Some take shelter in the safe and familiar. Others seek the scary and unknown. That’s Elizabeth Connelly. She’s driven by the rush of risk-taking.
It’s because of her “voracious appetite for challenge,” she says. That craving has helped propel the native Chicagoan to her post as director of JPMorgan Private Client Services’ biggest region: the Midwest. It has the most assets under management, the most branch offices and the most advisors.
The job is the latest in a series of career moves, in almost 20 years with the firm, for which the born-leader has had minimal or no background and experience.
Reporting to her is a team of 300 advisors in 22 offices across four states — Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri — managing assets of more than $18 billion.
Connelly, 42, has never been a financial advisor and had comparatively little experience in wealth management prior to her promotion as regional director almost two years ago.
So “to walk in and manage a team of people — many of whom have 30 years’ experience in the business — and say, ‘Now I’ll evaluate you,’ was a very scary prospect. But I like doing things that feel scary. I just jump in,” says the Chicago-based Connelly, full of energy and speaking at a rapid clip.
Her mission: To grow the Midwest’s business in every way possible.
Thus far, she has spun her early trepidation into gold. Last year the region’s assets under management grew by 25 percent. Bank business is up 13 percent. The advisor team has had a 12 percent rise in head-count. And new offices have opened in Minneapolis and St. Louis.
“Liz motivates and inspires people. You want to be part of her team. She has great vision, the ability to communicate on many levels and incredibly strong client relationships,” says Joseph T. Kenney, CEO of JPMorgan Private Client Services.
Since taking over, Connelly has led a major recruiting push. Eschewing head-hunters, she has even sourced candidates herself. But “these days,” she is proud to say, “we have [advisors] calling us.”
The accent is on team work: All advisors work in teams that include an investment advisor, private banker, fiduciary officer and wealth advisor. Compensation is salary plus bonus, which has replaced the pre-merger commission system.
“If the advisors aren’t working as a team, they’re not doing their job,” says Connelly, who “first and foremost” looks for people with “deep intellectual curiosity. To be successful at JPMorgan, you have to be very smart and able to grasp our strategy and solutions, then articulate them clearly to clients.”