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Niamh is an Executive Director in the Investor Services sector at J.P. Morgan, having built an impressive career over the past 17 years. She actively encourages her young team to aim for a rewarding career and balanced life in the industry, and closely mentors female entrepreneurs and new mothers in the firm. We sat down with her to talk about working with young people and building her career in the finance industry.
When did you get into finance?
It was about halfway through my first year at university when I realised I was really enjoying my Economics module. I’d done all sciences and languages through school, no business subjects, so it was that introduction to economics that became a turning point for me!
How do you find working in finance as a woman?
I’ve been in the industry for 17 years and I’ve seen huge progress in terms of basic things, like ratio representation within a team - our team is a 50/50 gender split. I’ve never felt that being a woman has hampered me, or that I am a woman in a man’s world. J.P. Morgan is smart about recognising people’s strengths and talents, whoever they are.
As a mum, do you feel you have the same opportunities as colleagues who don't have kids?
Definitely! I’ve been incredibly lucky with the support I’ve had from the firm. I’ve had the opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility, to grow my business and my team. I’ve never been put under pressure to stay late, or to take a trip somewhere; I’ve never felt that my promotion prospects were linked to the fact that I had two children. Senior management take an active role in ensuring that working mums have opportunities at every level.
What have you learned from working with young people?
Our interns and grads have a voice, so I’ve learnt to listen more than ever before. Managing a junior team of people, it’s very easy to just step into the dictatorial leadership seat where you’re telling them what to do; but actually, if you take a step back and listen to what they’re proposing, you see that our young workforce have some fantastic ideas about how to re-engineer the existing business. They constantly find smarter, faster, more cost-efficient ways of doing things, so it’s important they see that their contribution is recognised and valued! Sitting down with them to make sure they feel like they’re getting enough responsibility and recognition, or if there are any projects that they’d like to work on, is essential.
What are their social lives like?
Our team, especially the younger ranks, all socialise together. They try out a new food craze, do a spin class together or go to a music festival at the weekend. When you join at a junior level, you have a great network of friends and you do a lot together.
What is your part in the firm's mentoring scheme?
I currently have too many mentees to mention, but I can’t say no to people! A lot of my job involves coaching because many of my team are quite junior; they join a very fast-paced office where most of them haven’t worked in a sales environment before. I think it’s nice to be able to coach them to progress and watch them run with client relationships and pitches very early on in their careers. I was also lucky to take part in our Female Founders program, mentoring female entrepreneurs who, on an informal basis, require some assistance on day-to-day issues that they’re facing within their business.
I always say to people, “The sky is the limit, there is no glass ceiling.” It’s a very entrepreneurial environment at J.P. Morgan - if you’re hard working, visionary, innovative, and if you’ve got drive and motivation, you can do amazing things.
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