Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: Priyanka Rath, J.P. Morgan

Published: Feb 2022
Priyanka Rath, J.P. Morgan

This much I know

Priyanka Rath, Global Head of Liquidity Product Solutions Specialists, J.P. Morgan Payments, highlights the importance of speaking up, building skills and knowledge, and driving an inclusive approach to recruitment.

Priyanka Rath

Global Head of Liquidity Product Solutions Specialists, Treasury Services
J.P. Morgan logo

With over 15 years’ experience in the banking and financial services industry, Priyanka’s areas of expertise include liquidity management, cash investments, treasury, and working capital management. During her career, she has been responsible for designing and delivering market leading cash management solutions with three leading global banks. In her current role, Priyanka leads teams across EMEA, Latin America, APAC and North America.

Tell us how you arrived at your current role.

I grew up in India in a typical middle-class family in a small town. I always wanted to do something different, so I leaned towards STEM subjects as opposed to the humanities. I gained a mechanical engineering degree and started working in IT consulting. This was during the mid-2000s.

After a while I decided to do something different. I had just got married, and my husband and I both decided that we would move to France and study for our MBAs. We graduated in 2008 – during the financial crisis – but I was fortunate in securing a position at Barclays Bank. We relocated to London and started a life from scratch there.

The mentor I had while on the associate rotation programme at Barclays introduced me to liquidity management. When I came to the end of the programme, I applied for and got a permanent position in liquidity, and went on to gain the Certificate in International Cash Management from the Association of Corporate Treasurers. Studying for the qualification really broadened my perspective. As a banker, you can only be good if you really understand your clients, and I was in a class full of corporate treasurers who were discussing all the challenges they faced.

After two years I had the opportunity to join Bank of America, which was expanding its international liquidity management team. It was an exciting time – it was like working in a start-up company, but with the stability of a large bank behind you. Then, eight years ago, I joined J.P. Morgan as a liquidity client advisor. I moved into focusing on the EMEA region, and built a team from scratch. I now have teams across four regions – and every day, I continue to learn and challenge myself.

How have the last two years been for you and your team?

Last year was like nothing that any of us had ever anticipated, with everyone finding themselves in lockdown and having to work from home. Those who had young children and families were having to juggle so many things. Those who didn’t have families were confined to their homes, not able to interact in person with anyone. It was very emotionally draining for everyone. But we were fortunate that the technology was there to enable us to work from home. And as managers, it was important that we gave the team whatever extra help we could.

What advice would you give to women in finance in terms of establishing and developing a career?

Do not doubt yourself. You are worth much more than you might think you are.

Not everybody can do everything. But it’s not about doing everything yourself; it’s about enabling others to do things. Everyone has got their core strengths. If yours is language rather than mathematics, remember that your colleagues and clients are real people that you can relate to and communicate with. You can be the one to bring a different perspective to the table. There will always be somebody else who can crunch the numbers.

And choose something that you love, because that is what will drive success. One of the reasons why I throw myself into my job every day is because I’m passionate about it.

Do you think it is important to have a defined career plan? Or is it more a case of being open and flexible?

Having a career plan is not a bad idea – just so long as it is not too long-term, because things are constantly changing. Working out your career plan should involve asking yourself where you want to be and what you want to be doing. Do you want to manage people, or do you want to be a strong individual contributor? Do you love solving problems inside the company, or do you prefer giving presentations to clients?

But also, be adaptable. Organisations change and industries change. Who would have thought 20 years ago that data science would be such a highly regarded field today? So I would say be open and flexible, and make sure that you evolve with the times.

What more can women do to make their voices heard within their organisation?

Speak up! The biggest obstacle that women face is their own inner critic. Before other people have a chance to box us in, we have already done that ourselves. If you believe in something, it means that you have a valid point of view. If you do face criticism, be prepared to accept it in a positive way. So be sensitive, be thoughtful and be inclusive. And allow the more junior women to be heard.

What is your motto in life, or your greatest inspiration?

Be the best version of yourself that you can be – it’s not just about getting a well-paid job and regular promotions. Acquire more knowledge, learn more skills and reflect on your position in the workplace, in your community and in your life. What have you done and what could you have done better? How have you contributed to making the world a better place?

Inclusion and diversity

With nearly two decades of experience in the financial sector, Priyanka has seen enormous changes in the industry, particularly in how inclusion and diversity have evolved. “It is now a part of our thought process every single day. That didn’t use to be the case,” she reflects.

However, she acknowledges that this does not necessarily apply to every workplace, and a lot of progress is still needed. “There are certain sectors where you see a general tendency for employers to hire people who look like themselves,” she comments. “We need to make a conscious effort to open that up.”

For Priyanka, the first area to focus on to improve inclusion is in recruitment. When it comes to choosing candidates, she believes it is necessary to look beyond degrees and immediately relevant experience.

“In order for the whole process to be inclusive, the range of potential candidates has to be as diverse as possible. You cannot just consider a specific category of people because you think they are the only ones with the skill set,” Priyanka comments. “If the role is in, say, liquidity and cash management – that’s something that we can teach them. So let them teach us something new. If you bring in someone different, you will get a fresh perspective.”

Priyanka also highlights the importance of building a sense of community. “One thing that Treasury Today does so well is the Women in Treasury initiative, where we can come together and share our experiences, our knowledge and insights,” she notes.

Challenging bias

When it comes to challenging bias, Priyanka is keen to stress that, rather than trying to create an agenda, the best approach is to apply common sense and seeing the value of all the small interactions that take place. “Be sensitive to other people’s emotions. Be inclusive. Don’t say things that are hurtful,” she cautions. “We teach all this to our children. But when we grow up into adults, we sometimes forget it ourselves.”

She is convinced that if people start to do this in the workplace, and then the wider community, it will simply become a way of life. “It’s not an initiative; it’s how we need to live,” she says. “If somebody needs to know something or wants to speak, enable them. Everybody should be able to have the floor, irrespective of their background.”

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