Responding to the economic crisis has meant lots of meetings and not much sleep for Mary Callahan Erdoes, the chief executive officer of global wealth management for JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The company's global leadership team, which met each Tuesday prior to the crisis, now sat down three times each weekday and twice daily on the weekends through the winter to discuss the latest economic developments and what it meant for the bank and its customers.
"We were constantly in meetings," Erdoes says. CEO Jamie Dimon "ran firmwide leadership meetings at 7:30, noon, and 5 p.m., and then at 12 and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sundays. It was around the world. It didn't matter what time zone you were in, everyone was contributing on a real-time basis."
Colleagues say Erdoes was a workaholic before the economic crisis began, often putting in 12-hour days, seven days a week.
"If there were an Olympic event for responding to e-mails at all hours of the day from around the world, she'd win a gold medal," says Glenn Dubin, the CEO and co-founder of Highbridge Capital Management, the global hedge fund owned by JPMorgan Chase. "I have no idea how she does it all. She is thoroughly engaged in her work."
Did we mention Erdoes has three daughters under the age of seven?
Beyond her membership on the JPMorgan Chase executive committee, she also sits on the boards of Highbridge, JPMorgan Suisse (the private bank's flagship offshore unit) and the investment committee of JPMorgan Asset Management.
Erdoes makes it a point to meet with more than 250 clients annually, attend more than 100 client events globally and send handwritten welcome notes to every new client. All that hard work paid off in 2008 when the global wealth management unit generated $80 billion in net new inflows.
"This is a 24-7 job," she says. "Markets are closed only for a few hours from Saturday to Sunday, and when you are dealing with constant changes, you by definition have to find a way to stay one step ahead."
Her group was able to attract new assets and customers because "we proved we could decipher the market and navigate the storm," Erdoes says.
The global wealth management business continued to hire advisers during the crisis and Erdoes says she expects to continue hiring next year.
"We have had a flight of assets and flight of talent to JPMorgan Chase," she says. "We are attracting people who, for the first time in their lives, have rethought who they are working for. This has helped us attract clients."
Erdoes says the company continues to look for opportunities to acquire, with a particular eye on foreign markets. More than anything, she says her team is preparing clients to re-enter markets.
"This is not a normal recession that will be followed by a normal recovery. Everything is totally unprecedented," she says. "We aren't just going to move our clients back to long-only equity products. There are a lot of interesting things that we are going to need to explain to clients in terms of alternative investment options and government-sponsored options. There is a lot of education about new instruments in the market and new opportunities."
Dubin says that Erdoes "is a stabilizing force amidst the chaos for her clients, her staff and to the external managers she works with."
"In my opinion, she has extraordinary leadership skills and that is so evident right now," he says. "It is easy to manage in good times, but it is a lot harder during tumultuous periods. A lot of her competitors have melted in the heat."
Erdoes says the economic crisis required a lot of juggling, especially with those three young daughters. "My husband and I handled it all together," she says. "We were lucky to have a great support system of relatives. My parents basically moved from Chicago to live with us through the fall, which was really helpful."
She says JPMorgan Chase is back to its regular schedule of weekly meetings. "Everything is such a blur, still," she says. "The meetings haven't stopped. We are endlessly devouring facts. We are now conditioned that this is a world that moves faster."
As for sleep, Erdoes says, "I'll have plenty of time for that later."