Twelve years ago, I was working at the J.P. Morgan Private Bank when I got a surprising call. Would you like to talk about an opportunity to become Director of Investor Relations? I hadn’t really thought about a career in investor relations, but I was open to trying something new. I said yes.
It was a big job, a definite stretch for me, so I was excited and nervous. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know, which became more evident in the months that followed. While I had my MBA, I hadn’t been trained as a corporate finance banker and had not worked in a finance function. I didn’t speak the language and it was a steep learning curve.
Quarter end was coming very soon after I arrived, but the CFO didn’t expect me to handle everything myself right away. He said, just observe, do as much as you can, and we’ll figure it out. I was fortunate to have an excellent team who taught me a ton along the way.
After a while, I could handle challenging conversations with the company shareholders and sell-side analysts, understand each line of business’ strategy and financial drivers, and ask tough questions. I got a lot stronger in my financial acumen during that time and learned so much about the entire company.
When I came to JPMorgan Chase after business school, I felt that my strength was in managing and building client relationships. At the finance job, I realized, I’m analytical too and I really like what I am doing!
I’ve had four different roles across different lines of business. These experiences have given me a broader sense of what’s possible. Maybe I try too many trapeze acts, but I’ve learned how the whole company works and a lot about my capabilities.
Before I got that call, I had voiced an interest in trying new things. That’s the way to get started. At the right time, raise your hand. When you take risks, colleagues will recognize you for it and remember it. They won’t throw you to the wolves.
Especially at a large company, people can be siloed. They know their world. The idea of starting over in a new function can feel like too much but before you disregard an opportunity, learn about it. There may be commonalities. Have faith in yourself to learn new things—it’s not rocket science. It could open you up to new experiences and make you more valuable to the company.
As you consider a move, start by learning about the people and the role
All of my roles required hard work, discipline, and relationship building skills. At first, everything takes longer. I read a lot, asked many questions, and prepared thoroughly for meetings. You also have to create trust and a rapport with the team, because you need them to learn the function and to be successful.
There have always been moments when I questioned whether I made the right move. As Head of Corporate Finance Analytics, my team worked on an early phase of stress testing. We were all figuring out how to meet this new requirement from our regulator, the Federal Reserve Bank, to stress test our earnings and capital levels under severe economic scenarios. Understandably, our broad-based team charged with the new deliverable felt pressure. I tried to stay cool, anticipate the workflow, escalate key issues and seek out the risk experts. At the end of the day, you just have to step up, work very hard and do the best you can. You have to say, could anyone do it better?
Moving around is always a gamble, but for me it’s been worth it. It keeps your career fresh and helps you develop new skills. Had I stayed a private banker, I may have never realized my potential to work in a variety of capacities I wouldn’t know I could thrive in. Raising my hand for new responsibilities has made for a satisfying and diverse career.
About the Author: Julia Bates is the Chief Control Officer for Commercial Banking. She is responsible for leading the Commercial Bank’s efforts to build a strong controls infrastructure in a quickly-evolving regulatory environment. Julia has had a twenty year career at JPMorgan Chase & Co and predecessor firms.
Prior to joining Commercial Banking in 2015, Julia was the head of the Individual and Business Retirement business in Global Investment Management. From September 2009 through April 2011, Julia was head of Corporate Finance Analytics, a group focused on firm wide and strategic financial initiatives for JPMorgan Chase. Between 2005 and 2009, Julia was Director of Investor Relations for the firm where she was responsible for the communication of JPMorgan Chase’s financial performance and strategy to institutional shareholders and sell-side analysts. Prior to 2005, Julia spent eleven years in the J.P. Morgan Private Bank, acting as an Investment Specialist and building the Private Bank Partnership Group, a team dedicated to cross-marketing.
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