At Crafty Counsel, we regularly focus on getting to know more about a member of our in-house legal community. This week we speak to Emilio Chiquito, Vice President and Senior Counsel at Citibank who doubles up as a trainer in the Royal Navy Reserve and works supporting university students interested in the Navy.
Emilio is also a member of FTSE & Friends – our Crafty Counsel Community group for in-house legal professionals working in large organisations or government.
Emilio has a diverse background: he is half Ecuadorian, half Northern Irish, and grew up in the Middle East, before moving to Northern Ireland for his A levels and Liverpool for university.
He wasn’t quite sure of the career path he wanted to take, but with a doctor for a father, Emilio knew he’d either go down the medical or legal route. Emilio says he “decided to be a rebel”, and took the legal road. His first legal role, in Glasgow, was with the Department of Work and Pensions, representing the government in disability matters. Eventually, the emotional toll of the role became too much for him.
“I was dealing with people’s lives every single day, and it was never a good story,” Emilio said.
After “about 400 cases in disability law”, he wanted to go into something “a little more soulless”. Not because he didn’t care, he says, but because he cared too much. At the time, the Northern Ireland government ran a retraining scheme for lawyers from different areas of law into investment, banking, and financial services, to stimulate the Northern Irish economy. “I went on that scheme, and the rest is history, really”.
After the retraining scheme, Emilio spent time at PwC, NRF and Deloitte, before heading to Citibank. He says his various moves throughout his life have meant his environment has been “uncertain and always changing.” He describes how this has turned him into a restless person, but also someone who can turn uncertainty into a positive.
Favourite part of your current role?
Emilio has been Senior Counsel at Citibank since 2022. However, Emilio had already worked for Citibank as a contractor during Brexit and “basically moving a bank from A to B”. Unsurprisingly, Emilio describes the project as “really busy, very intense”.
“I was like: I don’t think I would ever go back to that bank. And funnily enough, it just goes to show that sometimes, it’s not the culture or the employer, it’s just the wrong role. I don’t regret it, but I didn’t think I would rejoin Citi after that really difficult project. But here I am, and absolutely loving it”.
Leading a team of two, Emilio works predominantly on regulatory matters: “we make sure what the bank is doing is safe. It’s hugely technical, which I absolutely love”. Emilio shares that he loves “getting deep into the trenches of legal work” and checking the soundness of legal opinions to ensure the bank is on the right track with regulatory objectives.
A special hobby?
Alongside his role at Citibank, Emilio is an officer in the Royal Navy Reserve, which he calls his “second life”, and sees him training university students who are considering a career in the Navy.
“I get to spend two weeks a year on warships in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Baltics. I trained with Royal Marine commandos. I get to develop my own leadership and that of others”.
Emilio decided to become part of the military after the compound his school was located in Saudi Arabia was bombed by Al Qaeda in 2003. “Nothing kind of makes you value the security that the state provides like dealing with a terrorist attack like that. And that instilled a very deep sense of duty in me in terms of just trying to create a better, safer world”.
Emilio also discovered his great-grandfather was in the Royal Navy, and once saved the crew of a ship by throwing an unexploded bomb overboard. He decided he would like to tell his children similar stories.
Biggest challenge in the in-house journey?
Emilio says that his cynicism kicks in when people talk to him about legal tech and the uses of artificial intelligence.
“There’s a lot of legal tech bros selling their software, who are kind of snake oil salesmen of these different technological solutions that [supposedly] are going to save the world. I’m healthfully cynical”.
He spends time reviewing new technology tools for Citibank and after becoming “quite tech savvy” from his time at PwC. He says that while people may think that the fast pace digitisation of the legal industry is cool, he takes a cautious approach. “I don’t think it’s that cool yet. It’s getting there, though.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Emilio describes himself as a “busy person in the world”, quite humbly. He’s the father of a one and half-year-old, a magistrate, and a Royal Navy reservist. All whilst working in-house at an investment bank. As such, his main piece of advice would be to value your time, learn from mistakes, and don’t get distracted from your path.
“Stay focused, continue to make mistakes, you don’t have to be an adult just yet. But try to decipher what’s going to steal huge amounts of time”.
Emilio speaks from experience, saying that he used to be very involved in the electronic music scene. He says it was a big distraction from his day-to-day life.
“It did take a lot of time out of my days, my pathway and pipeline. And you can’t get that time back. I don’t regret it, I had huge amounts of fun and it made me a rounded person as well. So I don’t regret it. But what I’m definitely short of today, that I wish I had yesterday, was more time”.