Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 6, JPMorgan Chase's Sandie O'Connor
Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer, JPMorgan Chase
Few bankers can claim to have created a new financial market. But Sandie O’Connor can.
In April, the Federal Reserve began publishing a replacement for the London interbank offered rate, a reference rate currently used to set the price of derivatives, commercial loans and a host of other products. A month later, futures contracts on the new rate – known as the secured overnight financing rate – began trading.
It was a milestone that capped off a two-year-long effort, led by O’Connor, to establish a possible replacement for Libor ahead of its scheduled demise in 2021. O’Connor has been out in front in explaining the advantages of the new system.
One of Libor’s major weaknesses is that the volume of interbank transactions on which the rate is based has dwindled in recent years, often to less than $1 billion per day, O’Connor said at an industry symposium in June.
“Think about this enormous inverted triangle,” O’Connor said. “You have $200 trillion worth of activity referencing less than $1 billion in daily trades.”
SOFR, by contrast, is calculated from a much larger market of overnight repurchase agreements, with roughly $750 billion in daily trading volume.
“Just to set this puppy up: $750 billion in daily volume makes SOFR the deepest, highest-volume rates market in the world, bar none,” O’Connor said. “By the way, the benchmark didn’t exist until April 3.
“It’s not just that we’re going away from something – we are going to something that’s really, really good,” O’Connor said.
Still, by most accounts, the banking industry is nowhere near prepared for the end of Libor. So it has once again leaned on O’Connor, a longtime JPMorgan executive, to lead the way.
Earlier this year, O’Connor was again unanimously elected as chairman of the Alternative Reference Rate Committee. The Fed panel, which selected SOFR last summer, was reconvened by the central bank with the goal of helping banks navigate complicated logistics involved in moving to a new reference rate.
It’s a big job that has major implications for financial markets. It’s also only one part of O’Connor’s job at JPMorgan, the nation’s biggest bank by assets.
In addition to working on the transition to a new reference rate, O’Connor regularly meets with policymakers, both in the U.S. and across the globe, on matters ranging from cybersecurity to fintech regulation. She is the point person for JPMorgan, for instance, in discussions with policymakers on the implementation of Basel and the president’s executive orders on regulatory reform, among other matters.
Through it all, though, O’Connor has nonetheless carved out time over the past year to make good on one of her personal goals for the year: getting more sleep. After getting just a “handful of hours” of sleep a night for decades, O’Connor committed this year to consistently getting a full night of rest.
“I’ve been succeeding and can say I feel great,” she said.