The 2015 Executive Excellence Awards: Lifetime Achievement



Phyllis Campbell

Chair, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Pacific Northwest

Phyllis Campbell returned to banking five years ago for the same reasons she left it: community. She had risen to become CEO of U.S. Bank’s Northwest operations, but stepped down to lead The Seattle Foundation. She drove a dramatic expansion of its philanthropic giving and enjoyed serving the community.

So when JPMorgan Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, asked her to take the helm of the Northwest division after Chase’s buyout of Washington Mutual, she said no. She gave him three names she thought would be better, but also felt the WaMu failure had been a blow to the region. When Dimon persisted, she says, “I thought, in the end, that if we’re going to have a great community, it deserves a strong bank.”

Campbell, who grew up in Spokane in a family of five children, was able to go to college because of a benefactor scholarship, an act of generosity she never forgot. When her earliest business mentor emphasized how banking’s true goal was to make the community better, that servant leadership ethic resonated with her own values.

The toughest thing for Campbell to learn at The Seattle Foundation, she says, was patience. “I had to realize that what I did for the mission is very long term.” It’s a quality that has come in handy in her current post, as the bank has proven that it can sustain its customers and be one of the largest donors of dollars and time in the region.

“It was kind of rough the first couple of years,” she admits, “but I’m proud that five years later, we’ve done everything we said we would do.”

Campbell was the first woman to lead a Washington bank when she became president and CEO of U.S. Bank’s Washington operations in 1993. Her father ran a dry-cleaning business, where she learned every facet of running a small business, from bookkeeping to customer service. Reflecting on that experience when she assumed her position at Chase, Campbell said at the time, “I have always had a passion for building community. I really believe a bank can be an important piece to that. If we look back after five years, my sign of success would be if I could say that we have a stronger community because Chase was part of that.” 

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