You joined J.P Morgan – in 2018 as Executive Director of Project Management. How important was its approach to diversity and inclusion?
Financial services has historically been a male dominated environment, particularly in the project area within Financial Services. One of the things that attracted me to J.P. Morgan was the fact that our local head, Nadia Schiavon, is an admirable and inspiring female leader. I had a lot of interactions with her prior to making the move to J.P. Morgan and I was inspired by many of the females in the senior leadership team, including my direct peers. Even during my interview process, it was very clear that having the right attitude towards diversity and inclusion was very important across the organisation – it was spoken about at length. Having a strong female presence and leadership is pivotal to everything we do in our business.
There’s plenty of evidence to support the benefits of more diverse workplaces. Why is the pace of change still so slow across the industry?
When diversity is successfully introduced into teams, it leads to a wider range of opinions about situations, strategic initiatives, and greater innovation which deliver better outcomes. There’s a lot of evidence to support those benefits and most businesses are now aware of the research.
But it will take bold corporate commitment to get the industry to the next level. Those organisations that can build diverse talent in teams at all levels will have a strong competitive advantage.
J.P. Morgan has a wide range of initiatives in place to help bridge gender inequality and ensure progress continues. These include specific initiatives that focus on attracting, developing, retaining, and advancing women. We also recently launched the Journey to Inclusive Teams program, which helps build teams filled with diverse talent, while our Business Resource Groups create connections between colleagues with similar interests or backgrounds.
The COVID-19 pandemic has torn down the walls between work and personal life. Will that blurring of the lines, including unpaid work, have a positive impact on gender equality?
Our leaders are extremely flexible with all staff, their working arrangements and time. That applies to both women and men. It extends to providing opportunities to support our staff and their circumstances which is engrained from the top down. For example many of our senior leaders across the world have shared their experiences of adapting to working from home. From the new norm of dogs barking, cars zooming by or children interrupting meetings, it’s a different environment now. It is accepted that there are blurred lines between our work and personal lives.
There have also been communication benefits to the teams. Our Zoom meetings result in everybody getting consistent messages and experiences, whether you’re sitting in Sydney, Manila, Mumbai or in the US.
You’re playing a key role in a large project to shift J.P. Morgan’s Securities Services Australian clients to the firm’s global accounting system. Has COVID-19 slowed down progress?
Fifty percent of our local product development team are working on this key initiative with more than 150 people supporting the program from across the globe. It’s not a small undertaking! But it is very important in delivering the best possible products and services to our asset owner and asset manager clients.
When coronavirus first really hit in March, we were apprehensive around productivity and how that might play out. We enacted our COVID plan which involved employees across the region, and globally, being properly equipped to ensure they had everything needed to be fully functional from home with little or no down time. Many of our operational staff in south-east Asia were given computers for example to facilitate work from home arrangements. We also gave everybody an additional five days of leave to help with the transition.
Despite all the challenges, we had all of our operational teams up and running within a couple of weeks despite market volatility and have kept all of our programs, including the accounting system transition, on track. We had a highly successful financial year-end for our teams, even though most of them were working remotely.
We were able to transition our pilot client to the new global platform, InvestOne, during the pandemic. Continuing with this pace is important, particularly as we are adjusting to work from home. We are encouraging teams to take personal time away while balancing the programs deliverables.
Why are you moving asset owners to J.P. Morgan’s global accounting platform, InvestOne?
Everything we do is driven by the necessities of our clients who must ensure they’re geared to deliver maximum operational efficiency and cost savings. The shift to our global accounting platform supports the strategic changes they have underway, particularly in an environment where generating future investment returns is going to be more difficult.
InvestOne will integrate our accounting, unit pricing and tax capabilities into the core global platform, which has been adapted to cater for the needs of our Australian clients. It will allow them to expand their functionality and get faster speed to market by tapping into J.P. Morgan’s full global capabilities, as well as allow for better integration with third-party data vendors.
We are a few years into the program and currently have six clients on the platform in the APAC region. Another five Australian clients will come on board by the end of year.
It’s a huge project – what have you enjoyed the most about the process?
This is the completion of a journey that was first envisioned a decade ago. I enjoy the challenge of completing this complex program, knowing how critical it is for J.P. Morgan and our clients and couldn’t be prouder of achieving this under very trying circumstances.
It’s going to put our clients in a better position – helping to drive this program to fruition is really satisfying and a career highlight for me.