Talent & Tech Asia Summit 2024
Building relationships and trust: Q&A with Stephanie Keay, Head of HR for APAC, J.P. Morgan

Building relationships and trust: Q&A with Stephanie Keay, Head of HR for APAC, J.P. Morgan


Regular open communication, collaboration, and clear direction help to drive the people agenda at J.P. Morgan, says Stephanie Keay, APAC Head of Human Resources.

Vital stats: Stephanie Keay joined J.P. Morgan in 2017, and was appointed Head of Human Resources, Asia Pacific, in April 2022. As a member of the Asia Pacific Executive Committee, the Asia Pacific Management Committee as well as the International Human Resources Management Team, she partners with business leaders, senior country officers, function heads, and HR executives to drive the region’s people agenda.

Having started her career in the energy sector in the areas of business development and M&A in the US, Keay has since held senior Asia Pacific and global HR management positions for more than 20 years.

Introduction: As a global leader in financial services, what makes J.P. Morgan’s culture so special is its strong emphasis on excellence, innovation, collaboration, integrity, as well as respect – for its clients, our communities, and its people.

Being part of a management team that leads the HR function of the financial institution, Stephanie Keay feels strongly about being a role model of values and behaviours for others.

“I strive to approach my leadership role with empathy, compassion, and authenticity, while at the same time, being highly collaborative, commercially focused, and outcome-driven,” she tells us.

Keay believes actively listening to the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of both her team and clients is the way to better support and serve them.

“When people know you genuinely care about their wellbeing and success, it takes the focus beyond performance metrics to cultivate a people-centric culture, thus deepening working relationships and enhancing collective ownership and solutions,” she affirms.

In this interview, Keay shares with Tracy Chan her role at J.P. Morgan, how the financial institution supports its people and became the ‘Most Attractive Employer’ in Hong Kong, and her vision for the group, herself, and the future of HR.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your role at J.P. Morgan.

As the head of human resources for J.P. Morgan’s Asia Pacific franchise, I work closely with my team, and partner with the region’s CEO, business, and function executives, and the senior country officers across our 17 markets to effectively manage the firm’s most valuable assets – our people.

Every day is different as we adapt to evolving internal and external factors, but what is constant is the need for HR leaders to act as a perceptive compass, helping guide the organisation and balance the talent agenda with business priorities and regulatory requirements, while fostering a diverse and inclusive, yet cohesive work environment and culture.

I joined J.P. Morgan in 2017 as the country HR head for Japan and Korea based in Tokyo, but relocated to Hong Kong after more than two decades in Japan when appointed to my current role. Having spent 25 years in the APAC region and global HR roles, I value deeply how diverse and culturally rich the region is, not to mention its high complexity. These dynamics mean there is always an opportunity to learn, grow, and make an impact.

Q: With your vast regional experience, what are some of the key factors to consider when developing a talent strategy?

Clearly, we need to consider the dynamics of each location and line of business. However, it has been my experience that we are more similar than we are different. Of course, it is important to understand the respective business or location’s stage and projection of growth, competitor landscape, talent/skills demographics and availability, and technology capabilities. No matter what the factor, in-depth data analysis and insights are needed and regularly re-evaluated.

Q: J.P. Morgan was ranked the ‘Most Attractive Employer’ in Hong Kong by Universum for two consecutive years in 2022 and 2023. What makes the company stand out to talent in such a competitive market?

J.P. Morgan introduced its purpose statement earlier last year – “Make dreams possible for everyone, everywhere, every day”. We continuously strive to make this applicable not only for our clients, but also for our more than 250,000 employees globally as well as prospective candidates. And, while the purpose statement may be new, it knits together our values – service, heart, curiosity, courage, and excellence – with our everyday business principles and explains how we have done business for years.

These help us stand out as people want to work at a company where they will be challenged, do interesting work, and have loads of professional development opportunities, but also be in an environment that champions equity, inclusion, and sustainable growth – doing so with humanity and excellence.

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Q: As one of the largest financial institutions, what initiatives is the company implementing to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive to create an environment of belongingness for all employees?

At J.P. Morgan, we are committed to creating an environment that reflects the diverse communities that we serve, a workplace where all employees feel they belong and are respected.

We strive to ensure that our policies, programmes, and platforms support this. An example is our ‘Business Resource Groups’ (BRGs) which provide opportunities for education, awareness, and networking. ‘Women on the Move Interactive Network’ is a BRG that focuses on women talent empowerment and professional development, and ‘Access Ability’ represents a voice for employees with disabilities and caregivers.

In fact, in Hong Kong we have recently refined our disability hiring strategy and rolled out disability inclusion awareness sessions for hiring managers and employees to better understand how to support people with disabilities at the workplace.

In addition to the ‘PRIDE BRG’ for our LGBTQ+ community and allies, we also have an ‘Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs’, which is a full-time, global dedicated business unit focused on advancing LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion for our employees, clients, and communities globally. All of our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are supported by senior leaders from the very top of the firm.

Q: The banking and financial services industry has been known for its hectic working culture. What does J.P. Morgan do to support employee health and wellbeing?

At J.P. Morgan, employee health and wellbeing have long been a priority and we continue to raise the bar. We constantly look for ways to support employee wellness whether that be physical, mental or financial health. We provide a wide range of services, programmes, and resources to help our people cope with the day-to-day challenges of work and life.

Last year, we enhanced our parental leave policies globally, giving a minimum of 16 weeks of paid parental leave that covers primary, non-primary givers, and adoption. In Hong Kong and Singapore, we also provide support for fertility treatment, including intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilisation, and egg freezing.

Our ‘Employee Assistance Programme’ is a free and confidential counselling service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A team of qualified coaches and counsellors are there to help not only our employees, but also their families – on such matters as mental health counselling, medical provider recommendations, and financial and legal advice. In addition, the ‘Working Families Network BRG’ promotes knowledge sharing and provides networking opportunities to support work and family integration.

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Q: As a member of the management team, what are the keys to aligning all leaders, managers, and stakeholders across the region to drive the people agenda in a consistent way?

At the heart of it is building relationships and trust. When trust exists, it becomes much easier to align perspectives and drive toward common goals. Yet, it takes work and must be nurtured on an ongoing basis.

Key enablers are regular open communication, collaboration, and clear direction. I am incredibly fortunate as our leadership team is in lockstep on this – there is mutual respect, an expectation to think and behave with a franchise-wide mindset, and a high degree of transparency. This goes back to the earlier point about needing to role-model the behaviours you expect from others.

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Q: Let’s look into the future. How do you see the role of HR evolving? What future challenges and opportunities should HR professionals be prepared for?

The needs of the business and our workforce are continuing to change driven by advances in technology and the current social, geopolitical, and economic climate. Our ability to adapt to these changes and create a more connected employee experience is more important than ever.

Undoubtedly, artificial intelligence (AI) is, and will, continue to be a game changer for the HR function. It continues to revolutionise HR by improving self-service options, automating administrative tasks, and providing invaluable data analysis and insights.

With the advent of AI, HR professionals can allocate more time and be better equipped to positively impact the manager and employee experience, providing data-driven solutions and value-add advisory across all areas of the function.

Building data literacy capabilities is absolutely key. This shouldn’t make HR professionals nervous, but rather excited; it lifts our game. You don’t have to be a data specialist to be good at it, in fact, AI is levelling the field. You won’t necessarily need to run the numbers, but rather be able to effectively form queries/prompts, interpret the data, and tell the story.

Q: Looking at 2024, what’s on your HR checklist to ensure that J.P. Morgan’s employee experience remains purposeful and timely?

The employee experience is very much centre stage for us. Globally, J.P. Morgan HR has an experience product operating model. HR has sometimes been prone to creating policies and protocols that may have worked for us as a function, but may not have delivered the best experience for our stakeholders. Fortunately, the expectations and norms are fast becoming to think and work end-to-end across all HR products and advisory to ensure deliberate hand-offs and remove as much friction from our processes and systems as possible.

As a regional HR head, I am delighted by this horizontal approach as it helps me and my team to operate more seamlessly as we support the business and employees. Ultimately, the client doesn’t differentiate the compensation team from the talent, recruiting or employee relations team, they just see HR. So these changes make us work more uniformly and with more intent, ensuring we keep front and centre the upstream and downstream impacts to our employee experience.

Q: Wrapping up our interview, what are your personal start/stop/continue goals as you set your resolutions for the year ahead?

Post the pandemic, we thankfully are able to travel again and connect with leaders and colleagues around the region and globe. This means more time away from family and friends. My goal is to stop multi-tasking when I am with them and start being more present, so I can continue fostering deeply meaningful relationships with them, and provide all the love and support they need. It’s about quality time.

This article first appeared in the H2 2023 edition of Human Resources Online's Hong Kong e-magazine. View the e-magazine here, where you'll find power-packed features and interviews with leaders from Hong Kong and across Asia!

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Lead image / Art Direction: Julia Li; Photography: Anakin Yeung @ Planar Studios Limited

All other photos / Provided

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