"My fondest memories of Oliver Wyman are from building models from scratch..."

Amias Gerety: Eight Years in the US Department of the Treasury

Amias Gerety most recently served as President Obama's nominee and as Acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In that role, he was the lead advisor to the Secretary on policies affecting financial institutions. He also oversaw a number of programs focused on supporting small business lending and community development. He previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Financial Stability Oversight Council, an interagency group of financial regulators charged with monitoring and mitigating potential threats to financial stability. 

Prior to the Treasury, Amias Gerety was a management consultant at Oliver Wyman, and left the firm in 2008. He also served in a number of policy roles and worked in East Africa for Save the Children. He is a recipient of the Alexander Hamilton award, the Treasury's highest honor. He is also a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

We had a chance to sit down with Amias and talk a bit about life after OW, and working for the Treasury. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career path since you left Oliver Wyman?

I left Oliver Wyman, just over eight years ago, in the height of the financial crisis, first to help with President Obama's transition team and then as part of a team that started at the Treasury Department with then- Secretary Geithner on the first day of the Obama Administration. We worked about 100 hours a week during the first 18 months both to respond to the crisis and to try to make our financial system safer and more fair.  

After that, I started a project to support the government's efforts to identify and mitigate threats to financial stability -- creating the analytical approach to thinking about how our financial system was constantly changing and how the government should respond to those changes.

Over the past two and a half years, I've been nominated and acting as the Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions where I've been the lead advisor to Secretary Lew on all policy matters and programs that impact financial institutions -- from cyber security to small business credit, and from bank capital standards to insurance regulation.

At the end of these last eight years, I'm one of only two appointees of the President who spent the entire Administration at the Treasury Department.

What led you to your current line of work?  Did your background at Oliver Wyman help?

I always had a passion for public service and had done policy work prior to starting at Oliver Wyman. One key lesson that I learned is that careers have lots of zigs and zags, and that there's a lot of luck and timing. The life of a management consultant is great preparation for that -- from doing biz dev for cases that never pan out to waiting in airports for canceled flights, to finding great fun doing work in an industry you'd never much thought about before. Oliver  Wyman taught me how to learn constantly as I've progressed through my career.

What does a typical day look like for you? What do you most look forward to?

On a day-to-day basis as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions, my most important role was to help solve the problems my teams faced; whether that meant calling a senior official at the White House, editing a public report on financial stability, or thinking through how to present analysis (e.g. data on bond market liquidity).  But of course every day was different and we spent a huge amount of our time responding to events in markets, the economy, or geopolitics.

With the change in Administrations, I'm now spending a lot of time hanging out with my three small children (ages 6, 4, and 2) while I take time to decompress and look at new opportunities and challenges back in the private sector.  

What skills did you acquire at Oliver Wyman that have helped you throughout your career?

My time at Oliver Wyman gave me a core analytical tool kit that I use every day to approach complex problems with unknown solutions -- whether the question is quantitative, a management problem, or an issue of how best to present an argument.  

For example, on my third or fourth day at Treasury -- I was in a room with the Treasury Secretary and three other people.  He showed us a blank piece of paper and asked us to start developing a framework for reforming our financial system.  This was not that different than starting a project with a blank excel spreadsheet and a blank powerpoint deck and knowing that we needed to present to the client's C-suite a few weeks later.    

Oliver Wyman taught me that when you pull a team together, with focused goals, high camaraderie, and intensive iteration, you can tackle almost any challenge.

What was one of your most important experiences at Oliver Wyman?

Like most alumni, my most important experiences were all the opportunities to learn from the amazing talent that Oliver Wyman brings together and the friendships which last.  But many of my fondest memories of Oliver Wyman are from building models from scratch -- whether modeling t-shirt supply chains or market opportunities for mobile social networks (before everyone had smart phones!). Having the opportunity to dive deep in unfamiliar industries gave me the confidence to tackle the huge range of economic policy challenges I've faced at the Treasury Department.