The Art of Perfection: Convincing JP Morgan

Date: May 18, 2017

“Just like the ideal employee, the right performance system will come ready equipped with a proven skill set and the ability to change according to the demands made on it over time.”

J.P. Morgan is buying a new office building in Dublin to accommodate up to 1,000 new staff. While many may be relocating from London thanks to Brexit, there is bound to be a round of hiring to fill up the shiny new offices in Dublin’s Docklands area.

Getting into any leading investment bank or asset management firm is no easy task. Long considered to be a ‘sexy’ career choice, the banking and finance industry is inundated with candidates at all levels. They can afford to be picky and look only for perfection – or at the very least something that they can carve into their idea of perfection.

It’s tough at the top

Take the example of J.P. Morgan, a high pedigree leader in financial services and very highly regarded the world over. It relies on its brand and its reputation of being par excellence in each of the 100 countries it serves, and within each of its comprehensive suite of sectors, products and platforms.

To maintain this reputation it only hires people who can meet its demanding 360- degree requirements. Like any other player, at JP Morgan the interview process is pretty rigorous and detailed. They are not just looking for the experience and skills to do the job. They are looking for a certain personality type able to fit into the culture and work ceaselessly and tirelessly to further their organisation. They want no less than 100% commitment.

But crucially they do not want followers. They want leaders able to identify and act on their ideas to keep the organisation punching well above its weight in what is a notoriously competitive and cut throat industry.

How does this relate to the middle office? The systems employed in a middle office need to have many of the same qualities as the ideal employee: able to fit into an existing culture and willing to work shamelessly to promote and better the process in the form of ever more timely and granular reporting. The middle office system, like the perfect employee, needs to change with the times so that tweaks and alterations can be made and the system thus adapted and future proofed – all while maintaining excellence when it comes to standards.

And any middle office system, much like an employee, is likely to be subjected to continuous assessment that is not just based on actual results but also from a holistic approach. For example, how easy it is to use? How easy it is to configure? Can faults can be tracked and rectified? Can it can be scaled up and down according to business needs? And can it can account for every single piece of data it has worked on in terms of its provenance, its handling, and its interactions with other pieces of data within the system? Not only is the system being watched and assessed – much like the employee – it is being tested on its ability to configure itself and adapt as time goes on.

Would your middle office pass the interview?

As with an interview and assessment process, middle office designers and those using their systems also need some measurables to work with. This allows them to pick out the right solution; be that human in the case of the recruitment process, or platform in the case of the technology. In the latter case, the everyday workflows need to be accurately defined so that they can measure whether the system does what it needs to. Can it take in and normalise data and then send it off to where it needs to go via a well-defined workflow? Can the system appraise itself and know when something has gone wrong, flag that up and work to correct it? Is the system then able to cope when it has a lot to deal with by being able to scale up? These are all design inferences that depend on the system having been well thought out and having the right skill set and qualifications in the first place, much like the candidates that the investment bank seeks to employ.

The next part of the critical assessment focuses on how the system or employee can react and adapt to change. This is where the system can show off its adaptability, its configurability, and its ability to take on new data and make changes short and long term according to what is being asked of it and how the industry develops.

Just like the ideal employee, the right system will come ready equipped with a proven skill set and the ability to change according to the demands made on it over time. And just like the right employee, the right middle office suite offers a 360 degree proposition whose composites are likely to be a winning combination over time.

Would your system make the grade at JP Morgan? Key questions to ask your middle office process.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

What’s the story behind your resume?

Describe a time you took a risk.

Give an example of a time you encountered a difficult question whilst working in a group.

Give me an example of a time you motivated others to achieve a particular result.

Have you ever had to compromise to make an achievement? How?

What’s your greatest achievement?

What is the biggest risk you have ever taken in your life?

What do you see yourself contributing to this organization, in both the short and long term?

Describe a time you led a team and dealt with a difficult individual in that team.

Have you ever had to change your working style to deal with a difficult team member?

How would colleagues describe you?

What are your three main strengths and weaknesses?

What would you do if you knew your boss was completely wrong about a work issue?

Your boss assigns you a project and then goes on holiday. What do you do?

You’re in the middle of an urgent task and someone more senior demands some instant information. What do you do?


  • To get incredible results and earn a great reputation, you need to employ the best people and systems
  • What does your middle office add to the organization in terms of flexibility and constant improvements?
  • Do your middle office systems scale up and deliver when needed?
  • Any process needs a measurable system to set parameters and define success or failure

Find new ways to make the complex simple

Next Generation Performance Measurement (1)

To learn more about 13f-2 watch our webinar replay Part 1: Unpacking the SEC's New Disclosure Rules for Shareholders
Join us for Part 2: Operationalizing the SEC's New Disclosure Rules, for Shareholders on December 12.