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On diversity issues, “we can’t just talk about change then do nothing”

Meher Sutaria at JP Morgan says people who have not embraced inclusion will lose credibility

13 October 2020

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What drew you to the derivatives industry?

Meher Sutaria
Meher Sutaria, Global Head of Equities Regulatory Reporting and EMEA Head of Global Clearing Operations at JP Morgan at JP Morgan

I have always been drawn to the finance industry. I worked at Dow Jones Telerate, a financial data vendor, in India and then I moved to London 20 years ago to continue my career in the financial sector. My first role was at GL Trade, which provided trading platforms for equities and derivatives. From there, I moved to Lehman Brothers/Nomura working within clearing technology for derivatives and I made the move to JP Morgan nine years ago to work in operations. I now head Global Clearing Operations in Europe and Regulatory Reporting & Client Money globally. The derivatives industry is very interesting. It is continuously evolving, especially now in the current regulatory landscape, and keeps us all challenged.

Who have been your role models and the most influential people in your career?

I must start with my parents, they have had a huge influence on me. From a very young age, they instilled in my brother and I a can-do attitude: we are capable of achieving anything we want, never let failure get you down, work hard, and try again.

Over the years I have had some fantastic managers who have also been my mentors. Two really stand out as being influential and helping me in my career. My first manager in London once told me: If you want something you have to ask for it, don’t expect someone to offer it to you. While women are traditionally reticent to do this, it is advice that I have followed since that day. It is basically a lesson in transparency, either in your professional or personal life. Transparency means getting what you want.

I really owe my JP Morgan career to my second manager. He has been very supportive, encouraging me to move out of my comfort zone with every additional responsibility and helping me realise that it was not as big a challenge as I thought it would be, whether internally or in my work for the industry.

How have things changed in terms of diversity and inclusion since you started working?

I do think the industry has changed from when I started working. For example, when I came to London there was a clearinghouse that hosted a Thanksgiving lunch every year. I went with my manager and there were three women there out of around 100 people. After the lunch, I told my manager that I would not be going again. I felt completely out of place. He said, "You're going to come with me every year because this is exactly the reason why you should go, it's not a reason to stop." Over four or five years I started to see a gradual shift, with more and more women attending.

Much more recently, we had a meeting at JP Morgan with a technology vendor who was giving us a demo. Every time I asked a question, the person never looked at me when he gave the answer. I hadn't noticed because I was so engrossed in the presentation, but my colleagues did, and the vendor lost credibility. This type of behaviour is not acceptable anymore and people who have not embraced inclusion will lose respect and it will limit their career progression.

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What do you see as the biggest barriers to women and ethnic minority professionals growing into leadership roles?

I do not feel that being an Indian in the UK has affected my career. I feel it is important to have role models and mentors to help you in the journey and to break barriers. As a woman, the challenge is always finding the balance between managing family and career. I have been blessed along the way with some great managers and mentors. I've been with JP Morgan for nine years now and where I work, we have lots of women in senior influential global positions. These include senior leaders across Cash and Collateral Management in operations, Operational Control, Transformation, IT, Product Development and Global Treasury, Business Management, Client Account Management, Sales, Voice Execution, and many others. So it is possible and we have great role models to look up to. There is a lot of momentum in the industry right now, it is visible and measurable. We can’t just talk about change but then do nothing, we need to take action and be measured for the changes we have brought in.

Tell us one thing you hope for future generations.

I really hope that we are not having these discussions in the future. Everybody should be able to bring their authentic self to work and teams should be built based on a person's ability rather than race, gender, religion, sexuality, and other barriers.

Meher Sutaria is an Executive Director in the Corporate & Investment Bank at JP Morgan based in London. She is a member of the Global Equities Operations Management Team with her role as the Global Head of Equities Regulatory Controls and the EMEA Head of Global Clearing Operations. Meher joined JP Morgan in 2011 and over several years has managed the successful delivery of significant programmes across Dodd Frank regulation, EMIR segregation, the front-to-back setup of new memberships for cleared OTC CCPs, MIFID II, and, more recently, Brexit for global clearing. Prior to joining JP Morgan, she worked at Nomura/Lehman Brothers for three years in the Equities Technology team where she played a key role in rebuilding the Nomura platforms post-Lehman bankruptcy.

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