Women in Business: Kristin Lemkau, Chief Marketing Officer, JPMorgan Chase

"Be a really good person and be really good at your job. I have a sign that hangs in my home office: 'if you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.' Corny maybe, but true."
11/14/2014 10:59 am ET Updated Jan 14, 2015

Kristin Lemkau is the Chief Marketing Officer for JPMorgan Chase. She is responsible for brand, advertising, media, sponsorships, marketing and market research firmwide. She also leads communications for the Chase-branded businesses. She reports to Gordon Smith, CEO of Consumer & Community Banking, and is a member of the Consumer & Community Banking Leadership Team.

Prior to her role as CMO, she was Chief Communications Officer for Chase since and Deputy Head of Communications and head of Corporate Brand for JPMorgan Chase.

From 2005-2010, Kristin led Global Marketing & Communications for J.P. Morgan's Investment Bank, including media relations, internal communications, marketing, employer brand, events, and social responsibility. Before that, she ran Global Media Relations for the J.P. Morgan.

Prior to joining J.P. Morgan in 1998, she was director of Media Relations for AlliedSignal, the predecessor firm to Honeywell, Inc. She was previously director of Media Relations for Freeport-McMoRan in New Orleans. During her six-year career at Freeport, she was based in Madrid and Jakarta, where she built the company's local communications offices.

Kristin graduated from Vanderbilt University. She is Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit focused on preventing the causes of gun violence, and is a member of the Leadership Council for the Robin Hood Foundation. She is on the Board of the Association of National Advertisers.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Big question and hard to say. I guess it comes down to having great parents and not being afraid to fail.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at JPMorgan Chase?
I've been at the company a long time so I have a strong network of relationships, which in a large company helps a lot. I have a history and a high degree of trust with the CEOs who run businesses. I know that I am here to help them grow their businesses. They're the client - I work for them. I hope that inoculates me against "CMO-itis."

I'm actually not a traditionally marketer. I came up as a PR person, which I hope can be a strength. I am not married to the traditional ways to market and with marketing changing as quickly as it is around data and digital, I hope that helps me. And good PR is really about building credibility and telling the truth. That's exactly what we are doing in building relationships with our customers.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at JPMorgan Chase?
Highlights have been too many to mention, but has to be around working with smart, terrific people. When you're at work as long as we are, you need to be inspired by the people you're with as much as the work itself. There have certainly been plenty of challenges. Those have probably been the sheer intensity of the work environment during certain cycles.

What does it mean to you to be included on Forbes' Most Influential CMOs list?
I was surprised and thrilled. Many of the people on that list are people I have admired for years. So it means I have a lot to live up to!

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in finance?
It's the same advice for men or women. Be a really good person and be really good at your job. I have a sign that hangs in my home office "if you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen." Corny maybe, but true.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have two young children, so every day can be a challenge. And I have never met anyone who has it completely figured out - whether they work or stay home - so once you know that, you can relax a bit. For me, I limit travel, I say no to almost everything I get invited to after work, and I never go more than two nights in a row without seeing my kids. Some days you get it right and some days you feel like a hot mess. You forgive yourself and carry on.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Not taking enough risks. I can't tell you how many women I know turn down opportunities. And usually it's not because they don't think they are capable; it's because they don't want to take on any more in what's already an overloaded day. Mobility is really the only way to grow and to expand your career options-the Sheryl Sandberg jungle gym analogy. You just have to trust that thoughtful people have faith in you, do it and figure it out.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Sponsorship has made a huge difference to me. I don't know whether mentorship works if the mentor doesn't actually see how you work, but sponsors who know your work directly and can affect your career are critical. I've had no better sponsor than Gordon Smith, my boss today. I'm sure it sounds like I'm sucking up, but he's taken big bets on me and then, more important, followed up by having the patience to let me fumble a few things in the early days. A good sponsor is someone who will take thoughtful risks giving you jobs or projects and then let you know they'll underwrite your mistakes after you take it on.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Mary Erdoes, CEO of JPMorgan Asset Management. She's been an amazing business leader, sponsor and friend to me. When I came back from maternity leave in 2007 after having my first child, I was on the ledge wondering how I could do this. Mary rallied around me and actually threw a party at her house with women at JPM who had young children, AND she invited our kids. So while our kids were getting their faces painted and tearing up Mary's house, we all connected about how we each made our lives work. Because in the end, "balance" is just a logistics challenge. After talking to those women, learning their systems and time management techniques, I realized I could do it. Mary is one in a billion.

What do you want JPMorgan Chase to accomplish in the next year?
Create stronger relationships with our customers. Banks haven't traditionally established the kind of bond with their customers that other retailers have. Right now, Chase has the strongest customer satisfaction scores of large banks across most products. We have a chance to break through and establish the same kind of brand loyalty that other industries have, like Starbucks, Zappos, or the Container Store. There's absolute no reason we shouldn't. To quote Kevin Millar (or maybe it was Curt Schilling), "Why not us?"

Beyond that, I want to have fun.