General Counsel, JPMorgan Chase

"Too big to manage" is a nonissue from Stacey Friedman's point of view.

In her first few months as general counsel at JPMorgan Chase — the nation's largest bank by assets — Friedman has come up with creative ways to get her 1,900 employees working cohesively.

She recently developed what she calls "virtual practice groups," each with an online forum where staff across the globe post must-read memos and commentary on pressing issues. The forums cover topics ranging from the Brexit vote to the new Department of Labor rule that requires investment advisers to act in clients' best interests.

With this structure, even her "1,900th employee," who is sitting in an office on the other side of the world, can always be up to speed, Friedman said. It also helped cut back on lengthy email chains and time-consuming conference calls.

To get the groups started, Friedman pushed her management team to make the slow-moving mechanics of a large organization go faster. That meant not fussing so much over what a forum should look like.

"Bless a big institution, but it could take you six months to build it," Friedman said. "Or you can say, 'Let's do it next week, and we'll just call it version 1.0,'" and worry about making it "pretty" later on.

Friedman also has overseen the development of a mobile app that allows branch and call center employees to connect with each other. That idea came from a town hall meeting in Chicago, where Friedman heard complaints from younger employees who don't have company email addresses, but wanted a way to communicate with colleagues. (More than 25% of JPMorgan Chase employees work in a location where they lack a company email address or direct phone number, according to the company.)

During the Chicago event, an audience member suggested creating a mobile app. A high-ranking technology executive offered to help build it, and other employees volunteered their free time to work on it as well. The app has been well received since its launch earlier this year.

Friedman cited this as an example of how her work can go in unexpected directions. "Your job is to be the sophisticated consumer of common sense, and to weave together what you can see," she said.

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