Natasha Condon is the global head of core trade at JP Morgan, leading the bank’s efforts to do what she calls ‘new and exciting things with the oldest tools in the box’. She speaks to Eleanor Wragg about the challenges inherent in taking on a new role amid a pandemic, and the changing landscape for women in the industry.


Taking over as global head of core trade at JP Morgan is daunting enough, but doing so just as the Covid-19 outbreak devastated global trade and confined much of the world’s workforce to their homes is all the more challenging, as Natasha Condon discovered. “I had a mental image of how my first week in the job would be, and the back room of my house did not feature,” she jokes.

Appointed to the role in May, she has quickly settled in, despite the pandemic-related challenges. “Getting to know a new global team over videoconferencing is a very egalitarian way to do it,” she explains. “There’s no sort of natural bias to the people who are in the office with you and who can take you for a coffee. I must have got to know 300 people in the first few weeks.”

Condon joined JP Morgan following a long stint at Citi, where she first entered the world of trade finance in 2004 via that bank’s analyst programme in transaction services. “It gave me experience in cash management and trade, and I very quickly realised that trade was the bit that I really enjoyed,” she says. “What you are doing is physically affecting the world around you. You are not just moving money. You are moving goods. You’re moving the food that is going to feed people. You are moving the equipment that is going to build the world around you. I just loved it, so I took a full-time job in the trade sales team and I promised myself that I would stay until I get bored, and it turned out that I didn’t.”

In 2016, Condon, who was by that time Citi’s Emea trade sales head for global subsidiaries, had her first child, and admits that she was concerned about the impact of parental responsibilities on her career progression. “I was petrified that maternity leave would represent the end of my career,” she says. “I worried that I would come back to find that I had been side-lined or that my career had taken a hit that would be hard to recover from.”

Her worries were not unfounded: an omnibus survey by Ipsos Mori, carried out last year, found that 29% of women believed maternity leave had had a negative impact on their career. Meanwhile, a House of Commons Treasury Committee session on women in finance recently heard that “a significant majority of women who return from maternity leave go into roles that are less remunerative and less senior than roles they have left”.

However, there are indications that the industry has begun to recognise this problem and is trying to mitigate it, either by keeping women on maternity leave up to date on key issues, or by designing schemes to assist women when they have returned to work. “While I was on maternity leave, the role of European trade sales head at Citi opened up,” says Condon. “People at the bank made time to get me up to speed and brief me and give me all the background that I needed to be able to apply for the post on an even footing with the people who had not been on leave.” After interviewing for the role from home, she successfully landed the job.

“It was really my manager who made that happen,” Condon says, adding: “An awful lot still depends on your direct boss and whether they walk the walk as well as talking the talk.”

Now, four years later, she says that she has seen an increase in action by certain banks to embed inclusive behaviours, adding that it is everyone’s duty to make sure that gender inequality is neutralised, enabling women to succeed and achieve their full potential.

“At JP Morgan, I’ve been enormously impressed with the sheer bench strength of women in the team that I’ve been lucky enough to join,” says Condon. She adds that JP Morgan has signed the Women in Finance Charter in the UK and set itself a hard target of 30% of women at executive director and managing director level by 2023, which has already been exceeded by her team.

“Gender diversity is actually a competitive advantage,” she says. “Frankly, banks need to put their money where their mouth is. Every woman in an organisation knows which bosses promote women, and where they see women succeeding on their merits, and that is where they will go when they are looking for the next opportunity. So, you have to demonstrate that you are really doing the work in order to attract the really talented people onto your team.”