Q&A: Joseph Ghartey, Head of Equity Derivatives, Americas, JPMorgan

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At 33, Joseph Ghartey is responsible for North and South American sales and trading, equity finance and market-making at JPMorgan: "The lack of a graduate degree hasn't limited my opportunities at JPMorgan. I concentrate on areas where I can be of help to the industry and the bank."

Although he was made a managing director at 31, when asked about his career, Ghartey is more apt to talk about his recruitment activities: positions as co-captain of the Harvard University recruiting team, or JPMorgan's Investment Bank Inclusive Leadership Council, or as co-head of the Junior Resource Development Council of JPMorgan, especially his role as an alumni of Sponsors for Education Opportunity (SEO), a non-profit organization that helps people of color achieve their professional goals.

Q: What was your initial goal when you were just starting out at school?

Well, early on I wanted a Ph.D. in economics or math.

Q: And did you go on to graduate school?

No. An internship in the summer of '94, prior to my senior year at Harvard University, piqued my interest in Wall Street.

Q: Where was the internship?

The SEO - Sponsors for Education Opportunity - helped me obtain a summer internship at Smith Barney, where I reviewed annual reports and 10Q's and put together pitch books.

Q: And you went back to Harvard after that internship?

Yes. I graduated in '95 with majors in math and economics. Prior to graduation, I applied to JPMorgan in sales and trading.

Q: Not in M&A?

No, I had more interest in sales, and there were other considerations. Sales and trading is a good entry point, because you can start as an analyst, as I did. There are more roles in this field suited to mathematics, whereas in M&A math skills are not immediately applicable at the entry level. Also, from a pay perspective there is more opportunity

for compensation.

Q: Did you get to use your training much in the real world?

Oh, yes. In '95, equity, credit and other derivatives were just becoming really hot in the States. Having a math degree helped a great deal. The modeling used in structuring deals is very mathematical. Understanding the risk parameters of a deal requires math, and developing models, the statistical analysis for inputs for pricing the derivatives - to determine if the contract is priced richly or cheaply - are all very dependent on math.

Q: It sounds like they were exciting times.

They were - and still are. New products in equity derivatives were coming online and new markets were opening up every day. I was part of the Americas Equity Derivative Team, specifically in Latin America, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico.

Q: Exciting from an economic standpoint of course, given the volatility in that region at that time.

It was very challenging and exciting.

Q: Did you need to be bi-lingual?

The math really helped more than language.

Q: Did you go into this with programming skills?

We programmed a lot to develop risk management tools and customize applications. We probably used some visual basic and SQL languages. But nothing that we used back in the day is used now. Today, we use C++ and mainly object based models.

Q: What are the hours like in sales and trading?

In the beginning we were more manual. We press a button now to generate our P&L statement. So instead of 6:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., we finish up closer to 6 p.m., unless we're entertaining clients. Then meetings and dinner can run late.

Q: You haven't gone the MBA route.

The lack of a graduate degree hasn't limited my opportunities at JPMorgan. I concentrate on areas where I can be of help to the industry and the bank.

Q: Like?

I represent the bank on the Boston Options Exchange Board. We meet quarterly. Also, I serve as a member of the International Securities Exchange Advisory Board, where we discuss the evolution of the options market as well as ways the ISE can address the needs of the markets.

Q: And your charity work?

Very important to me. As an alumni member of SEO, I am co-chair of SIRV - Saving, Investing and Returning Value. SEO places 300 interns a year.

Q: Intrinsic rewards aside, how's the money?

I started at $35,000 and I'm making a lot more than that now.

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