Elizabeth Mays does not stop thinking about risk management when she leaves her office at JPMorgan Chase & Co. each day. Her most recent book, Credit Scoring for Risk Managers, was largely written from a booth at Chuck E. Cheese.
"My son loved to play at Chuck E. Cheese so we'd go there on Sunday afternoons and play games and I'd work on the book," she says. "We would cap it off with a pizza every time we were there."
A senior vice president and the head of consumer risk modeling and analytics at JPMorgan Chase, Mays oversees a staff of 65 risk managers from her office in Columbus, Ohio. JPMorgan Chase's consumer portfolio tops $473 billion, making Mays' role crucial to the bank's business.
She has written four books on risk management and has worked in both government and financial services.
Mays began her career in 1986 after she received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Cincinnati and moved to Washington without a job. But soon enough, she was analyzing financial institutions for the Government Accountability Office and later worked as an economist at the Office of Thrift Supervision. She left government in 1996 to work as a senior economist at Freddie Mac and moved to Citigroup Inc. two years later as the head of risk modeling. She joined JPMorgan Chase via Bank One seven years ago.
Mays has dedicated most of her 24-year career to studying and developing models that gauge risk at an institution. But with many financial institutions caught off guard by the severity of the financial crisis, critics have raised questions about whether any model can capture all the risks a bank faces.
"We should recognize that all models carry the risk of being wrong," she says. "But if you're very careful about the methods that you use to develop them and if you also make sure that the model developers have lots of interaction with the business people who actually use the models, then you can lower that model risk."