Betty Uribe said the pandemic influenced her decision.

Betty Uribe said the pandemic influenced her decision. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

Betty Uribe is just over one month into her term as JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s California consumer bank divisional director, overseeing JPMorgan’s entire California retail bank network. 

From her base downtown, Uribe is responsible for more than 10,000 employees across nearly 1,000 branches. 

The move is a significant shift for Uribe, who left California Bank & Trust in late 2019 after eight years at the regional player. 

Her new employer is the largest bank in the United States with more than $3.2 trillion in assets under management.

At the time of her departure from California Bank & Trust, Uribe told the Business Journal she planned to focus on her “Dr. Betty” brand, which spans speaking engagements, consulting and philanthropic work. According to Uribe, those plans were cut short by Covid-19, kicking off a chain of events that led her back into the world of banking.

“I went to Europe and did a round of conversations with business owners there,” she said in an interview. “Then I came back and Covid happened, and my wings were clipped.”

While continuing virtual speaking engagements, Uribe said she was contacted by a close friend at JPMorgan with a job opportunity. 

“So I started talking to (JPMorgan Chase Head of Consumer Branch Banking) Stephen Baron and told him I’d have to fall in love,” Uribe said. “It’s a bigger organization, heading California is a big market, so I’d really have to fall in love (with the bank) to do it.”

Uribe said she began a “values assessment” at JPMorgan, reaching out and speaking with people from across the organization. “It’s like when you’re courting someone for a relationship,” she said. “We both took our time and had really long conversations.”
Despite an initial hesitancy to jump so quickly back into the banking world, Uribe said she was gradually won over by the “authentic” attitudes of everyone she spoke with at JPMorgan.

“(In one of my interviews) I said, ‘I’m just going to show up as myself. If they like that, then they’ll want me. If not, then I shouldn’t be here,” she said. “At the end of the interview they thanked me for my authenticity and vulnerability.”

“After about the 10th conversation, I remember hanging up the phone and telling my husband, ‘Uh oh, I think I’m in,’” she said.

Despite the size difference between California Bank & Trust and JPMorgan Chase, Uribe said the transition was largely smooth. She likened the experience of her first weeks on the job to the feeling of “coming home.”

“What I mean by coming home is I came home to a place where everyone cares about one another,” she said. “Everyone is working to one purpose. … Walking in, it doesn’t feel large.”

Working to better focus organizations along their core values has been a central feature of Uribe’s career, both in the banking space and as a speaker and consultant.
“I thought I was going to have to bring some of that to the organization,” she said. Yet, Uribe said that — to her surprise — she found that the bank was already largely aligned along its key values.

While some banks are pulling back on their branch networks, Uribe said JPMorgan Chase is planning to double-down on its involvement in local communities. 

“Chase is looking at expanding the way it looks at community banking,” she said, “the way we go about educating the community, going after the unbanked and the underbanked, teaming up with community-based organizations.”

These initiatives, according to Uribe, include finding ways to further financial education in underserved communities such as partnering with local high schools. “We’re taking a look at the expansion of that strategy,” she said.

Uribe referenced further initiatives as part of JPMorgan’s recent $30 billion commitment to improve racial financial equity over the next five years. These include financial commitments to mortgages, business loans and investments in Black and Latino-led banks.

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