Archives: Leaders

Claire A. Koeneman

EVP, Managing Director – Financial Communications / Ketchum

Claire leads Ketchum’s Financial Communications specialty. She has more than two decades of experience working with C-Suite executives and public companies on their corporate, financial and crisis communications. Her experience includes: narrative development, executive visibility, governance issues, capital markets & transaction-related engagements and crafting quarterly / annual communications to key stakeholders. She also serves as a senior advisor on critical business issues and initiatives, helping her clients transform their reputation both internally and externally.
Additionally, Claire is a Corporate Board Director and Chairs the Nominating & Corporate Governance Committee for LXP Industrial Trust (NYSE: LXP), a publicly-traded REIT based in NYC. She has refreshed the board with a focus on diversity, led a successful anti-activist shareholder campaign and was named to Women Inc.’s ‘Most Influential Corporate Directors’ list for ESG best practices.
Prior to joining Ketchum, Claire held senior positions at several other global public relations agencies, as well as at Bully Pulpit Interactive, a boutique digital-first communications firm. Previously, Ms. Koeneman was President of Financial Relations Board (FRB), an investor relations firm. She is a thought leader and media spokeswoman who has won industry-wide awards from PRWeek and PRNews magazines for “IR Professional of the Year”
Claire graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with an MBA in Finance and from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree in Government & French. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two college-age sons and has a second home in Miami Beach. She is an active member of the Economic Club of Chicago, Women Corporate Directors and has served as an Honorary Consul General for The Principality of Monaco since 2009.

Andy Crestodina

Co-Founder & CMO / Orbit Media Studios

Andy Crestodina is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Orbit Media, an award-winning 50-person digital agency in Chicago. Over the past 20 years, Andy has provided digital marketing advice to 1000+ businesses.

Andy has written 500+ articles on content strategy, search engine optimization, influencer marketing, visitor psychology and Analytics. These articles reach more than three million readers each year. He’s also the author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing.

Andy gives up to 100 webinars and presentations per year and is a frequent repeat speaker at many of the top national marketing conferences.

Brett Hart

President / United Airlines

Brett J. Hart is president of United. In this role, Brett is responsible for United’s global operations – flight, technical and network operations as well as inflight services and safety. In addition, he leads external-facing functions including the government affairs, regulatory, corporate communications, advertising, market and community innovation, legal, global community engagement and environmental sustainability teams. Brett also oversees business-critical functions such as the customer experience, corporate real estate, human resources and labor relations teams.

Previously, Brett served as executive vice president, chief administrative officer and executive vice president, general counsel for United. Brett also served as acting chief executive officer for a six month period in 2015 and 2016.

Prior to joining United in 2010, Brett was executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Sara Lee Corporation, where he directed global legal operations for the corporation. After joining Sara Lee in 2004 as assistant general counsel, Brett held positions of increasing responsibility including deputy general counsel and global compliance officer. Before joining Sara Lee, Brett was a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. Prior to that, he served as special assistant to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C.

Brett is a member of the Board of Directors at AbbVie, Northwestern Medical Group and Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He also serves on the Obama Foundation Inclusion Council, University of Chicago Board of Trustees, and the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Brett received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and English from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School. He is married and has three sons.

Olivia Bedi

Partner / Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP

Olivia is a Partner in the Litigation and Intellectual Property Groups at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg. A trusted advisor on civil litigation matters, especially regarding intellectual property, she has represented individuals and corporations across the country in complex technological matters. She helps clients protect, enforce, and defend intellectual property rights, including patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks. An experienced trial lawyer, Olivia has litigated and tried significant cases before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and other federal courts around the country, and has also briefed and argued patent appeals before the Federal Circuit. Before practicing law, Olivia spent five years as a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, gaining extensive experience regarding the use of procedures available before the USPTO.  

Olivia is active in the Chicago community.  Among other interests, she currently serves as Chair of the Membership Committee for the Economic Club of Chicago; serves as the Executive Director and past President and Founder of the Richard Linn American Inn of Court; serves on the judicially appointed Local Patent Rules and Racial Justice Diversity Committees for the Northern District of Illinois; serves on the President appointed Annual Meeting Committee for the American Bar Association; and serves on the Board of the American Writers Museum and as past President and Founder of its Chicago Council. She enjoys marathoning and lives in Chicago with her husband, two basketball loving kids, and their pitbull named Chauncey Billups. 

Sidney Dillard

Partner & Head of Corporate Investment Banking / Loop Capital Markets, LLC

Sidney Dillard is an experienced financial services executive with over 30 years of experience providing advice and capital solutions to Fortune 500 corporations and middle market companies. She is recognized for building close, trusted relationships with her clients and for her insights. As well, she is sought after for her perspective on business diversity opportunities for diverse-owned financial services firms. 

She is currently a partner and head of corporate investment banking at Loop Capital Markets, which is among the largest, privately-held investment banks in the country. She is responsible for setting and executing on the firm’s growth strategy with corporates on their capital raising and advisory needs. She serves on the firm’s Management Committee, Risk Committee, and Fairness & Valuation Committee. 

Ms. Dillard has led the establishment of Loop Capital Markets’ reputation as a highly regarded investment bank for corporations across the country. She has spearheaded capital raising and advisory mandates valued at over $600 billion across bond underwriting, initial public offerings, at-the-markets, share repurchases, private institutional capital raising and mergers & acquisitions advisory. Ms. Dillard has worked on deals in the following industries: consumer products and retail; financials; industrials; telecommunications, media and technology; REITs; SPACs; and utilities. 

Prior to Loop Capital Markets, Ms. Dillard was a Senior Vice President and Division Manager at Northern Trust Bank. She was responsible for leading a team focused on business development and relationship management for commercial banking, treasury management, retirement plan custody and investment services for large corporations. 

Ms. Dillard is focused on leadership, empowerment and access for women/girls and African-Americans in her philanthropic engagements. She is board chair for the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana and Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago; she is a board member for The Chicago Network and IFF (a CDFI). She is on the board of directors for Cresco Labs (CSE:CL) (OTCQX:CRLBF) and Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. VI (NASDAQ: HCVI). As well, she serves on the Obama Foundation Inclusion Council. 

Ms. Dillard is a graduate of Stanford University where she received an AB in Economics. She holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management where she concentrated in Finance, Management and Marketing. She holds 7, 24, 63 and 79 FINRA securities licenses. 

She is married and has two children who are 20 and 23 years old.  

Jesse Ruiz

General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer / The Vistria Group

Prior to joining Vistria, Mr. Ruiz was the Deputy Governor for Education in the Office of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, where he oversaw the state’s education system from early childhood through higher education, including 852 school districts, 48 community colleges, and twelve public universities, as well as the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Mr. Ruiz had also previously served as the Interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

Prior to serving as Deputy Governor, Mr. Ruiz was a partner in the Corporate & Securities Group of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP (n/k/a Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP), where for 22 years he focused his law practice on business transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, venture capital and private equity investments, equity and debt offerings, financings and a variety of commercial transactions.

Prior to beginning his law practice, Jesse was a management consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton (n/k/a Strategy&), where he was a member of the Operations Management Group. Before attending law school, he was a member of the sales departments of Inland Steel Company and Ryerson Coil Processing Company.

Mr. Ruiz received a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, where he is currently a Lecturer in Law teaching a course in Negotiations.

Desirée Moore

Partner / K&L Gates LLP

Desirée F. Moore is a partner at K&L Gates LLP and a founding member and co-lead of the firm’s Digital Crisis Planning & Response (DCPR) client solution. She counsels corporations, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, national governing bodies, sports leagues, high-profile individuals, and others in proactively planning for and effectively managing crises of varying magnitudes, including: data breach; online defamation, harassment, and impersonation; university and other education scandals; sports matters; celebrity disgrace events; key person transitions and investigations; leaked confidential and proprietary information; and more. Her work balances the considerations of a public-facing crisis with smart and prudent legal action. Desirée has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and more on behalf of clients who are navigating high-pressure situations. Desirée also leads the firm’s Professional Development Committee, where she and the Committee guide the firm’s PD team in their implementation of innovative training and other programming for attorneys and staff globally. Desirée sits on the Board of Governors for Loyola University Chicago School of Law and is on the Board of Directors for Ingenuity, a non-profit organization that facilitates art equity and access in Chicago Public Schools. Desiree has been named to Crain’s Chicago Business “Notable Gen X Leaders in Accounting, Consulting, and Law”; Chicago Law Bulletin’s “Top 50 Women in Law”; Chicago Law Bulletin’s “40 under 40”; and was the Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s St. Robert Bellarmine Award Recipient. She is the author of “Thrive – A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice” (ABA 2012) and “Foodie Tales” (Mascot Books 2020), a cookbook based on classic children’s literature.

Ajay Shah

Chief Executive Officer / Globetrotters Engineering Corporation

Ajay N. Shah, Esq. is the CEO of Globetrotters Engineering Corporation. Globetrotters is a full-service architect / engineering company that works on public sector infrastructure and buildings projects. Ajay has been CEO since 2017. Prior to that, Ajay was COO & General Counsel of Globetrotters.

Ajay has a demonstrable commitment to public service. Ajay has served on the Criminal Justice Act Panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and has been listed on the Honor Roll of Appointed Counsel. Ajay serves on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness. Ajay served on as a Board member of the Chicago Bar Association and the South Asian Bar Association of Chicago. In 2022, Ajay started working as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois College of Law teaching Government Contracts. Ajay is on the Corporate Advisory Council of Cradles to Crayons.

Ajay Shah was born and raised in Illinois. Ajay grew up in Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago attending the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. After graduating from the Lab Schools, Ajay attended Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics / Computer Science and a minor in Political Science. While at Purdue he studied abroad at Oriel College at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Ajay received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law at Urbana-Champaign. Most recently, Ajay was graduated from the Owner / President Management Program at Harvard Business School.

Aamer Baig

Senior Partner / McKinsey & Company

Aamer is a Senior Partner in McKinsey’s Chicago office. He serves clients across industries on a variety of topics including strategy, organization, operations, and technology. He leads McKinsey’s technology practice in North America helping business and technology leaders transform their organizations, and leads McKinsey’s digital practice for industrial clients.

Aamer is passionate about Chicago and improving the economic wellbeing of its businesses and residents, while advancing equity and inclusion. To this end, he has led a number of efforts including economic development, jobs growth, attracting tech companies and talent, and creating economic mobility.

He lives in the South Loop with his wife, who is a practicing Physician, and their two daughters.

Wanji Walcott

EVP, Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel / Discover Financial Services

Wanji Walcott is Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel at Discover Financial Services, and a member of the company’s Executive Committee. She is a high-impact global financial services executive with a proven track record of building and leading diverse teams and fostering a culture of collaboration as a trusted advisor. Ms. Walcott is responsible for Discover’s Legal Organization, Government Relations, the company’s Environmental, Social and Governance Program and the Patent & Innovation Program.

With a passion for helping others, Ms. Walcott is committed to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
(DE&I) and serves as executive sponsor of HOLA, Discover’s Latinx Employee Resource Group. She leads the company’s DE&I Task Force and is an active participant in the Legal Organization’s pro bono program, which provides free, high-quality legal services to those in need.
Prior to joining Discover in 2019, Ms. Walcott was Senior Vice President and General Counsel at PayPal Holdings, Inc., where she provided counsel to senior management and the board of directors, was accountable for all areas of the global legal department and provided legal support to corporate affiliates, including a bank. She has also held senior positions at American Express, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, DSET Corporation and Lockheed Martin.

Ms. Walcott serves on the Board of Directors of Foresight II (NASDAQ: FACQU) and has served on a number of non-profit boards, including her current role as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Frederick Gunn School and the Chair of the Board of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA). She is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, the Chicago Club, the Chicago Network and the Economic Club of Chicago. During the past year, Ms. Walcott has received the following awards and recognition: Savoy Magazine’s Most Influential Black Lawyers (2022); Diversity Woman Magazine’s Elite 100 (2022); Pro Bono Institute’s Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award (2021) and Crain’s Notable General Counsels recognition (2021).


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