Dynamic Dr. Betty Uribe: How the Pandemic Helped her Pivot to Make Transformative Impact
By Christine Bolaños
Dr. Betty Uribe arrived in the United States as a child from Colombia with nothing to her family’s name. Today, she is an international brand name and oversees JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s entire California retail bank network. She credits her success to hard work, strong values and integrity, coupled with the ability to pivot and a strong dose of passion. Through all of life’s joys and accomplishments, she remains humble and prefers to be called simply “Betty” by her colleagues.
As JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s California consumer bank divisional director — the largest bank in the United States with more than $3.2 trillion in assets under management — Uribe is responsible for over 10,000 employees across nearly 1,000 branches. It’s a significant career move for Uribe, who left California Bank & Trust in late 2019 after eight years to grow her “Dr. Betty” brand internationally. This effort included speaking engagements, consulting and philanthropic work, but she says those plans were cut short when the global pandemic reached Europe, causing a chain reaction that ultimately led her back into banking.
She was on her way back from her #Values book tour in Mexico City — a book that was endorsed by The Vatican and has a foreword by the Pentagon — when she heard that Italy was shutting down in response to the coronavirus.
“I thought, holy mackerel, what does that mean? The next day they shut down Los Angeles and things started to pivot,” Uribe shares.
One moment she was accepting recognition as Ambassador of Peace and Human Rights in The Americas UN, UNICEF, CNDH, CIDH, UNESCO and OEA and the next she was reaching out to her contacts at the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Dept. of Treasury figuring out how she could help small business owners open their businesses and keep them afloat at such an uncertain time. Uribe has owned and operated businesses in manufacturing, automotive, transportation, real estate and business consulting. Then she got a life-changing LinkedIn message from a connection at JPMorgan Chase that eventually led her back into banking.
Uribe understood the big responsibility the position entailed so she had to “really fall in love” to accept the job. After nearly a dozen conversations with division heads at the company and employees at all levels “that’s exactly what happened,” she says. Uribe says she feels like she’s “coming home” every day she goes to work.
“It’s a bank with a heart and you don’t find that (much). Most people lead with the numbers but this company leads with a heart. It’s a genuine culture of people and community and how could I not fall in love with that,” Uribe shares.
Working to better focus organizations along their core values is a central focus of Uribe’s career in banking and as a speaker and consultant. She thought she would have to bring that to JPMorgan Chase but was pleasantly surprised to find the bank was already largely aligned along with its key values.
For example, the company is expanding its involvement in the local community. It made a recent $30 billion commitment to improve racial financial equity over the next five years in Black and Latino communities across the United States. This includes financial commitments to mortgages, business loans, furthering financial education in underserved communities, and expanding diversity and inclusion in its own workforce.
“These are two large communities in our nation that have faced racism and because of the pandemic, they have been affected even more. We want to reach out and help in areas where traditionally our industry has not done so much,” Uribe shares. “We’re taking a systemic approach to this by teaming up with community-based organizations and locking arms to really affect positively in the ability for people to own their homes.”
The 2019 Global Woman Award winner — an honor bestowed on her by 20 organizations in 21 countries — said when she arrived in the U.S. as a 12-year-old, her mother didn’t think she could ever own a home of her own. For many families of color, owning a home is still a dream and Uribe wants to ensure they have the financial tools and resources to realize that dream.
“I was born into a privileged life in Colombia and when we came to America we started with zero. Food was brought by the church because we couldn’t afford it, clothing was bought in garage sales because we couldn’t afford new clothes, so I identify with people who are poor,” Uribe shares. “If you educate yourself, team up with the right people and the right core values, you can go as far as whatever your dreams are.”
Uribe planned to travel the world and make an impact. She felt like her wings were clipped by the pandemic. The silver lining is that this unprecedented event led her to JPMorgan Chase.
“All of a sudden JPMorgan Chase shows up and we’re so completely aligned it’s almost divine intervention,” she shares. “I can show up as myself. I don’t have to pretend that I’m someone else. I’m just “Betty” at the firm and that’s how I like it.”
Uribe was often the only woman and the only Latina at the table in her career but she used her differences as points of strength, becoming outstanding at her craft.
“I feel like I am very privileged to be able to pull from two beautiful cultures: the Latino and the American culture. I feel like being bicultural and bilingual gives me an opportunity to put myself in other people’s shoes,” she says.