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Phyllis Campbell, Chairman of JP Morgan Chase Pacific Northwest, was our speaker for the Albers Executive Speaker Series on November 7th. Phyllis formerly served as chair of the Seattle University Board of Trustees, so she is a very good friend of the university.
The title of her talk was, "Leading in the Turbulent Financial Sector." She opened by recalling an episode in 2009 when she had just accepted the position with JP Morgan, leaving the Seattle Foundation which she had headed up since 2003. She was on a plane headed to New York, having a very nice conversation with her seat mate, but when he found out she had just taken a job with JP Morgan, he said he could not believe she had done that, since he had thought she was "a nice person." That illustrates what public opinion about JP Morgan was like back in 2009.
In 2013, JP Morgan is still surrounded in controversy, and Phyllis acknowledged how the "London Whale" episode and the bank's recent attempts to settle with regulators are still weighing on the firm's reputation.
In trying to lead through these five challenging years at JP Morgan, Phyllis shared three lessons she had learned:
When asked who her mentor was, she replied that she had many mentors, but the one with the most impact was her father. He ran a dry cleaning business and was not college educated. What lessons did she learn from her father? First, whatever you decide to take on, be the best you can be. Second, devote yourself to a cause greater than yourself. She gave the example of her father signing up for service in the military even though he had been interned in the camps with other Japanese during WWII. Despite the mistreatment, he still believed in his country.
When asked how JP Morgan can best restore its reputation in the community, Phyllis said they would do that by increased philanthropy (every business should have the philosophy that you do as well as your community does), working with community partners (non-profits who are working to improve the community), and doing things right by your customers every day.
A question was posed about how she would describe her leadership style. She answered by saying that humility was important. You have to realize you do not have all the answers and need to learn from your mistakes. Second, you should be working on empowering and mentoring the people in your organization. Third, you need to be resilient and optimistic so that others in the organization will not be discouraged by difficult times.
What are her core values? Phyllis said what drives her is a desire to give back to the community, the value of hard work, and a desire to be the best she can be.
Phyllis Campbell was an inspiration to our students in the audience, particularly our women and Asian students. It is important that they have role models of success as Phyllis exemplifies it. She is not just a successful banker, but an impactful leader in our community working for the common good.
Our next speaker is on January 16th when Ray Conner, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, will visit.
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