Heidi Miller is arguably the highest-profile woman in banking, so when she speaks, people take notice.
Take her keynote address at this year's NACHA Payments conference, where the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Treasury and Securities Services outlined "dangers" - not just challenges or roadblocks - facing the automated clearing house network. Miller used her pulpit to protest the high-risk, high-dollar transactions going through the network, and to urge limits on the much-anticipated same-day ACH capabilities coming into play next year. The talk "didn't pull any punches" on burgeoning problems, wrote Glenbrook Partners consultant Erin McCune in a company blog posting.
"She did challenge the audience," concurs NACHA president and CEO Janet Estep. But Miller also "encouraged innovation in a number of ways - technology, but also innovation in pricing, [and] in how we deal with risk."
Miller's major speech got attention, and not just because JPMorgan Chase, as the largest-volume ACH originator, has a big stake in the matter. She's also in the inner circle of JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, and the captain of the division Dimon credits as one of the key earnings drivers - the "Warren Buffett businesses" - at what is regarded as the healthiest of the nation's big banks. Miller's division, which provides complex transactional, custodial-asset and information services for corporate and government clients, has been a rock-steady performer for most of this decade, and now generates $9 billion a year in revenue.
The sheen wore off a bit this year, as the TSS division dealt with the challenges of a domestic slowdown in core areas like securities lending and foreign exchange, according to Miller. TSS' second-quarter revenues declined 6 percent year-over-year, to $1.9 billion. However, her department's influence in the organization has been bolstered by continued overseas expansion. Hotspots included Asia, the Middle East and Europe, where TSS acquired the holdings of a Swedish global custodial firm, Nordea, and its $290 billion of assets under management.
"The world is a much more diversified place," Miller says, "and I think last year has shown that while some regions continue to deal with recession, other regions are starting to come out of it earlier." Growth rates in Asia are twice that of the U.S., she says.
The worldwide securities arm of TSS, which handles leading global hedge funds, mutual funds and pension funds, now has $13.7 trillion in assets under management. That global expansion also included a boost in international clearing and settlement via new multi-currency capabilities inherited through JPMorgan Chase's takeover of failing Bear Stearns last year.
There's still new stateside work taking shape. In January, her division's worldwide securities arm was chosen as the custodian in the Federal Reserve's plan to purchase $500 billion of mortgage securities backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. The bank also merged its brokerage business into TSS in September to form a new combined prime brokerage and custody solutions group for both hedge funds and asset managers seeking a custodial safety net for capital. Miller's group had previously formed a joint venture with the investment side of JPMorgan Chase to partner on derivatives offerings. "There are traditional prime brokerage accounts, hedge funds and the like, who were very happy to be dealing with a large player like JPMorgan," says Miller.
Even outside of the world of high finance, Miller carries a high profile. She's a board director at General Mills, and serves as a trustee at her alma mater, Princeton - a position that has her crossing paths with such fellow trustees as columnist George Will, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.