A top JPMorgan banker explains what he looks for in new hires

John Simmons didn’t expect to go into banking.

His father was a plumber. He jokes that when he flew in to Newark airport for his interview with JPMorgan, he had $US120 in his pocket. It cost him that much to get from the airport to New York City. He wasn’t much of a negotiator back then, he quips.

More than 20 years later, he’s still with the bank, and heads the middle market banking & specialised industries (MMBSI) group in JPMorgan’s commercial banking business. MMBSI look after companies with between $US20 million and $US500 million in revenue, and now has a local presence in the top 50 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the US.

The commercial banking business has been hiring, adding more than 150 revenue-producing bankers between 2014 and 2016. It’s adding staff in new markets, recently opening its first commercial banking outpost in Nevada, and bulking up on specialised industry bankers.

We recently caught up with Simmons, and asked him what he looks for in new hires. He said he looks for “all around athletes,” and set out four key attributes he looks for.

  • Is the person curious? Do they read the newspaper? Are they doing anything to make themselves better? Those are the most interesting people.
  • Would you want to go to dinner with them? Wall Streeters make finance sound complicated, but it’s not really. Banking is a business based on serving companies, and that means knowing when to talk, and knowing when to listen.
  • Hard work is a given. Not much more to say there.
  • How do they handle and tolerate failure? Simmons says that whenever he makes a mistake, he publicizes it, to destigmatize making mistakes and also to share the lessons.

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