The Gold Standard: For this mining exec, it's about more than precious metals

Author: 
Yvonne Palkowski
Magazine Section: 
Conversation

Carol Banducci

 

As Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of IAMGOLD, Carol Banducci (BCom 1982 UC) is focused on extraction—of gold, and of shareholder value. She joined the global mining and exploration company in 2007 and last year was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. She spoke with UC Magazine editor Yvonne Palkowski about her industry and her formula for success.

 

Describe your typical work day. 

With my chief responsibility to provide financial leadership across the business, I really don’t have a typical day. Whether it’s executing our business strategy, managing our capital structure and liquidity, making capital allocation decisions, or ensuring that we are in compliance with external reporting requirements, I work with a team of financial experts in finance, internal audit, IT, and investor relations. Together, we bring financial discipline and expertise to the business as we leverage opportunities to enhance our financial performance and deliver shareholder value. I may spend part of the day reviewing key performance metrics and conferring with my team on any issues needing my attention. I may be engaged in strategic planning discussions with our CEO, other members of our executive leadership team, and our board of directors.  Or I may be meeting with our shareholders, bondholders, banks, or rating agencies. Given the all-encompassing nature of what I do, when I get up in the morning I have to be prepared to make decisions and provide leadership above and beyond what might be scheduled in my calendar.

 

What do you enjoy most about your job, and what is your biggest challenge?

As the CFO of an international company operating in three continents and in four official languages, I drive our financial strategy across a diverse cultural landscape in multiple time zones. What I enjoy most is working with a team that I can depend on to get the job done, so despite the fast pace and challenges that come with being an international company, I thrive in this kind of environment.  Also, to maintain global access to capital I spend a lot of time building relationships with existing and potential investors around the world. As for the biggest challenge, I would say that it’s balancing the need to invest in the growth of our business with the need to maintain a strong balance sheet.

 

What are some of the misconceptions about your industry?

One misconception is that, in a falling gold price environment, the last thing producers should be spending money on is exploration. Reducing the size of the budget may be necessary to cut costs, but eliminating it altogether is a mistake. Gold mines have limited lives as defined by their known mineral resources, therefore as an industry we need to invest in exploration to replenish our gold reserves over the long term. Another misconception is that gold producers should only be focused on high-grade mines. This is a misinformed view as high-grade gold deposits are few and far between—the average grade of an undeveloped gold deposit is about 0.7 grams of gold per tonne. The focus should be on economic returns and there are many factors that contribute to that.

 

IAMGOLD operates gold mines in Burkina Faso, Canada, Mali, and Suriname. What are your strategies for social responsibility and for working with local communities and governments?

Our strategies revolve around what we call the partnership model. That means we operate as a development partner with face-to-face interaction and ongoing dialogue with governments and local communities in the countries in which we operate.  A successful partnership is one where we work together with our partners, including many local or regional non-government organizations, to ensure that all stakeholders share in the economic benefits of mining, such as job creation and local procurement. At the same time, our Zero Harm objectives are designed to minimize or prevent any negative environmental or social impacts.  

 

As a pioneering female executive in the mining industry, what advice would you give to women who are looking to follow in your footsteps? 

There are five guiding principles that have been helpful to me:

·        Stay true to yourself.  It is important to maintain a strong moral compass, as there’s no question that you will be tested. Honesty and integrity form good character, so surround yourself with individuals who share similar values.

·        Be positive and confident.  As part of your journey you will face uncertain and turbulent circumstances.  Stay resilient, keep cool, and keep getting back on your feet!

·        Be committed to excellence.  It is not only about maintaining a high standard, but about being proactive in raising the bar in order to achieve excellence in all areas.

·        Take measured risk.  Do things outside your comfort zone… that is, every day!

·        Take the opportunity to give back, mentor, and coach others. In my case, I have been actively involved in bringing greater diversity to the workplace and to Canadian boards and am currently working with U of T’s Department of Psychiatry to support research in the area of brain health. In mentoring others, I have encouraged them to become engaged in these efforts and others like them.

 

What are some of your memories of UC? 

University College in my mind is a “gold standard” of academic excellence. It was there that I developed a passion for lifelong learning and formed lifelong friendships. The College provided me with the heartfelt support and sharing that fostered a deep and lasting connection. There is an African proverb: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone; but if you want to walk far, walk together.”