Describe your career path.
I graduated from Harvard College with a degree in economics in 2000. During the summer, in both my sophomore and junior years, I interned for a small French investment bank in their New York and Hong Kong offices. I enjoyed the experience but wanted to work for a larger, more global institution. I was recruited and received several offers, and ended up choosing J.P. Morgan because of the people. I started in the firm's syndicated and leveraged finance group (SLF), and while there, worked on transactions for investment grade and leveraged clients. Next, I became interested in the special credits group, and worked on bankruptcies and restructurings on high profile distressed situations. When the market recovered, I moved again, joining the firm's credit risk management group. I've been in this group for the past three years, covering our investment banking clients in the consumer products industry, and managing the firm's credit exposure to these clients. My goal is to protect our balance sheet by managing risks associated with credit exposures such as traditional loans, as well as derivatives and cash management. One of the things I like most about working here is that I've had the opportunity to move around and experience different areas within the firm.
Describe your role at J.P. Morgan.
Risk management at J.P. Morgan operates on the front lines in our business. My work is industry-specific as I'm responsible for our consumer product clients who are mainly in the food, beverage, tobacco, and household products industries. We partner with investment banking coverage and product groups when they deal with these clients. Any product, transaction, or service that we provide to our clients that results in credit exposure to the firm will involve my group. With an industry-leading syndicated loan platform, we take on a lot of risk exposure. However, it's calculated risk. I work with the various client teams to make sure that the risks we take are reasonable and accounted for. Part of the reason J.P. Morgan has been successful for the past few years is because we've been disciplined in the way we take on risk.
What is a typical day like for you?
It depends on the number of deals I'm working on at a given time and what stage they are in. My goal is to protect the firm's fortress balance sheet and I accomplish that by meeting with clients, performing due diligence, and working with the syndicated leverage finance group and legal counsel to devise financing terms. Regardless of the number of active deals there are, I must monitor all of my clients and stay current in the industry for news that may impact their performance. So in general, it's managing the existing portfolio of clients and also participating in new transactions.
What advice do you have for an up-and-coming risk professional?
The best advice I can offer someone hoping to enter this business is to start early. When employers visit your campus, you should attend their events. Take the opportunity to meet people and do your diligence on the companies. There are many resources students can take advantage of to obtain information, such as the employer career websites and the career center at your school. At J.P. Morgan, we offer scholarships and host events for freshmen and sophomores through our Winning Women and Launching Leaders programs. Take advantage of programs such as these to help you get a head start on your career. It's helpful to spend a day in the bank and see the various areas. It will help you determine which area is of interest when you apply to a formal internship program. Internships are the best way to learn more about a firm and the business. There is no better experience than spending eight weeks working on the front lines and living the life of a first-year analyst. By the end of the summer, you will know if this career is right for you. I'd also recommend being active in organizations on campus. J.P. Morgan partners with organizations on campus and we often host events with them. At Harvard for example, we partner with Women in Business and Veritas Financial. By getting involved with these groups, you can get a great introduction to a career in finance as well as access to financial institutions.
What are the most important skills for a career in risk?
This work involves a fair balance of qualitative and quantitative skills. You need to have a strong analytical mind as the work requires you to take in a lot of information and derive conclusions. Strong communications skills are also important because you are always partnering with other groups, such as investment banking, and you're also interacting with clients on a regular basis. It's also important to be inquisitive and always have a view on a topic. You'll need to be able to get to the bottom of things and assess all major risks.