Business Insider recently caught up with Rebecca Patterson, the chief investment officer of Bessemer Trus
t, to hear about her outlook for the global economy in 2017.
Bessemer Trust, a multifamily office, oversees more than $100 billion in assets.
Patterson was the former chief markets strategist for JPMorgan Asset Management and former global head of foreign exchange and commodities for the JPMorgan Private Bank. She started her career in journalism as a reporter for Dow Jones in London.
She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the New York Federal Reserve’s Investor Advisory Committee and the Economic Club of New York. American Banker named her one of “The 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance” in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
In the interview, Patterson gives her advice for women building a career on Wall Street.
This is part two of a series. Part one was a discussion on protectionism, China, and Dow 20k.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Tina Wadhwa: American Banker named you one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Finance” for the past three years in a row. What does it take to be a powerful woman in finance?
Rebecca Patterson: The same thing that it takes to be a powerful man in finance, which is really knowing whatever you’re investing in, knowing the markets, knowing the economy, working really, really hard, and loving what you do. If you’re not passionate about investing, I think it’s incredibly hard to succeed as an investor. I do think it’s generally true for a woman as for a man in terms of what the basic building blocks to succeed are.
Wadhwa: As a women who rose through the ranks to become chief markets strategist of JPMorgan Asset Management and now chief investment officer of Bessemer Trust, what do you see are the biggest challenges for senior women in a male dominated industry?
Patterson: I think it goes both ways. I think there is a benefit to women in that you’re often one of, if not the only, person of your gender in a room, so people remember you. I think it helps you stand out. So there are some positives. I do think there does still exist some unconscious bias among men, and frankly, among some, conscious bias, and as a women you just have to be aware of it and figure out what you need to do to make sure you’re heard.
To me that’s the biggest one, just making sure that you raise your hand and you’re heard. I do think, still today, men are more comfortable speaking up, making a point, and throwing out a proactive suggestion, and women, broadly speaking, tend to try to build consensus or phrase things as a question. You have to take a stand, and you have to stick your neck out.
Wadhwa: I remember when I was an intern at JP Morgan, you were very involved with mentoring interns and women at the bank, organising women’s only dinners and events. How important is this and how can the industry be better at cultivating female talent?
Patterson: I’m still very involved in those sorts of things at my current firm, and I try where I can to get involved with young people and young women generally because I think financial intelligence is so important no matter what you’re going to do with your life. There’s still a long ways to go, in terms of just making sure women appreciate what they can do in a financial career and how a financial career can combine with being a mother and being a wife. I don’t think these are mutually incompatible at all. I have two amazing daughters and a wonderful husband. They’re both big commitments, but equally satisfying in different ways.
One thing that I’ve been active in at all of the financial firms where I’ve been fortunate enough to work is finding sponsors, not just mentors but sponsors, and helping women network. Basically identifying a young person who has drive and talent and then helping them find things that they can do that they can succeed in and helping them build the networks and the profiles they need to for whatever their job is. I think proactive attention to young people with a lot of potential makes a big difference. So that’s something I try to drive wherever I’m working.
Another key thing is building networks. Making sure people know that it’s just not enough to come in and do a great job, but you also need to think about who do I want to know me and who do I want to get to know. You never know where the next opportunity is going to come from. Obviously with your career, you’ve lived this, and I think I have too.
One thing I’ve done during my career is reach out to successful people that I just thought would be interesting to know. My rule of thumb is never come empty handed. So I would ask them if I could buy them a coffee or a quick lunch. With that gesture, ask if they can give you 45 min or an hour and talk about what they do and you can learn more and see where you might want to go with your career. If you ask good questions, if you’ve done your homework and you show passion, sometimes you can make a good impression that might open the door for you in the future. I still do that today.
I also got one great piece of advice from an incredibly successful person both in the private and public sector and he said “Rebecca anytime you get the opportunity to be involved with a group, if it looks interesting, do it.” That group is going to introduce you to more people and that might open you up to more opportunities and other directions. I definitely try to do that and make sure that I’m opening myself up to meeting with different people and learning about other opportunities because everyone you meet, you gain new perspectives about the market, about the economy, about politics, and frankly, just makes you smarter.
Wadhwa: On that note, if you could reach out to one person to learn more about his/her career, who would it be?
Patterson: There are so, so many people I would love to speak with, but if I had to pick one today, I am sure high, if not top, on my list would be German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She has faced an enormous number of challenges getting to where she is now and in her role now, and has carried herself with confidence and integrity throughout.
Wadhwa: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
Peterson: I think you have to keep an open mind. Be open to taking different directions in your career. Moving from journalism to finance was a leap into the unknown for me and I’m so grateful I did it. I grew up thinking I would be a European expert, and I spoke French and learned Italian and German, and then I ended up living in Singapore. I had never even been to Singapore before and I moved there for my job. I’m so grateful for that because I got a chance to really understand China and the region and that’s helped me immensely in my career. Frankly, I think that all that travel has made me a better human. So whether it’s a little thing like speaking up at a meeting or a big thing like moving yourself or your family to a new country that you’ve never even visited before, having an open mind about your career is going to help you a lot more than hurt you. And then finding what you’re passionate about. I love financial markets, I love the global economy, I love thinking about how all the pieces of our world fit together and where we go next. It’s that never ending game of chess that we all play, and I thrive off it. Finding something you love, keeping an open mind to new opportunities, even though they weren’t on your master plan, and trying things that are a little scary.
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