Banking and global business: an alumna’s perspective part 2

Jennifer Wallis is the Division Manager for Chase Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada. Jennifer is a Foster MBA alum and member of the Global Business Center’s Global Business Advisory Board.

Tell us a bit about your career in Banking. What do you like the most about your position? Which aspects are the most challenging?
I came directly out of the Foster School and went to work for Wells Fargo as a banker to Middle Market companies. Middle market is defined in this case as companies that have annual revenues between $20MM and $1B. I coordinated a team of people to provide a full suite of financial services to middle market companies including credit, investments, cash management, and international financial and trade services. Based on my education and interests I specialized in banking companies that had an international component.

Later I had the opportunity to move to London with the bank to build the Financial Institutions business in the UK, Western Europe and South Africa. In this position I traveled a great deal and was in Europe during the worst of the financial crisis.  It was an anxious time. We were all trying to understand the quality of assets held on each other’s balance sheets. Some of my banking partners in Europe had purchased US mortgage assets via special investment vehicles to invest their excess cash and many of those investments included sub-prime assets. Ireland, Greece and Italy were in my territory and each of these countries was showing signs of strain. Banks became cautious about overnight lending to one another and so the ECB and the Bank of England stepped in as did the FED in the USA. It was a fascinating, yet incredibly tense time.

In 2011 I chose to move back to Seattle to be close to my grown children. With the move I accepted a position with JPMorgan Chase back in the Middle Market and am currently the Division Manager for Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada.

Banking financial institutions in Europe was fascinating but I also enjoy the middle market which is why I returned to it. While financial institutions are quite similar, middle market companies are quite different. They are involved in diverse industries, offer distinctive products, local and global, and large and small.  Their competition varies as does their competitive advantage in the market in which they conduct business. It is the banker’s responsibility to know his/her client’s business thoroughly – and this is the most interesting part of my job.

The most challenging part of my business is competitively providing what a client needs while maintaining an adequate risk profile for the bank.

What would you tell business students about the world of global business?
One of my managers once said, “Everyday the world is getting more global.” While that sounds a bit obvious, it is accurate! These days almost all business has some global component. We get closer and more integrated each year across borders. My advice to business students is to take advantage of opportunities to move beyond your own country and learn all you can. I’m sure they all understand that top management in most companies must have some understanding of global business. There are great opportunities out there in the world, but barriers and pitfalls remain. A strong manager is not naïve about these challenges but is aware of them so he/she can guide his/her business to take advantage of a world full of opportunities.

Read more about Jennifer’s background and experiences.

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