Mary Callahan Erdoes is grateful for the technology that gives her the flexibility to work from anywhere, but she wouldn't mind the occasional blackout zone.
"I thought it was the worst thing when they created WiFi on overnight European flights," jokes the head of JPMorgan Chase's asset management division. "It was my last spot of sanity."
Of course, working on planes, trains and automobiles is de rigueur for the woman who oversees the management of $2.4 trillion in client assets at the country's largest banking company. Since assuming her role in 2009, Erdoes has made asset management a reliable warhorse atJPMorgan, generating 11% of the company's annual revenue and net income in 2013.
It hasn't been as easy as the numbers might make it sound. Erdoes' division is the subject of some of the regulatory scrutiny that has plagued JPMorgan in recent years: the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have reportedly launched probes into whether the company pushes private-banking clients toward its own products over outside options. (Erdoes would not discuss the inquiries.)
Even so, she is frequently on analysts' short lists of possible successors to JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon.
But Erdoes, one of the two women on JPMorgan's 12-member operating committee (along with Chief Financial Officer Marianne Lake), says she's too busy concentrating on asset management to worry about hypotheticals.
Just as Erdoes takes a long view of asset management, she understands that the career arcs of women in banking and finance may not always follow linear tracks. Last year, she launched two programs aimed at giving women in the industry a greater range of opportunities for career advancement.
Erdoes' ReEntry program, modeled on JPMorgan's rigorous internships for recent college graduates, aims to bring women who have taken breaks from asset management back into the fold. Often, "women fall out of the workforce during years where they wanted to do other things in their life, pursue a different job track or raise a family," Erdoes says. When they're ready to return, "they don't have a natural way of coming back into the industry."
Erdoes created a 14-week intensive training program to help would-be returnees update their skill sets. Last fall, 10 women were selected from a pool of 186 applicants to rotate through JPMorgan's asset management division, working directly with clients. All 10 participants were hired at the end of the program, and Erdoes' team is in the process of culling an expanded fall class from 500 applications. Other JPMorgan divisions are considering adopting similar programs, Erdoes says, and the company's global legal department is on board.
"We're hoping that other companies will read about it and do the same," she says.
Erdoes' talent for finding practical ways to help women build their careers is also evident in Women on the Move, a program she created last summer along with Lake to send top-ranking women at JPMorgan's New York headquarters on round-the-world trips to meet with other female staffers. Since June 2013, JPMorgan's senior women have visited 21 cities across five continents.