global head of trade finance, Daniel Schmand. It was a “brave move” on their part, she muses, given that she had little previous experience in the sector. Mac set up the bank’s SCTF desk in 1999 and retired at the end of September 2019 after nearly 40 years in the commodity finance sector.
“If I ever had to describe the perfect handover, that was it,” says Primiero. “After two weeks of bringing me in he let me run the shop. When he had advice he gave it to me behind the scenes. The team still absolutely appreciated Mac’s advice, and he let me do as much as I felt comfortable with – so I had a safety net behind me but could still grow.”
Primiero herself has been with the bank for 26 years, and before her current roles was regional head of the workout and recovery management Emea team (excluding Germany and the Netherlands), which she started to build in 2011, and which involved the management of debt restructurings for corporates and financial institutions.
In her new roles, together with her teams in Europe, Asia and the US, Primiero – who is based in Berlin – is globally responsible for originating, structuring and managing sound lending solutions for clients in the commodity industry.
She speaks highly of the teams that Mac built up during his time at the bank, crediting them for the portfolio growth that has been achieved since her start, and is appreciative of the unwavering support that they have shown her.
“The team is completely motivated, engaged and onboard – and I’m extremely happy with that. Mac has built a great team: there is good know-how and diversity, and it’s been good to see that grow and develop to the next level.”
She acknowledges, with humility, that things now run a little differently under her watch. “I’m far less visible externally than Mac. He had 20-odd years to build his external visibility – and he’s a completely different personality.”
While Primiero herself may prefer to remain out of the limelight, she’s excited to see the teams garnering more attention. “Not only am I in the background, but the teams are becoming more visible – that’s what I want to foster and grow even more.”
She describes how, when she took over and asked the teams for their ideas, that it was like “opening a tap”. “They had so many ideas flowing out of them and it’s so great to take them onboard. Obviously suggestions were encouraged in the past, but they couldn’t all be implemented, and I think they’re now happy to have the prospect of that actually happening.” Going forward, she says she looks forward to working closely with them to assist clients in being able to do even more deals.
A rare glimpse
With an opportunity to give the market a peek into her personal life (“although I’m not an extrovert who tells my story to everyone that doesn’t want to hear it”, she asserts) Primiero lets on that she’s a newlywed, having just tied the knot with her Italian husband in December 2019. She also reveals that she grew up in the small town of Fulda in central Germany with her “down-to-earth” parents, whom she’s very grateful to for instilling in her the values of integrity and hard work, which are very valuable to her today.
In her spare time, Primiero says that she enjoys “building and creating” and working with her hands – engaging in carpentry and painting – and recently got involved in the extensive refurbishment of her flat.
She also “loves” sailing because “it’s the best opportunity to completely relax”, and jokes that unlike Mac – who notoriously collects vintage cars – she herself has an old boat, which she likes to sail on a lake outside Berlin.
Remembering back to her first job at the bank, she recalls how – on her very first day – her boss told her: “Sandra, it’s very important in banking that you make up your mind whether you want to swim or sink, because if you don’t you will sink.” After a week, she says, she had had her first client meetings and opened a client account, and, according to her boss, made very swift progress. “He came down to the counter and congratulated me, and I remember thinking: ‘Ok, so it seems I’m not sinking.’ That was 26 and a half years ago now, and I’m still swimming, and it’s a lot of fun to explore new areas of open water.”