Survivor Instinct

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


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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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