FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Executive Director at JPMorgan Payments, Neha Wattas
"The driving force behind my career transitions has been fearless curiosity," says Neha Wattas, Executive Director, Innovation & Corporate Development at JPMorgan Payments.
Neha started out in tech as a Computer Science & Engineering major from Punjab Engineering College in India. After a 1.5 years as a software engineer at Infosys, she went to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for an MS at the intersection of Computer Science, Management and Public Policy. "I was like a kid in a candy store – one day I’d be coding video games with PhDs and another, I’d be learning to negotiate deals with MBA students. Post CMU, I transitioned to management consulting for 4 years, got sick of the travel and decided to go back to school for a full-time MBA at Chicago Booth." During her MBA, she was one of 9 students from top 10 business schools chosen to join a highly competitive summer program at JPMorgan. At the end of the summer only 4 out of 9 got full time offers – Neha was one of the lucky few. She has been with JPMorgan since then in various strategy, product and most recently FinTech partnership and investing roles, and she has been working in both the New York and London offices. "Just prior to joining JPMorgan as a new Associate, my college sweetheart and then husband suddenly passed away. This experience led me to look within for sources of inspiration and meaning to carry on despite the pain. I leaned into the difficult terrain of grief and reinvented myself as an emotionally-aware leader. This has and will be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to overcome," says Neha.
In her current role, Neha develops thought leadership on the future of payments and leads strategic investments in FinTechs where there is a mutual fit. She sees her current role naturally evolved out of her last role in which she incubated and commercialized FinTech partnerships. "JPMorgan culture is all about authentic leadership and radical collaboration at scale. It’s a big place that feels small and entrepreneurial. Our Payments business (in which I work) alone is a ~$10B revenue business that moves ~$9T of money a day. Thanks to self-aware managers and sponsors over the years, I’ve grown tremendously as a leader. "
Neha is working to bring the scale and expertise of JPMorgan, to exceptional FinTechs that are pushing the boundaries of payments. This year, among other initiatives, she led 2 investments in FinTechs pioneering in the emerging payments ecosystems of omnichannel gaming and web2 metaverse. "I am currently evaluating our existing portfolio of investments and planning for 2023. Prior to that, I led a multi-year commercial partnership with an AI start up creating a highly diverse and remote team of product developers from the ground up. The team delivered outsized results, delivering the industry’s first AI Virtual Assistant." In 2020, she led a Diversity & Inclusion initiative for combating microaggressions in the workplace. As a result, microaggression training has now become a firm-wide requirement, and there is now a question about microaggressions in the Employee Opinion Survey, says Neha.
She is passionate about supporting the advancement and autonomy of women not just in FinTech but globally. Outside of J.P. Morgan, she serves as a Board Director at a large international non-profit that provides female reproductive healthcare to women and girls globally — a critical mission that is currently under threat in the U.S.
More on Neha
Where you currently live: Greenwich, CT
Living arrangement: With my husband, Vince, who I met (thanks to Tinder) in a West Village speakeasy in 2017 and married on our front porch last August
Family at home: Mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law and 5-year old niece
Hometown: Chandigarh, India
Favorite hobby: I’m a psychology nerd. I’ve been taking classes at the C.G. Jung Institute of Analytic Psychology in NYC.
Favorite part of your day: Morning coffee on my couch
Favorite show to binge: The Great British Baking Show
What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?
Change cannot happen especially in large organizations without stakeholder buy-in. I’ve realized that once you put in the time and genuine agenda-less curiosity to get underneath why somebody might not buy into your vision, it leads to creative tension and win-win solutions.
Podcast: This Jungian Life
Three good friends and psychoanalysts talk about the unconscious forces that drive human behavior. If you’re even remotely curious about the nature of our psyches without having to read dense books about it, this is the podcast for you. It’s given me tremendous insight into myself over the years plus listening to it feels like a relaxing, warm bath.