Mike Weinbach was appointed CEO of the mortgage banking division of JPMorgan Chase in December after working at the bank in various roles for more than 12 years. He went from investment banking roles at Smith Barney and Salomon Brothers to independent entrepreneur and eventually senior positions across all of the Chase businesses – consumer banking, business banking, auto and mortgage, from running sales to serving as the CFO.
“I started working in investment banking for another firm straight out of college, having graduated [from Wharton] with a degree in finance,” Weinbach said in an interview.
He said that the experience was rewarding because of the people he met, despite the grueling work schedule. After a few years, however, he realized that his talents were much better suited to a consumer-focused role rather than continuing to work on transactions for large corporations.
“I enjoy leading and learning from our employees around the country and interacting directly with our customers,” he said.
Early bump in the road
After putting in his time in the IBD, Weinbach had to scratch the entrepreneurial itch, and he used grad school as a period of transition.
Around the time he graduated with his MBA. from Harvard Business School, Weinbach founded U-Inspire, an employee motivation and communications services start-up in Boston. Unfortunately, the company didn’t survive the fallout of the dotcom bubble and he found himself winding it down a few years later, placing his employees with customers and returning what was left of the money to his investors.
“My start-up company, U-Inspire, was a fantastic venture and exactly where I wanted to be in my career at that moment,” he said. “[After it went under,] I felt that I had let people down and was not sure what, if any, opportunities I would have going forward.”
Surprisingly, however, many of his investors reached out to him with job offers. Despite the performance of the company, they told him that they respected his frequent and transparent communication, throughout good times and bad.
“To them, it was much more about the mutual respect and openness we shared than the actual performance of the investment,” he Weinbach said. “I learned that while you can’t always control the outcome, you can always control the way you handle yourself and that’s what people remember.”
Climbing the ladder at JPMorgan Chase
Weinbach began his career with the company in 2003 working as a national sales executive for the business banking division at Bank One, prior to its merger with JPMorgan Chase.
In 2005, he became the CFO for the company’s consumer banking business, responsible for financial reporting and strategy.
Over the next ten years, he held a number of management roles at Chase, including the head of branch business banking, CFO of the auto finance division, market manager and then the head of national sales for the consumer bank.
Most recently he was the head of mortgage servicing before he was named the CEO of the mortgage banking division at the end of 2015.
“If you look at some of our most senior leaders, you’ll see that they’ve been here for 15, 20 years, having started out as analysts or in other entry-level roles,” Weinbach said. “Working in the different lines of business has given me the opportunity to learn new skills and build my network. The relationships I’ve built and knowledge I’ve gained during my time here is truly invaluable,” he said.
When lateral moves are better for your career than promotions
“Early in my career, I had a lot of success,” Weinbach said.
Success can be a great motivator, but it can also set you up to have unrealistic expectations, he said. There’s a lot to be said for intelligence, innovative thinking and a fresh perspective, but experience is also incredibly important. Often senior management prefers to promote those individuals who have worked in various capacities, know multiple facets of the business and have a more well-rounded set of experiences and skills.
“I had inflated expectations for where I should be in my career early on, and I had to recalibrate, which is really hard,” Weinbach said. “I had to learn that there’s a lot of value in taking jobs to enhance and diversify your skill set even if they are not promotions, but instead lateral moves.
“In doing so, I matured and became a better banker and leader,” he said. “One of the best parts about career mobility is the perspective you add to a solution, which is crucial not only to your colleagues, but also to the clients and customers you serve.”
Advice for graduates
His advice for bankers on their way up? Hurry up and make mistakes. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
Everybody experiences some sort of failure in their professional career and it’s the lessons you learn from those moments that help you succeed, he said.
Also, he advises early-career-stage financial services professionals to be more focused on continuing to learn rather than continuing to advance.
“Every day is an opportunity to become better than you were the day before,” Weinbach said. “Taking that little opportunity every day is what leads to the big opportunities over the course of a career.
“To be successful, our employees must also remember to take charge of their own career,” he said. “They should always be thinking about how to progress to the next step, whether it’s taking on added responsibility in their current role or looking for mobility opportunities within the company.”
Recruitment process for the mortgage division at JPMorgan Chase
JPMorgan Chase recently started using video functionality to interview a broader net of prospective employees and connect them with company personnel across the country.
The mortgage bank is always recruiting for top talent, whether it’s at the executive level or positions for recent college graduates, like its Credit Underwriter Program. The five-week program offers training in credit and finance, focusing on career skills like leadership, negotiation and public speaking. Those employees who perform well have the opportunity to continue in the underwriting business or explore other career paths in the mortgage banking division.
“We hire talent from all walks of life: from degrees in finance and banking for roles in underwriting, to engineering and technology for loan processing, to arts and humanities for front-end sales and branch management,” Weinbach said. “Many of our senior leaders at Chase have at one point worked in mortgage banking, which is a true testament to the breadth of skills and knowledge you acquire in this business.
“We look for candidates who are team-players, who are motivated with sound judgment, and who ultimately want to make an impact in the lives of our customers,” he said.
Lead photo credit: Vstock/Thinkstock. Headshot of Weinbach courtesy of JPMorgan Chase