“When change happens, there are always opportunities for people to show what they can do.”

June 10, 2024

One year into her role as Chief Risk Officer for EMEA, we sat down with Jo Lucas to talk about her career journey to date, what a day in the life of a Chief Risk Officer looks like and what attracted her to Mizuho.

A graduate from the University of Cambridge with a Masters in Mathematics, Jo’s studies primarily focussed on probability and statistics, something that she had always been interested in.

“Probability and statistics are a good grounding for a career in risk because they help you understand how to monitor and manage different mathematical concepts, as well as how to assess how likely things are to happen. They equip you with the right tools to make those decisions,” says Jo.

Although the correlation with risk is apparent now, Jo originally began her career in financial services in 2005, with an internship in the middle office offering trade support. Given her background in probability and statistics, a colleague put her in contact with the risk department, starting what would become her career in risk management.

“I think what’s interesting about risk is that you are incredibly close to the front office and work very closely with the business,” explains Jo. “Whilst risk is a second line function, the skillsets required involve a lot of first line knowledge, working closely with traders and bankers – being able to think like them and being able to challenge them.”

After finishing her degree, Jo joined Bank of America in 2007 as a Market Risk Manager in the Structured Credit Trading team. Within one year, the 2008 financial crash would happen, and Bank of America would purchase Merrill Lynch – a period of significant internal and external events that can only be described as ‘in at the deep end’ from a risk perspective.

“A lot of what we do within risk management is looking at what could go wrong, trying to minimise the potential impact, and determining how we should react if the worst does happen. When things do go wrong, it’s good for us to challenge our previous thinking and it provides many learning opportunities.”

As difficult as this period was, Jo says the learnings and exposure were invaluable, giving her the opportunity to work on increasingly bigger assignments, covering different asset classes and working on a variety of projects.

“It can be quite scary when you’re going through those difficult times, but as you take on more opportunities, you are developing a good set of skills that are training you up to be able to do a lot of different things throughout your career.”

One year as Chief Risk Officer for Mizuho EMEA

As Chief Risk Officer for EMEA, Jo is responsible for understanding all the risks encountered by the bank on a day-to-day basis, as well as developing the frameworks that inform how those risks are managed. From financial risks like market, credit, and liquidity risk, to non-financial risks like operational, model and reputational risk.

“We work closely with the frontline to challenge them and ensure the risks that they are taking are within the appetite set by senior leadership and our shareholders,” explains Jo.

“I was very excited about working somewhere with a lot of positive change and growth, and I definitely haven’t been disappointed.”

Jo Lucas,
Chief Risk Officer, Mizuho EMEA

“The frameworks we run help us quantify those risks, and then we work with the business so that everyone has a good understanding of the risks we’re running, how big they are and the impact that they could have on the organisation.”

Another key part of Jo’s role is monitoring and understanding external risks, from the market environment and geopolitical change to new and emerging trends and technologies like AI and sustainability regulation.

“Generally, the first thing I do each morning is look at what’s happened externally and think about how that has or may impact us as an organisation,” explains Jo.

As she looks at these new and emerging risks, Jo explains the need to look at them all through a variety of lenses.

“On the one side, we’re looking at them from an internal perspective and ensuring we have the right controls in place. On the other side, we’re looking at the broader impacts on the economy as a whole - how will it impact our clients, counterparties and financial markets. There’s a lot to consider and a lot of dynamics that are constantly evolving.”

“A lot of people think that our job in risk is to predict the future and say what will happen next, and it’s absolutely not. If I could predict the future, I would be exercising my own right in the stock market and living on a Caribbean Island.”

In summarising her first year, Jo says, “I was very excited about working somewhere with a lot of positive change and growth, and I definitely haven’t been disappointed.”

Mizuho EMEA’s growth story

One of the main attractions to the role at Mizuho was the growth journey that is currently being taken across EMEA, most recently with the announcement to create a Universal Bank in the EU region.

“There are a lot of opportunities that Mizuho EMEA has at this stage to grow as an organisation and to expand our offering to clients,” says Jo. “As a risk manager, this is really exciting. It’s an opportunity to build frameworks from scratch as we grow the business, and then as the business evolves further, we’re evolving those frameworks at the same time.”

“Due to our size and history in the region, we’re able to take advantage of the technology we have, and we’re working very closely with the regulators who are also positive and supportive of Mizuho EMEA’s growth journey in the region.”

For colleagues across the business, Jo states that now is the best time to have a career at Mizuho.

“When change happens, there are always opportunities for people to show what they can do.”

Jo continues, “There are going to be times where your manager will say ‘we have this new project and we don’t have somebody who has done it before’. That’s a great opportunity for you to show your skills and diversity, which is great for people who are ambitious and for people who want to learn, because they will be given those opportunities.”

The importance of passion

A keen sailor, Jo spends most of her summer weekends out on the water and is also a qualified sailing race official, having officiated at the London 2012 Olympics and other international sailing events.

“Sailing is my passion. It helps me recharge and come back on a Monday totally reinvigorated. Because I throw myself into sailing at the weekend work can feel a long way away.”

“Sailing is my passion. It helps me recharge and come back on a Monday totally reinvigorated.”

Jo Lucas,
Chief Risk Officer, Mizuho EMEA

Jo also argues that passion at work is also just as important as passion outside of work.

“When you’re passionate it’s much easier to focus and drive yourself. You can be technically brilliant, but if you’re not having fun then I don’t think you or the organisation are getting the most out of it.”

Outside of passion, Jo also says there’s also a huge amount of overlap between risk management and sailing when it comes to trying to steer in the right direction.

“You want to go as fast as possible in a way that doesn’t lead to damaging the boat or, in the worst case, a capsize.” claims Jo. “It’s finding that balance of how you push yourself, but making sure that you’ve got that control around you – it’s something that everybody does, every day. It just happens to be much more quantitative at a bank.”

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