Global Currency Strategist: Day in the Life

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"I think you have to be aggressive. If, for example, you put your head down and just do your job, you won't be as successful as if you worked hard and networked with your peers and senior colleagues."

Rebecca Patterson is a vice president and global currency strategist at JPMorgan, helping her colleagues and clients understand the implications of currency moves. In her reports, Patterson evaluates economic trends, geopolitical moves, changes in heads of state, official statements and a range of other developments to provide the analysis clients need to prepare for currency moves that can affect their businesses and profits in the near- and long-terms.

Before joining JPMorgan, Patterson worked as a journalist, covering the financial markets and public sector news. She studied journalism at the University of Florida, and later attended the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, where she concentrated on international politics and economics. She later earned her MBA at New York University's Stern School of Business.

Could you tell us about your job?

I'm part of a small team in charge of creating currency forecasting for JPMorgan. We forecast approximately 33 currencies outside the United States. We initially do research to develop targets. Once we have them, we come up with trade recommendations and advice on how to manage FX movements. My role involves research, interaction with the firm's clients, and working internally with our sales and trading professionals. I also represent the bank to the general public, through speaking engagements at conferences and in communication with the press.

I joined JPMorgan's London office and have worked in a similar capacity on a senior level in London, Singapore and New York.

What's your typical day like?

There are never two days that are the same. Earlier in my career, I worked longer hours. Now, with a one-year-old daughter, I get home by 6 p.m. each day. It's something that the bank tries very hard to be helpful about - a proper balance between a job and personal life.

Generally, I work from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. I come in and read up to see what happened in the markets overnight. I'll look for anything that may present a trade idea. I'll look for anything that may change my broader views. At about 7:15, I'll lead our "Hoot," which is our internal intercom system. We'll discuss with colleagues around the bank globally, via the Hoot, what we expect to happen in the day ahead. Keep in mind we only have about an hour each day to prepare for this event, so we have to be morning people.

Each day can be different. There are data releases, and often surprises. We'll seek out trade ideas around those numbers, then we'll call clients. We'll also have calls with colleagues to discuss different views. There may be a presentation with a client. The challenging thing about the job is that markets are always evolving, so you never figure everything out. You can only hope to stay aware of how the markets change, stay ahead of the curve. You never get bored in this business.

How has your role changed compared with when you started?

Technology has made the job much more efficient. When I first started, folks used facsimile machines a lot. Today communication is done mainly via computers using instant messaging, Bloomberg, e-mail. Also, financial instruments have evolved a lot, turning in different, often more creative directions, over the last nine years. There are new ways to invest in markets, and it's challenging to understand these complex instruments.

Also, the work place has changed. Although I'm one of the few senior women on my research team, the number of women I work with more broadly has risen significantly. Just last year, we had seven women on the trading floor who had babies. So, there's much more diversity in the workforce, and that adds value.

When I started out I supported the team, and got to do some research on my own. Often I helped prepare client presentations, or do background work for senior research people, or perhaps a presentation to a smaller client. Today, I do the presenting to the key clients. Clients know who I am and often reach out to me. It's very satisfying to have a large corporation, or even a policymaker, call you to ask you your opinion.

What advice would you give to junior staffers?

When you start out, ask a lot of questions. Put your ego aside. No one expects you to know everything about the job. They want you to ask questions.

I think you have to be aggressive. If, for example, you put your head down and just do your job, you won't be as successful as if you worked hard and networked with your peers and senior colleagues.

My advice would be: Don't be afraid of taking a chance. I never thought I'd live in Singapore, or be a banker. You're presented opportunities in life and you shouldn't be afraid of taking them on. Things have a way of working out.

I've had an amazing time at JPMorgan. My time in Asia was invaluable, both personally and being able to understand China, which has become one of the biggest stories in the global economy. If I'd been afraid to take a new path, I wouldn't have had these experiences.

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