Kelly Coffey, chief executive officer of J.P. Morgan U.S. Private Bank in New York, currently oversees 1,500-plus advisors working with over $650 billion in client assets. She has had a long career at the firm and plenty of insights on advisor-client relations.
How did you get started in wealth management?
I like to think of myself as an accidental banker. I studied international affairs and French as an undergrad, and then went to get my master’s degree in foreign service at Georgetown. When I graduated, I really didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to round out my finance skills before I figured out my next step.
Instead of getting an MBA like so many of my friends were doing, I thought it would be more interesting to get real world, on-the-job experience, and that’s how I wound up at J.P. Morgan. I only expected to work in banking for a couple of years, but here we are 27 years later.
When I first joined J.P. Morgan, I started in the investment bank, working in merger and acquisitions (M&A) advisory in Argentina. It was an exciting time to be in Argentina. The country was becoming more stable, and in many respects, it was like watching the international affairs that I had studied in college unfold in front of my eyes.
It also was a great challenge. Not only did I have to learn new skills, like how to value a company, I had to learn a new language.
It turned out to be an incredible experience on so many levels, and it taught me a valuable lesson — the importance of self-confidence. I was learning how to do things I had never done before, and I was constantly reminding myself — I may not know how to do this but I will figure it out. And then I would, and that would give me more confidence for the next time.
I also learned how financial services is about so much more than just finance. At its core, it’s a relationship business. You need to be able to listen to your clients’ needs, to understand their goals, and then use that to deliver the solutions that fit them best. That’s true when you’re working with corporations like I was when I was in investment banking, and it’s true working with individuals and families like I do now in wealth management.
How has your career at JPMorgan been?
I’ve spent virtually my entire career at J.P. Morgan. What’s been really great about J.P. Morgan is that even though I’ve been at the same firm for so long, I feel like I’ve had several different careers along the way.
I’ve always said that my career goals are actually pretty simple: to do interesting things, working with smart and interesting people, and to have the opportunity to build and broaden my skills along the way. And J.P. Morgan has helped me do just that.
I spent my first 24 years in investment banking in a variety of different roles — M&A in Argentina, I led the diversified industrials coverage group, I was head of equity, foreign exchange (of FX) and interest rate derivatives marketing, and I ran corporate finance advisory.
I made the move to J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank in 2013. Having been with the firm for so long, I already knew the strength of the platform and quality of the people. What excited me about the move was the size of the opportunity and the team-based approach the business brings to serving clients.
What struck me almost immediately after joining the Private Bank was how in many respects it is a microcosm for the broader firm. There are so many natural touch points between the Private Bank and the firm’s other lines of business. The same clients we help with banking, mortgages or specialized credit also go into our Chase branches — in fact, 40% of our Private Bank clients use a Chase branch monthly.
We also have a strong relationship with the investment bank, where we may have a business owner client, for example, who is planning on selling their company or wants to explore an IPO and could benefit from the investment bank’s expertise. And the investment bank works with CEOs who have complex personal financial needs that we can help through the Private Bank. Since we can work with clients in both capacities, it gives us a level of insight and understanding that’s hard to match.
What is the most significant change you have seen at the firm?
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen across the industry as a whole has been the pace and scale of global regulatory change. We have had to adapt — and quickly — to many new and complex regulations.