Survivor Instinct

How a strategic executive read all the corporate signs—and played her vantage points

Name Kimberly Davis
Title Senior Vice President, Global Philanthropy, JPMorganChase and president of the JPMorganChase Foundation
Location New York
Age 47
Power Play Has survived — and thrived — after eight banking industry mergers

BE: Describe the mergers you’ve experienced and how you were able to position yourself for success.
KD: Let me start with the first: I was with a small bank in Bridgeport, Connecticut, called CityTrust Bank with about 2,400 employees. In August 1991, it was acquired by Chase Manhattan. By January of 1992, I realized that to be successful in the new organization, I was going to have to figure out a way to move my job prospects to the headquarters in New York. They were consolidating all of the back-office capabilities at CityTrust into the new Chase organization, and many of the profit and loss roles were being integrated into New York. I figured I had 18 months before most of the jobs in Connecticut would be eliminated. Within the next two years, the organization went from 2,400 down to 200.

BE: And you were one of the 200.
KD: I was one of the 200. One of the things that’s important in a career is having a strong expertise. For me, it was finance and marketing. I had been in a position where I had held two very substantial roles in finance and marketing, so when the new people came in I was able to quickly show my competence. And because of my ability to build relationships with them, I became someone who they embraced as part of the new management structure. Part of it is luck. I would be remiss if I believed that all of it had to do with competence.

BE: And the mergers continued.
KD: In 1995, Chase and Chemical Bank merged. Chemical and Manufacturer’s Hanover had just merged, and those two organizations hadn’t really been integrated when Chase and Chemical merged — so it was really three mergers — Manufacturer’s Hanover, Chemical, and Chase. That was very ugly and the cultures were very different. [There was] a lot of infighting. But I [met] the head of human resources at an event a year before the merger. When the merger happened, I got a call from him saying he was impressed with me, and I took the initiative to build a relationship with him. He [later] had a big opportunity in human resources and asked me if I’d be willing to do a two-year stint. People thought I was crazy to leave a P&L [position] and move to human resources, but strategically, it was a wonderful way for me to learn the new organization from the top. Being in that staff role in corporate, I was able to see all of the businesses as opposed to being in the one narrow business pre-merger.

BE: How should a professional prepare once a merger is on the horizon?
KD: [Identify] where the growth opportunities are, [and] what the new business model is going to be. Who’s in power, who’s out of power? Align yourself with those who are

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