Spotlight: Meet Sheena Gray of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The Out & About Blog Spotlight Series elevates insight from the financial service industry’s best and brightest. We cover challenging topics around diversity, inclusion, purpose, and inspiring the next generation. 

Through sharing insights and best practices, together we can shape the future of the financial services industry and support improved access to qualified, ethical financial advice and resources for all.



image2-Sep-22-2020-06-08-01-10-PMWe had the honor to interview Sheena Gray, Executive Director of U.S. Wealth Management Diversity and Inclusion Lead at JPMorgan Chase & Co. In this role, she has been able to have a huge impact on the leaders across the organization. She helps to train and equip them to create an inclusive environment and identify unconscious bias so that employees can come to work and be authentic every day. 

She says that fostering an inclusive environment is just how they do business. Period. It’s not just checking off a box. Diversity is broader than just race or gender; it includes diversity of thought, educational backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds and more. This variety of talent brings a rich culture to her organization and allows employees to better relate to and serve their clientele. Because of this culture, she personally feels like she can show up and be her authentic self at work too. She shares that though big strides have been made, there is still a lot more work to do in the financial services industry. It starts with each individual being aware of the issues at hand and making a conscious choice to be a part of the solution. Once that happens, there are a multitude of tools, resources to help support that mission, and that is where her role comes in.

She shared a quote from Vernā Myers that says, “Diversity is when you’re invited to the party, but inclusion is when you’re asked to dance.” At her Chase, she wants to make sure that her employees are always asked to dance. 

Click here to watch the full interview with Sheena Gray.

 



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INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTION

Lauren (00:12):
Hi and thanks to everyone for watching. So today we're very excited to have Sheena Gray join us. She is the Executive Director of U.S. Wealth Management, Diversity and Inclusion Need at J.P., J.P. Morgan and Chase and Company. So she has a very incredible background and we're excited to not only hear about her background, but how she got to her role that is focused on diversity inclusion. Then also, we will talk a  little bit more about what Chase is doing to support diversity inclusion efforts, as well as just inspiration for the next generation, who are looking to get into this financial services space. So, I've said enough, Sheena, now we will let you take it away. So can you just share a little bit about what brought you to Chase and really how you got into financial services in general?

Sheena (00:59):
Sure. So I actually started out my career as a bank teller at the age of 14, and it was a great program that was implemented by my high school. And I had the opportunity to work with a phenomenal financial advisor who worked in the branch, and did an awesome job at selling if you will, the opportunity to work for a bank. She actually served as my mentor throughout college and throughout my high school career. And she shared with me all of the strategies and the things that she learned in her own personal life to help her build her personal wealth. And then how she talked to her clients. 

Initially for me, I wanted to go to school and be an attorney, and that was my primary focus. But after continuing my relationship with her I have the opportunity to see her growth and see her succeed in her current workspace. And then that motivated me to kind of pivot and change my career path. And that's how I had the opportunity to go into the financial services industry. Initially, I started as a financial advisor outside of JP Morgan Chase, and then I entered the firm, with the sole focus of going into leadership. So I started out at the bank managing branches. And then after doing that as a people leader for the last 14 years, I landed in the role of diversity and inclusion for U.S. wealth management.

Lauren (02:24):
Oh, that's wonderful. Can you share a little bit more about what your role looks like and how Chase is leaning into the efforts around diversity and inclusion?

Sheena (02:36):
Sure. So in my current role, as it relates to diversity and inclusion, it's our job in the current space that I sit in to ensure that our U.S. wealth management employees are in an inclusive environment and that we are retaining and attracting diverse talent. So, many of the initiatives I help drive in this diversity and inclusion space for JP Morgan Chase are geared towards our diverse and primarily our black population of advisors.

Lauren (03:12):
Very good. Can you share a little bit more about the types of initiatives that Chase is taking to fulfill that mission? So either specifics around training for hire, you know, around training or hiring or initiatives that you're doing that work to continue the communication?

Sheena (03:33):
Sure. So like all DNI leaders, there's always training. We always have training for unconscious bias. We always want to make sure that our employees are fully aware of bias that can be present. And most importantly, that our employees and our leaders are treating our employees fair. But one of the things I really like about our firm is we don't stop there. We encourage our leaders to understand that having an inclusive environment is how we do business, right? It's not just a check of a box. We want to make sure that every conversation we have with our employees, we make sure that our leaders are equipped with all the resources and tools that they need to have those courageous conversations with their teams and that they explore and continually increase diverse representation at every level. 

And that's one of the things I like most about the career path that I've kind of landed in over these last few months is I get an opportunity to make such a huge impact. Not only in the U.S. wealth management space, but with other leaders across the organization. Because we all work together. We love to say we're all one Chase, we're all one big family. And when it comes to making sure that we make our employees feel like they belong, we all work together to make that mission happen.

Lauren (04:57):
Very good. And then for, you know individuals that are just getting their career going that may want to jump into this space, what advice would you give to them?

Sheena (05:10):
I would say be open to the fact that the financial industry is not just about being a banker anymore, right? There's so many different roles and career paths that are available. And I think that so many college students look at the bank and they think that there's just one track. We have so many fields and opportunities available as it relates to the tech space, digital space, operations... um there are so many moving parts that have to come together to ensure that the advisor is able to make a great recommendation for their client. 

I feel like when I look at some of the college students that I mentor, and some college students that are in some of the organizations that I support, I don't think that they look at the financial industry as the top field to go in. And when I think about what's going on in the world today, and I think of how we all had to pivot over the last few months, as we have turned to working remotely in this COVID season, and we all have to have a better work life balance. Working in a financial industry will give you the opportunity to have that balance. 

I can speak for myself as a mom of four and as a leader in diversity, right. I mean, who would have thought that I'd be working at a bank in diversity? When I think about the conversations that I've had with my daughter, when she asks, “Mom, what do you do for a living?” You know, she just assumed that I was a banker. I saw her, you know, do a presentation at school about her mom. And she says, my mom's a banker. I'm like, “ I'm not a banker, where'd you get that from?” Right, because I work at a bank, that's her association, right with banks. 

And so what I would tell a young person going into the field is first find a mentor within Chase, someone to sponsor you, someone to kind of show you the rules of the road, if you will, and help encourage you to find the best career path for you. And we have great people in our team that do just that. Ask questions, check LinkedIn, to see if there is someone who is currently at your university that has graduated from your university, works at Chase that could help kind of provide you a good path on what you need to do next. And then lastly, I would say just, just always remember that this industry is definitely where you want to be. We offer the same flexibility that so many other industries offer. Um but what makes this one most unique is that working in the financial industry allows and affords you the opportunity to learn how to increase wealth in your own household, because this is what you live and breathe and do on a daily basis. It makes it easier for you to catch on and then share with others in the community and in your homes.

Lauren (08:01):
Yeah, that's really good. That's really good insight. And that's so true when you're exposed to more information and knowledge, it makes you smarter. So then you can actually apply that and then you can support, like you said, your community as well. And you make a great point too about it not just being an industry to sort of overlook, but they're really looking a little bit deeper that there's a lot of opportunities there.

Sheena (08:25):
Definitely, you know, I think about my childhood growing up. I grew up in a household where we didn't talk about money. I grew up in a household where we didn't have a financial advisor. I didn't see my parents sit at the table, planning for their retirement or for our college, even. “ I was just told you better get a scholarship if you want to go to school.” And so look at the opportunities that have been afforded to me. And I'm so grateful that I'm able to share what I've learned with my daughter helping her open her first bank account at 13 years old, helping her buy stock, you know, at the age of 10. So the things that I've learned as a financial services professional, I'm able to not only show her, but then she'll share that and pass it to generations to come. And it just goes, you know, it's cyclical from there. So it's important, especially in the black community, to make sure that we represent the importance of financial services because increase in black wealth is so important. And having those conversations in the household, I mean they're necessary.

Lauren (09:34):
Absolutely. Yeah, so good. And in your role, you know, you've been in this space for some time. You've seen a number of different sides of the industry. And now you're, you know, really in a unique position where you can sort of see that, that umbrella view, I would assume. And talking about those strategic conversations and from your perspective, what do you feel like needs to be done in the financial services space to really, ensure that diversity and inclusion lives and breathes throughout not only everything that you're doing at Chase, but then outside of Chase at large?

Sheena (10:12):
I think as financial services leaders, we have to be culture keepers. We have to make sure that our culture is one that breeds inclusivity. We have to make sure that we have a culture that makes folks feel like they belong. And I think that's what sets JP Morgan Chase apart from the rest. I can come to work and show up and be who I am every single day. And I think over the years in coming from a regulatory environment, which I have been in the last seven years, which is very, very different from what I do now, I can honestly say that I appreciate working in this diversity space and just being able to not just follow the rules of the road, but make a huge impact in how we treat not only our employees, but also our clients, because we want to make sure that, you know, we like to say here at Chase, a happy employee is a happy client, right? So it starts at home. We have to make sure that our employees are well taken care of. We have to make sure that we not only attract talent, but we also retain the talent that we have. So as financial services professionals, we definitely have to do a better job,at making sure that our culture is inclusive. 

There is a Vernā Myers  quote that says, "Diversity is when you are invited to the party, but inclusion is when you're asked to dance." So I want to make sure that at our firm, that you're being asked to dance and that you understand that diversity is not just about race, it's not just about gender, right? It's also about a diversity of thought and where you went to school— all of that matters, right? So I think that as a firm, if we continue to lead with the “I” in inclusion, I think we'll be successful and I think across the board, in the financial industry, we all have to do the same. I mean the numbers don't lie, so we all know that we have work to do, right? So it just has to start with you. It has to start with what you believe, how you show up, and most importantly, how you foster an inclusive environment.

Lauren (12:26):
It's so, so good. It's inspirational hearing you share that. I love that quote too. So what upcoming initiatives do you have going on at Chase that would be good for those listening to know about?

Sheena (12:42):
So a few things. So, as I mentioned before, we want to make sure that our employees have mentors, right? Success has been proven when you have someone that is outside of your four walls. So we're now in zoom, right? So someone outside of your box, your Zoom box every day, that is truly leaning into you, supporting you, encouraging you and just being a listening ear. 

So we have provided for our diverse employees, mentoring circles. With the mentor and circles that we've started, they're led by our black leadership forum participants. And those particular leaders are sharing that when we have brand new employees start with our firm, that they have the support that they need to be successful and make sure that we continue to train those mentors and equip them with everything that they need so that they are quality mentors, if you will. 

We also have extended memberships for the association of African American Financial Advisors that's one of our partners that we have, and we make sure that our members who not just our members, but our financial advisors hold those memberships and that they partner with organizations that they can network with and help build their professional skills. 

The third thing that we've launched here at JP Morgan Chase is a partnership with the CFP Board's Annual Diversity Summit and the primary purpose of partnering with that summit is to increase diversity representation within the wealth management industry and ensuring that our advisors have the opportunity to obtain their CFP. And that's something that the firm actually sponsors for our advisors as well.

Lauren (14:26):
Wonderful. Well, thank you for sharing those and we'll include the links below and the additional resources for the various initiatives that you all have going on or are sponsoring. As we're wrapping up here, is there anything that you would like to close with or share in reflection from our conversation today?

Sheena (14:46):
I would say, you know, one of the things that we model here at Chase is that we want to make sure our employees feel like they belong here. And if I could give any advice to any young professional looking to start a new career, I would say JP Morgan Chase is definitely the place to go. And not just because I work here, but because I grew up here. When I think about the last 14 years of my life, I grew up at JP Morgan Chase. The relationships and networks I have built have made me who I am, and not only have they made me who I am, but I'm able to also pour out to others and share the things that I've learned. And it goes right back into that full circle. And I see so many of my colleagues doing the same. I would definitely say, this is the place you want to be.

Lauren (15:40):
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for sharing a little bit about your background and insight. We really appreciate your time and we look forward to continuing the conversation.

Sheena (15:53):
Thank you so much, Lauren.

Lauren (15:55):
Alright, thanks.