JPMorgan senior banker Karen Simon to leave after 36 years

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JPMorgan Chase's Karen Simon, one of the firm's most senior female bankers, is departing after 36 years at the company.

Simon, 60, most recently led JPMorgan's director advisory services team, which helps company boards find new members. She'll be retiring at the end of the summer, according to a memo sent to employees and seen by Bloomberg. The bank hasn't named a replacement, said spokeswoman Tasha Pelio, who confirmed the contents of the memo.

Known for her thick Texas accent and boisterous laugh, Simon started her career at one of JPMorgan's predecessors as an analyst in 1983. She became a role model for many within the male-dominated investment bank as she took on an array of senior roles in New York, London and Dallas, including co-head of EMEA debt capital markets and chief of global financial-sponsor coverage.

Around 2013, when she discovered there weren't any women in the bank's oil and gas group in Texas, she formed a group of women from various product areas related to the sector to help them learn from each other and network. Many of the women in the 26-person group still keep in touch.

"When Karen believes in something — be it on behalf of a client, on behalf of a colleague, on behalf of a junior banker who's up and coming — she brings this energy and she won't let you off the hook until she gets the right answer," Eric Stein, head of North America investment banking, said in an interview. "She always got to yes very quickly."

Simon used her influence in her most recent role to encourage companies to add directors from diverse backgrounds, Stein said. This included helping Kraton Corp., a specialty chemicals company, add women to its board as it pushes to make the panel 50% female.

"Every merger we did as a firm brought new opportunities, which is something I tell women all the time: Take the risk," Simon said in an interview from Norway. "Sometimes people don't want to move to new jobs because they feel safe. Sometimes they just need a nudge."

Bloomberg News