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Author: Don Obrien

J.P. Morgan’s Mary Callahan Erdoes: The Most Powerful Woman in Finance


CEO, Asset and Wealth Management

When Mary Callahan Erdoes thinks about the various diversity initiatives at JPMorgan Chase, she doesn’t see a series of boxes to be checked in service of vaguely defined social goals. Instead, the chief executive of the company’s Asset and Wealth Management unit sees a means to a very specific end — achieving what she calls “diversity of thought.”

“We have to keep the momentum of everything good that has come from different companies becoming more diverse,” Erdoes said.

“Diversity is not just something for metrics purposes,” she said. “It should be something that you strive for to get better decision making, to get better outcomes, to get better products and services, to get a better workplace environment.”

Inside JPMorgan Chase, efforts to develop a workforce as diverse as the company’s global clientele have long been in place. More than 200 “business resource groups” — essentially affinity organizations for employees —create networks of people with common experiences and backgrounds.

Erdoes, who has been with the company for 25 years, has seen huge gains in diversity within JPMorgan Chase and across the industry as a whole over that time. Now, she said, it’s time for the industry to help shape the same sort of change in the broader world.

“We have to keep the momentum of everything good that has come from different companies becoming more diverse,” she said.

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To that end, JPMorgan Chase last year began to be more intentional about supporting diverse organizations externally, setting aside $30 billion to invest in racial equity. The funding is meant to support efforts to fight systemic racism and tackle the racial wealth divide.

The Asset and Wealth Management unit, which is part of J.P. Morgan, the wholesale arm of JPMorgan Chase, initiated three major projects over the past year, all aimed at boosting access to capital and other resources in underserved communities.

The first is Project Black, a $200 million effort that Erdoes describes as “venture capital investing in not just Black communities and in Black-run businesses, but in businesses that could continue to hire and grow employees in an underrepresented community.”

At the same time, Erdoes helped launch Project Spark, a $25 million pot of seed capital being directed to investment funds managed by diverse, emerging alternative managers, including minority-led and women-led venture capital funds.

But Erdoes said she is most excited about a program called Empowering Change, which leverages JPMorgan Chase’s status as the largest institutional money market fund manager in the world. The program creates new money market funds that the company manages, but they are labeled and sold by minority depository institutions and community development financial institutions.

“If you’re a big financial institution, and you invest in J.P. Morgan money market funds, which many do, you can now buy that same exact fund, with the same exact rates, through a community development bank,” Erdoes said. “Those revenues now run through those community development banks, and it causes them to get increased funding and to be able to thrive more in the communities where they operate.”

All that focus on helping other businesses and communities flourish didn’t prevent the business Erdoes runs from reporting major profit growth between 2020 and 2021. In the first quarter of this year, the Asset and Wealth Management unit reported net income of $1.2 billion — an 86% increase over the previous year.

Erdoes even found extra time last year to spend with her three teenage daughters, the eldest of whom went off to college this fall. “One of the silver linings of the pandemic was the increasing frequency of dinners together as a family at home,” she said. “It seems so simple in the grand scheme of things, but I think we had our greatest conversations and bonding moments around the family dinner table. Moving forward, I intend to make an effort to do this as often as I can, and to encourage my colleagues to do the same.”





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