Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 2, JPMorgan Chase's Marianne Lake

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Chief Financial Officer, JPMorgan Chase

In her nearly six years as chief financial officer, Marianne Lake has emerged as the public voice of JPMorgan Chase, fielding questions from investors and reporters in a rapid-fire style that makes her sound unflappable.

Nowhere was that more on display than at JPMorgan’s annual investor day in February. The high-profile event, held at the company’s New York headquarters, previously featured five presentations, from the CFO and the heads of the four business lines. This year, however, the company combined them all into one — and gave Lake the task of delivering it.

Over the course of 90 minutes, Lake had the stage to herself as she walked through JPMorgan’s financial performance and strategic priorities, emphasizing the company’s “digital everything” philosophy. The U.K. native even loosened up the room with a joke about her British accent.

The presentation required several months of preparation, during which Lake met with executives across JPMorgan to carefully craft her message. But when it came time to step onstage, she wasn’t anxious.

“I always have a healthy dose of normal nerves, but you can’t be nervous if you’ve tried your hardest and prepared the best you can,” Lake said. “If you’ve really put in the effort and invested and worked hard and prepared well, there’s nothing more you can do.”

“I think you should be nervous when you haven’t tried hard enough.”

After the company decided last summer on the format for its 2018 investor day, Lake began preparing an outline for her presentation, which she finished in November. She kicked her preparations into high gear in January, she said.

“We had the outline, we knew the basic story we wanted to tell, and then you just spend a lot of time diving deep with the people who are running the businesses and meeting with the clients and really exploring around the edges of everything you want to say,” she said. “We iterate a lot.”

Lake’s prominence at JPMorgan has raised questions about what’s next for her at the company. Asked whether she would be interested in running a business line, Lake emphasized that she is happy in her current job — but is also keeping all her options on the table.

“I’m kind of open-minded about what could be next,” she said. “There are a lot of interesting places to be in this company.”

Lake is also widely viewed as a possible successor to Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, who said in January that he plans to stay at the helm for five more years. Lake said she was pleased with Dimon’s decision, adding that JPMorgan has several qualified executives to someday succeed him.

“Would it be my privilege to be considered by the board someday? Of course. But it’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying or thinking about,” she said.

Lake, in the meantime, has plenty on her plate. She oversees 15,000 employees, and is responsible for asset and liability management, stress testing, regulatory affairs, risk management and investor relations, among several other areas.

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While she is best known for talking about the big picture, she has worked to improve day-to-day operations at JPMorgan.

Lake recently implemented a “war room” approach to problem-solving within her division. She describes it as a way to cut through the bureaucratic cycle of scheduling and rescheduling meetings, which often result in a list of takeaways for more meetings.

Her “war room” approach has produced tangible results. This year, for instance, her department reduced the average time it takes to onboard a new vendor to 57 days from 151 days.

Lake prefers the more direct approach.

“You get the right people. You put them in a room. You give them a mandate, and you give them time,” she said.

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