An Interview with Mike Lyons of PNC

Business Today’s 44th International Conference’s Executive Seminars featured Mike Lyons, who currently serves as EVP and Head of Corporate & Institutional Banking and Asset Management at The PNC Financial Services Group. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993 and previously worked at Morgan Stanley’s investment banking division, Maverick Capital as a portfolio manager, and Bank of America as global head of corporate development and strategy.

Deciding where to work:

When reflecting on his college education and career path, Lyons emphasized the value of pursuing a summer internship in an area in which you have an interest. As a freshman in college, he was able to get a summer internship within finance, which confirmed his inclination towards business. Moreover, according to Lyons, getting early exposure to the reality of work “brought the basic finance principles that you learn to life.” For him, “Seeing the real life application of [finance] also changed the way that it is studied. You weren’t just memorizing formulas and statistics, [and] once you learn how it is used in the world, you get a lot more interested in it.”

The first job that Lyons held after graduating was as a position within investment banking at Morgan Stanley. For Lyons, it was important that the company he started out with had a strong training program with a proven track record of developing its employees straight out of college, and he expounds this advice to young professionals. He also recommended that young people look for a company that has an established corporate social responsibility platform “because you're going to do the right things for its people and for its clients..” Indeed, Lyons had been drawn to PNC because of its strong commitment to prioritize the client and to corporate social responsibility, specifically within early childhood education and after school programming, which reflected his own values.

Two ingredients for success:

For Lyons, the key to building successful relationships is twofold: first, “crush it”; and second, add value. In short, he emphasized that one should “do the best job anyone has ever done” in even the small opportunities that are available. When starting in an entry level job, Lyon advises not falling into the pitfall of projecting a career goal onto the job that you do have. “Whatever job you’re given, the natural tendency is for us to have our careers already projected in front of our eyes … It is very hard to start out and say ‘I’m going to be a CFO and everything I’m going to do everyday is going to be [that of] a CFO.’ It is much easier that with whatever responsibility you’re given, you crush it, add value, and create sponsors for yourself.”