A career like a ski line

Channels: Managers, Outsourcing, People

Companies: JPMAM

People: Carly Segal

Insurance Asset Risk's young professional of the year 2023 recipient, Carly Segal, recounts what took her from the ski slopes of Vermont to the fixed income team at JPMAM in London. Interview by Vincent Huck

If skiing was an art rather than a sport, it would be akin to drawing, as the skill is in the lines. In downhill racing the line has to be as streamlined, clean and linear as possible to ensure speed. Backcountry skiing allows for more creativity as the white canvas of untouched powder gives the 'artist' the opportunity to unleash her/his imagination.

Carly SegalCarly Segal is made of that duality of creativity and discipline having grown up as a downhill racer in Vermont, but now turning into a hardcore fan of backcountry skiing in Jackson Hole (Wyoming). The same duality has carried her away of the ski slopes, and the US, to London where she is a portfolio manager in the fixed income team at JP Morgan Asset Management.

We meet at the asset manager's offices and as she sits, she says, "I brought some notes, hope that is alright, in case..." pausing as if realising that maybe no notes will be needed.

"In case you forget things about yourself?," I offer – she laughs nervously. "Exactly".

If skiing was, and still is, a passion Segal never thought of making a career out of it. Like most teenagers, except a select few, she didn't have a clear idea of what she wanted to do in life. A vivid interest in world events and current affairs led her to study international relations and international economics at Johns Hopkins University.

There was a vague idea of working in government as a public servant, which took her to a couple of internships in public service. Including with a senator in Vermont.... "No I did not intern with Bernie Sanders," she shuts me down already seeing what's coming. "I interned with Patrick Leahy who is a less well-known figure than Bernie is now."

"It is interesting to see him [Sanders] in the global spotlight now. When I grew up he was 'our senator' Sanders," she notes pointing at the chair next to her as if he was there.

Still, the idea of a career in civil service didn't stick, and life took Segal away from the US shores.

"If you are interested in international relations you tend to have a curiosity to travel and see the world," she says, explaining what took her to the Johns Hopkins campus in Bologna (Italy).

It's in Europe that Segal found 'her line down the mountain', thanks to a trip to London organised by the university to meet different organisations and understand "how our studies could be put to use".

"From the people and organisations that we met, the ones I was most drawn to were the asset managers," she recalls. "What struck me is that they were taking all the things that I was learning – economics, monetary policy, geopolitics, political economy, technological trends, business trends – and all of this was incorporated into their day-to-day. Which requires to read, be informed and be curious about all of these areas."

Fixed income was a particular interest because of the macro theme that is relevant to the asset class, she continues. "Coming from international relations it made a lot of sense to me".

She also found a match in her willingness to have a positive impact and the fiduciary duty of asset managers.

And so the decision was made to pursue that career. But how?

Every success is preceded by one (or several) setbacks. In Segal's case, so far the biggest one has been her self-confessed failure to secure a summer internship in finance after the London trip.

"At the time, at that age, failing to get that key internship really felt like a failure, a slap in the face," she says.

She worked for a bit in the finance department of a tech company in the US, but although it was great exposure "it wasn't something I was passionate about".

While job hunting, an opening for the graduate program in the fixed income team at JPMAM popped up. "That felt like luck, and yes I put some hard work into the application, but I was really lucky and it was a complete chance".

And so she packed her bags once more and crossed the pond for the coveted prize she had been hoping for: a spot on a graduate programme of a global asset manager, and on the fixed income team.

I can't help but ask jokingly if the UK TV show Industry – which follows graduates in an investment bank – bares any truth.

"Oh my gosh," she laughs burying her head in her notes. "It definitely isn't reflective of my personal experience."

Jokes aside, Segal started on the global aggregate team which was headed by Iain Stealey who then went on to become JPMAM international CIO— "it was a great place to grow up in the industry and get started".

Segal was then "by way of chance" involved in what she coins as an "accidental rotation", as some went on maternity leave, she was asked to chip in on other teams, like the customised bond team and the insurance and pension team.

That gave her exposure to both the institutional clients and the high net worth individuals ones. "It is a different experience and relationship because with individuals you don't have that institutional layer and you really know what they are thinking about."

However, she didn't have a preference, and the "accidental rotation" ended with a full time position becoming available on the insurance team, which Segal got.

Were there ever any doubts that maybe she had made the wrong career choice? Not really, she replies, beyond that impostor syndrome we all – or most of us – suffer from.

"Asset management in general, and my team in particular, I find is a very academic environment, there is a lot of very curious people and you are encouraged to ask questions" she says. "I feel quite lucky to be somewhere with such great people where there is a great team spirit."

On the insurance team she also got exposed to a topic which resonated with her passion for great outdoors through skiing: sustainability.

"A lot of insurance clients are focused on ESG risk in their portfolios, which has been an exciting new challenge for me and a path to learn more," she says and never mind the current backlash or politization of the topic.

"It is fair to say it is a complex topic, but at the end of the day I'm here to find solutions for clients, and that is what makes it very interesting."

So what is the next turn in Segal's line as she continues skiing down her 'career slope'? and what is the ultimate goal, CEO of JPMAM?

"Gosh no way," she laughs. "I need to think about that. Just be a good team member, and be someone that people enjoy working with."

Nothing more exciting?

"That's for now.... Later we will see."