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Detroit Service Corps

Financial capital is just one of the resources JPMorgan Chase is bringing to bear in Detroit. Through our Detroit Service Corps, some of our most talented employees are putting their skills and expertise to work on behalf of our nonprofit partners, helping them strengthen their capacity to make a difference.

To date, we have sent three teams of employees – a total of 36 individuals representing eight countries – to Detroit to work full time for three weeks helping these partners meet a particular need. Detroit Service Corps members have collectively contributed nearly 5,400 hours of their expertise, assisting with everything from business plan development to human resource management.

Accounting Aid Society | Detroit Land Bank Authority | Eastern Market Corporation | Eastside Community Network | EcoWorks | Focus: HOPE | Greening of Detroit | Michigan Community Resources | TechTown | Vanguard CDC | Youth Development Commission

My Detroit "Reality Show" Experience

By Jennifer Prichard, Managing Director, J.P.Morgan Asset Management

In 2014, after nearly 15 years at JPMorgan Chase, this is the opportunity I was presented with: to be plucked out of my life, leaving my day job and family – including my four small children – for 21 days to go to a city that was in bankruptcy, to work with a team of 11 people I’d never met, to complete an unknown task. My immediate thought? Sounds like a reality TV show.

I said yes.

My journey to Detroit as a member of the inaugural JPMorgan Chase Service Corps cohort was short by comparison: just a three-hour drive from my home in Columbus, Ohio. Others in our group came from São Paulo, Sydney, Hong Kong, Mumbai and beyond.

My team of three was assigned to work with Vanguard Community Development Corporation, a not-for-profit that was looking for ways to help stabilize Detroit’s historic North End neighborhood.

Our task: quantify and determine the viability of a financial model for Vanguard to acquire, rehabilitate and sell homes in the neighborhood. Three weeks later, after working days on-site at Vanguard and evenings around a conference table with my Service Corps colleagues, my team delivered our results.

We recommended to Vanguard that the highest impact use of the organization’s resources would be to focus on helping existing North End homeowners rehabilitate their homes – work Vanguard continues today as part of its ongoing efforts to enrich and revitalize the neighborhood. We also provided Vanguard with a broader business plan and financial model for the organization’s long-term sustainability. Our partners at Vanguard told us that they appreciated how we helped them arrive at a rigorous, business-based decision – and without having to use any of the organization’s scarce resources to pay a consultant to get there.

The project helped me to understand that – despite our differences – there are also similarities between not-for-profits like Vanguard and corporations like JPMorgan Chase. We both have to prioritize, be realistic about our capacity and focus resources where they can have the highest impact.

"Here in the North End, Vanguard is well-positioned to take advantage of Detroit's emerging recovery – and it was a huge benefit to have the JPMorgan Chase Service Corps members apply their skills to an assessment of our strategy."

Pamela Martin Turner, President and CEO, Vanguard Community Development Corporation

At the end of the three weeks, I left Detroit having had an intense, life-altering experience.

It gave me the opportunity to integrate three things that are really important to me personally. First, I am passionate about the bank and the outreach it does in the community. Second, I am passionate about volunteerism – from being a member of my kids’ school board to volunteering in the hospital helping new mothers – I am deeply committed to engaging in my community.

Last, I am a Midwesterner, and being a Service Corps member allowed me to give back to a great Midwestern city. In fact, going to Detroit allowed me to come full circle in my career at JPMorgan Chase in a way: When I started working at the bank, one of my first roles was to make the drive from Columbus to Detroit to help integrate products from the National Bank of Detroit market – one of JPMorgan Chase’s legacy banks.

From my experience in the Service Corps, I gained a new sense of pride in the company I work for, knowing it is not only willing to make a $100 million commitment but also put boots on the ground and lend its people’s expertise. I developed a deep and enduring camaraderie with my fellow participants.

I learned not to underestimate the value of our people’s skills and expertise.

For lean and mighty not-for-profits – full of passionate people but sometimes lacking the financial skills that are second nature to bankers – this kind of intense work by the right skill set can take something from the back burner, put it on the front burner and bring it to a boil. I am grateful to have been a part.

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