Sue Dean, head of transaction banking for EMEA at J.P. Morgan, has been at the bank in the UK for over two and a half decades and has held senior positions in what most would describe as the less exciting side of banking. Starting out in retail banking, moving to custody, operations and now transaction services, she’s been at the helm of the functions that keep the wheels in the front office turning.
Dean demonstrates the need for moving around the business in order to progress your banking career and, in an industry known for excessive staff churn, is an example of how to succeed without switching employers too often. She gives us the low down on her career and what it takes to make it in transaction services.
Can you tell us how you got your first banking job?
I started out working in a retail branch of a bank. At the time I was unsure what I wanted to do, but consider myself fortunate to have landed the job and still be in banking 25 years later, a career which has covered a broad range of functions. [efc_twitter text="Retail banking is often viewed as the less complex side of the industry, but it provides the perfect start, exposing you to the fundamentals of banking"], connecting with customers and providing you with the human side of the industry while learning all the products.
So, how did you move across to transaction banking?
I spent six years in retail banking, covering many disciplines including managing clients’ share portfolios. I wasn’t trading, but was helping clients service their securities and developed a real interest in that side of the business. What was then Chase (now J.P. Morgan) were building out their custody arm and I seized the opportunity to join. I’ve now been here for 26 years.
Throughout that time I’ve worked in client services, custody, operations and treasury services operations based in Bournemouth, focused on EMEA, Asia and Latin America. I worked closely with our product development and was able to gain the skills to move to my current role.
What does your job involve?
A basic description would be to say that we manage the bank accounts for wholesale clients, which are generally large corporations. We offer new products, manage their cash flow and help them maximise their cash efficiency. This could range from paying their employees, providing options to manage excess cash and providing FX. We support all of their banking needs, but when it comes to large corporate clients these needs are complex.
My job involves managing our team of around 130 people and taking responsibility for the strategy and product development for the EMEA region. In recent years, we’ve had to respond to a lot of regulatory change.
What’s the best thing about the job?
There’s a real diversity to the job and you’re incredibly connected to what’s happening in the real economy. Any change in interest rates, every sanction, will affect the way we and our clients do business and we have to be at the forefront.
And the worst thing?
The best thing is also the worst – on the one hand it’s very stimulating, but on the other having another complex challenge to work through can be trying every day.
What is the most challenging thing you have worked on this week?
[efc_twitter text="The everyday challenges of the job are not the real stresses; it’s the significant macro events that prove the most challenging."] An obvious example is the Eurozone crisis, which has caused some significant complexities.
What elements of your character make you ideally suited for the job?
I’m extremely detailed, which is incredibly important when you have to apply complex regulations and be able to explain the impact to clients. It’s also necessary when creating new products because you need to consider development from multiple angles. Listening is also important and key when dealing with clients, their feedback and requirements help you to develop the products they need.
What should every student stepping into an interview with you know?
They should understand what a bank does. There will be varying levels of complexity within the different product areas, but they should understand the fundamentals.
What’s your favourite interview question for students?
What do you know about banking? You get a broad level of responses ranging from people who are a little stumped at how to answer the questions through to people who have really considered it. Some people talk in technical terms, others focus on particular transactions in areas like M&A. There’s no right or wrong answer – I just want to know that they’ve considered what it is to work for a large multinational bank.