Adept at global sensitivity

Confidence and competence are the watchwords for success, says a finance executive.

Published March 18, 2007

Tires, batteries and automotive accessories. That's where Kim Ray started out in the field of finance after receiving her master's of business administration.

If that was not unglamorous enough for the young purchasing officer at the old Standard Oil in Cleveland, she even had to go into the field, working to help convert service stations in the South to the BP flag after the British energy company bought out Standard and absorbed Gulf Oil outlets.

"There weren't many women in the oil industry in operations," said Ray, who today is as far removed from the gritty petroleum business as one can get. She is a financial chieftain ruling over a gleaming, high-tech, tightly secured east Tampa domain that every day handles $3-trillion in treasury transactions for customers across the globe.

Ray is senior vice president and Treasury Services Global Finance Operations director for JPMorgan Chase, which manages electronic payments for retail customers, businesses and government entities.

Although she was very alone in the early going among the ranks of men in the oil industry, Ray said performance is what counted for her, gender and color aside.

"Some of my strongest mentors have been men recognizing that if you've got someone producing for you at the end of the day, you don't have to worry about," she said. "That's what every executive wants."

That's why she stresses confidence and competence as watchwords for success.

"In each organization that you move to, you've got to prove yourself. You're starting off as an unknown quantity, and you've got to prove that you're about to take on some of the big tasks."

And what a huge task has she taken on in Tampa, where 3,500 employees work around the clock to move funds for clients in more than 180 countries.

That electronic and physical crisscrossing of international borders makes JPMorgan Chase especially sensitive to diversity and inclusion, according to the financial giant's senior communications manager, Chris Spencer.

"Diversity is crucial to the success of our business," he said. "Nowhere is that more true than in Tampa, where more than 20 languages are spoken to communicate with our global customers. Not only are we diverse in our employee population, but our campus supports a 24/7 environment in which we support clients internationally. So it is important that we are sensitive to different cultures, preferences and time zones. This creates a heightened sense of awareness of how connected we all really are."

If bridging gaps and accepting differences are what diversity is about, and actually improves the bottom line, then JPMorgan Chase is helping set the standard. For the sixth year in a row, DiversityInc named it to its Top 50 list of U.S. businesses.

Ray joined JPMorgan Chase seven years ago after managing key operations for Bank One in Detroit and at the Federal Reserve Bank in Pittsburgh.

From her days in the oil business to today she has seen change, which she thinks will remain a constant.

"I think the world has changed to accommodate more people of color as we look to our future ... either we all evolve or we're going to disappear."