Rachel Duncan

Vice President – Deutsche Bank

Rachel Duncan is Vice President and Strategic Project Manager within Regional Management Americas. She is hugely passionate about people and was key to the successful designing and delivery of the Americas Global Markets People Strategy in 2015 in region which has been integral to elevate both the personal and professional environment in which ~3000 people work. Outside of work, Rachel enjoys spending time with family, friends and her dogs Luna & Sampson and is also a certified Yoga instructor.

Rachel’s career journey

I graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts. I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do. I considered social work, but I knew I needed more education. So, while I thought about it, I took a job as a sales assistant with a retail firm that specialized in municipal bonds. Within a year, I was licensed and selling Munis. From there, I moved to a much larger organization and worked on the equity sales desk, before moving across a few firms until I came here to Deutsche Bank, and I’ve been here for 15 years.

I’ve been in various roles here at Deutsche Bank. It’s been a great opportunity for growth. I’ve made some great friends and met so many people that I have grown to love throughout my time here. Getting involved with dbEnable, our Employee Resource Group for those with visible and invisible disabilities, has been one of the highlights. It’s inspiring and I am passionate about creating an environment where all people can flourish. My manager and the entire management team here have been very supportive of all the work that I am trying to accomplish.

On their Role Models

Anyone who knows me, knows my father is my greatest role model. He taught me many life lessons. There were so many little things that he would say that have always stayed with me. He was hardworking, respectful, and kind. He taught me to always be true to myself and made sure I knew I was loved every day. He passed away 22 years ago, but I still feel his presence and he continues to have an impact on my life.

Risks and achievements

The first time I shared my personal journey around mental health with one of my managers many years ago was a huge risk for me. I was fearful that it might somehow affect my career or his impression of me would be a negative one, but it felt like the right thing to do at the time, and I’ve never looked back!

Ironically, my greatest career achievement has been continuing to share my story. I quickly realized how much sharing that story helped others feel less alone. And the more I shared my story, the more confident I became, and the more I wanted to continue to help people. There is so much value in storytelling. I used to think my mental health challenges were a sign of weakness, but now I know working through them and sharing with others is real sign of strength.

“I quickly realized how much sharing that story helped others feel less alone.”

Advice to their 18-year-old self

I would tell that 18-year-old to trust herself and not be afraid of what other people think. I have had challenges with anxiety and depression for many years, and I was always so afraid of what people would think and how they would react. When you suffer from anxiety, part of that pattern is to just overthink everything. It is constant and exhausting. Eventually, I realized how much time I was wasting worrying about other people and things that were completely out of my control, instead of just trusting my gut and doing what felt right for me.

Navigating their career

My journey has taught me to be patient, self-aware and mindful in the way I navigate my career and my day to day. When setting goals for myself, I’ve learned to appreciate the small wins, and I’ve found it’s usually been the small wins that have set me up for the big successes. I’ve learned to appreciate the journey itself and to trust that things will happen when and where they are supposed to. Much of my personal journey has been about trying to be patient with myself and believing that whatever choice I make is the right choice for me.

On debunking myths and misconceptions

There are so many myths and misconceptions surrounding mental health- where do I begin? One at the top of my list is that dealing with a mental health challenge somehow makes you “less than”, whether it’s less intelligent, less worthy, or less respected. Carrying around the burden that you’re not good enough has the power to impact all aspects of your life. People that are struggling should understand that they aren’t faulty or broken.

I’ve accepted who I am, in the same way that somebody who might have a physical condition would. Yet the stigma around mental health continues to cause a lot of people to feel shame. I work hard with the hope I will see that change over time.

The benefits of connecting globally

I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to collaborate and partner with colleagues across the globe, and it’s been an amazing learning experience for me. Despite any cultural differences I still feel connected to many of the people that I meet. We all share a commitment to embracing what makes us unique. For me, it’s really been a chance to share best practices and learn that what works for someone might not work for someone else. I’ve made some great connections, and I’ve found that the whole community around mental health and neurodiversity are super supportive of each other.

Through collaboration and partnership, I’m learning how to navigate and maneuver different roadblocks. Sharing has also made it much easier for others from around the world to join in discussions around mental health and benefit from the conversations they spark.

Breaking the stigma around mental health challenges still exists but if there was one good thing that has come out of the pandemic, it’s that everybody is discussing mental health and wellbeing more. We’re looking for more ways to connect and it’s been a great experience.

“We all share a commitment to embracing what makes us unique.”

Practical advice for business leaders and allies

Anyone at any level can and will experience a mental health challenge, it comes with everyday life. I would encourage senior leaders to lead with empathy and compassion. They should prioritize their own mental health and self-care. Be a role model. If they’re not prioritizing their own health, then most likely their direct reports and their colleagues aren’t either.

It’s also so important that we share our own personal experiences and connect with one another. We can all be wellbeing champions in our own way.