Life After Chase: Joyce Sullivan

Reinvention as Social Media Guru

Joyce Sullivan joined the Chase family in 1993 as part of InfoServe under Dick Fama. Over time, she says, she became known as “The Cash Queen” – for her knowledge of the cash products she managed – and the “Interest Rate Maven”.

Nowadays, as an entrepreneur, Sullivan (@JoyceMSullivan) has carved out a niche as Ambassador – if not Queen – of Social Media Strategy for Financial Services, as well as for other highly regulated industries.

Through SocMediaFin, Inc., Sullivan is helping financial service companies and individual professionals navigate the world of Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media.

On Valentine’s Day, as part of New York’s Social Media Week, she will offer a session on the use of social media in financial strategies, from 4 pm to 5:30 pm, in the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) School of Management Auditorium. (Note to CAA members: There are Social Media Weeks in Hamburg, London, Miami, Paris, San Francisco, São Paulo, Singapore, Tokyo, Toronto and Washington, DC, from February 13-17, 2012.)

Hers is a story of taking a personal interest that was not part of her prior job description, making it her central interest and figuring out how to monetize it.

Sullivan worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years, in various roles with firms including, Citi, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo/First Fidelity.

At Chase she went from being a product manager to a project manager for cash products, gaining a reputation of watching products from an earning perspective.

“I really enjoyed figuring out how to fix something, to make money for the bank,” Sullivan said.

Project management, she said, was great preparation for running her own business – indeed, on the job training. “You have an idea and figure out how to make it happen.”

Her job was eliminated at the end of 2008, amidst the consolidation and changes following the Lehman collapse.

“I had no intention of ever leaving Chase,” Sullivan admitted. “I had a variety of projects to work on, which kept it fresh and interesting.”

“I looked at my new situation as another new project of my own,” she said. Sullivan was always an early adopter of technology, had always kept up her network and had joined LinkedIn “pretty early on”.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the way people communicate with each other,” she said. “There’s a generation that was successful through in-person contacts, and some of them don’t want to start over. But if there are people you want to reach, how do those people want to be reached? Are they at conferences or online?”

“My first question when I meet people is, ‘How do you prefer I contact you?’ I’ve gotten everything from direct message on Twitter to call me on the phone to ‘I’m always at fill-in-the-blank network’. I reach people the way they want to be reached.”

When Sullivan left Chase, she found herself at DBM for executive outplacement. “There were these cool people I would have never met,” she said. “I could have felt sorry for myself, but instead I said to DBM, ‘How about my designing a course and teaching how to use LinkedIn and other social media?’ Here, I was a DBM client too, but I found a job out of it.”

“I have the most fabulous connections with people around the world today. LinkedIn is now the most standard/traditional means.” Sullivan continued. I have 1,500+ first-degree connections on LinkedIn, and I know all of them. …the key is, if you are keeping up with your network just to say hello, you’ll have it when you need it – whether you’re looking for work or not. You’ve got to have a LinkedIn profile, or no one can find you.”

HR folk save so much money by going onto LinkedIn, she said, but financial services institutions have been skittish about allowing employees to use social media. FINRA put out guidance in 2010 about what such companies can do vis-à-vis social media.

“Financial institutions have to archive all written communications, and banks even once said, ‘We’ll never use e-mail.’ Now software companies have come up with products that allow banks to capture, archive and search e-mails.”

Sullivan has made regulation and compliance one of the fields on which she consults and speaks. “A Tweet, for example, is considered an ad. You have to be careful of violations. But if your clients want to talk on FaceBook or Twitter, well, that’s not going away. So how do institutions handle it, given budget restraints and regulations? Who will monitor these exchanges?”

She also coaches very senior level executives who are uncomfortable “with stuff they don’t know and need to learn”. She offers a series to chief marketing officers and others to get them comfortable with social media, and consults on social media strategy.

On the pro bono side, she’s chief digital strategist for the Financial Women’s Association and a Beta tester for all new apps for Silicon Alley, the NYC-based start-up community.

Armed with a Mac and iPhone4, Sullivan works from her “global
SocMediaFin, Inc. office” at home in Westchester County, and is incorporated and keeps an address in New York. Accelerator incubator spaces are available in New York City when she needs them, and she also works in them to meet people. She goes to networking events two to three times a week in the city,

“It’s been a much easier transition than I would have thought,” Sullivan said. “I was always sort of my own boss as a project manager, having to execute a timeline. If I didn’t do things, projects didn’t get done. I’m now the project.”

“Of course, I knew there would be a certain amount of time before I would break even. Not everyone can start a business,” she added. But she is audibly charged at going back to her professional roots as an educator and mentor, “really helping people understand and thrive in the new world we’re in.”

“Grandma Moses was my hero when I was growing up. I visited Vermont when I was 10 years old and learned she’d started painting when she was 80! Her painting was so vibrant.” Sullivan said. “It taught me you’re never too old to start something.”