How an International Perspective and Lessons from 2008 Shaped an Axiom Derivatives Lawyer’s Career
By Axiom Law
It seems fitting that Glenn Gardner is thriving as an Axiom lawyer in the financial services industry. He possesses nearly two decades of boots-on-the-ground experience, primarily in derivatives work, and has partnered with a number of leading companies in the industry. However, anyone who’s spent five minutes chatting with Glenn can tell you it’s really his passion for the work and rich background that make him such a valuable asset to his clients.
“I’m a Brooklyn boy, born and raised in the projects of Coney Island,” he says. “It’s great to have had the experience of growing up the way I did and to have come so far. It’s really given me a certain amount of empathy, and it’s something I value about my life experience.”
For nearly two years, Glenn has been a high-performing member of the Axiom team, who goes the extra mile to help his clients meet their business goals.
A training ground for managing complex financial systems and closings
After exiting Fordham Law School in 2002, Glenn hit the ground running with his legal career. He took up shop as an associate with the New York office of a large law firm and soon found his footing within its securitization group. There, he tackled everything from collateralized loan obligations to both residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities.
“It was really great training ground for some complex financial structures and learning how to manage and handle document-intensive closings,” says Glenn. “It was also a role that gave me a lot of responsibility, which I loved.”
He kept at it until 2006, when his gut was telling him that the mortgage-backed securities world, as it was operating at the time, couldn’t last forever.
“Part of me sort of felt the change in tide as we approached the 2008 crash,” says Glenn. “I decided to step back and see the current moment as an opportunity to retool myself and grow as a lawyer.”
Leveraging lessons from 2008 and developing an international perspective
Glenn eventually transitioned to another large firm — moving away from the highly specialized realm of securitization and structured financing, and into general corporate law. He even had the opportunity to explore entertainment law, a longtime dream of his.
“I definitely leveraged some of my securitization work to add value from the get-go,” Glenn remembers. “But it was very different from my experience at my previous law firm, which I think was a good thing in terms of my own growth.”
After putting in a couple of years there, Glenn maintained that growth mindset and stepped into the world of in-house law. He devoted himself to a stint at a leading banking institution before focusing on derivatives and structured finance transactional work for a large, multinational financial services company.
“Working in-house at a bank gave me a great chance to learn how to effectively communicate and manage the competing interests of front office, credit, and legal, which can be quite the daunting task,” he says. “It also granted me the opportunities to lead teams of attorneys, develop knowledge of European work culture, and manage a diverse array of finance transactional work in the Latin American region.”
A mix of challenging work and quality of life at Axiom
Almost seven years later, when Glenn got the itch to try something new, Axiom came to mind. He had worked with Axiom on the client side in the past and was drawn to the balance it provided. What he was craving at that point in his career was the challenging work lawyers typically get at a law firm, paired with the quality of life that often draws lawyers to go in-house.
“I saw Axiom as the perfect melding of both worlds, and so far, I’ve been right,” says Glenn. “And having work that’s this conducive to your schedule is something that I haven’t seen replicated anywhere else.”
Since joining the Axiom team in May 2018, he has served as a subject matter expert on derivatives and regulatory implementation. What this looks like in practice involves helping a major financial services company get its initial margin contracts in line with the global regulatory regimes. This has involved teaming up with two other Axiom colleagues to interpret the regulations and concepts for the client.
“It felt a little bit like being in the early years of law firm practice, because we were getting into the nitty gritty of the regulations, preparing memos, and bouncing ideas off each other,” says Glenn. “It was that combination of diverse backgrounds that made for fertile collaboration, because each person brought their own expertise. It was one of the most exciting and enriching experiences I’ve had in my whole 18 years of practicing.”
Navigating uncertainty in the financial services industry and beyond
Glenn notes that uncertainty is a large challenge for the financial services industry, as it is for industries across the board. The economic ripple effects caused by the coronavirus is a prime example. Adapting to remote work in the short term, and not knowing how the future will shake out, is something the industry is figuring out as it goes along.
Looking even longer-term, political uncertainty is another wild card Glenn sees.
“For example, whoever wins the next election will significantly affect regulatory policy,” he says. “Things like Brexit and the current administration’s trade policy have also affected business lines.”
In other words, uncertainty can make it difficult to clearly see the path ahead. With Glenn’s specialty being regulatory implementation, he understands it’s a subject area that’s constantly in flux.
“With these big, global finance institutions, there are also global regulations to comply with,” he says. “Staying abreast of these regulations and understanding how they can potentially affect your client is a constantly evolving process.”
Clients have to think about how these regulations will impact different business lines, while also maintaining business as usual in the interim. It can be taxing, but Glenn’s team is invested in making it as seamless as possible. This is where being proactive comes in. Glenn draws on his varied background and experience, along with his clients’ insights, to help them maximize opportunities and minimize the inevitable curve balls they’re going to encounter along the way.
The industry changes legal departments should keep an eye on
“I see one pattern emerging in finance at breakneck speed, and that’s automation,” says Glenn. “Companies are looking to automate as many processes as possible, including in regulatory boards and contract drafting.”
Glenn notes the good news is that no matter how efficient machines may be, they aren’t fully capable of replacing attorneys. He finds this is especially true when it comes to drawing on real-life experiences, using discernment, and remembering that clients are human beings with revenue goals and emotions.
“We should do our best to view the advancements in technology as aides or colleagues, if you will, that only increase our efficiency and minimize errors,” Glenn adds.
A career that pairs well with Glenn’s passion for travel
A self-described political junkie, Glenn is drawn to following, analyzing, and debating U.S. and world politics. This big-picture, global viewpoint is also reflected in his passion for travel.
“I’ve been to 35 of the 50 states, as well as 26 countries,” he says. “I like having the opportunity to experience new cultures and meet new people, basically to go somewhere and experience it like a native for a bit.”
Colombia, with its welcoming locals and rich culture, currently tops his list of favorite destinations. The flexibility Axiom provides has helped him nurture his wanderlust, make meaningful memories abroad, and integrate them into his day-to-day life back in New York.
“With big law, you have to take sabbaticals if you want to get away for a month, and it’s often frowned upon if you do,” says Glenn. “Axiom is different, in that pursuing your other passions is actually encouraged here, which may be why everyone I’ve worked with at Axiom seems to be genuinely happy.”
These benefits flow directly to the clients by way of happier Axiom team members. As Glenn aptly puts it: “You produce better quality of work when you feel good about working.”
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