Lacrosse Prepares J.P. Morgan Staffers for the Daily Grind


Kaitlyn Shanahan, a former Hofstra player, is now a sales associate at J.P. Morgan.

A team full of lacrosse players meets every weekday morning in midtown Manhattan. 

It features more than 50 former college laxers — men and women, who played roles at all levels, from Division I to III, Duke to Penn, Hamilton to Williams, captains and all-stars to super subs and role players.

They arrive early, often before the sun is even up. They grind out wins and adapt on the fly. They’re competitive individuals who aren’t afraid to work, united by the fact that they weren’t ready for fast-paced days to end when their college lacrosse careers did.

But this team doesn’t play in the NLL. Or the PLL. Or Athletes Unlimited. They’re not even, technically a lacrosse team. These are the traders and sales people on J.P. Morgan’s trading floor.

“We sit shoulder to shoulder,” said Kaitlyn Shanahan, a sales associate who played at Hofstra. “We’re all glued to each other. People are yelling. It’s the same thing on a lacrosse field. Instead of saying, ‘I’m splitting two,’ it’s, ‘Who’s got this order? Who’s grabbing this? Who’s taking care of this?’ When the bell goes off, it’s game time. Let’s go.”

Shanahan, who comes from a decorated lacrosse family and is the niece of 2001 Tewaaraton Award winner Doug Shanahan, noticed how similar her daily life was after her playing career ended.

“My boss is kind of like my coach,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes when we’re ready to go he’ll say, ‘OK, get your goggles on, Kate.’ We never know what’s going to happen. That’s the fun thing. It’s just like sometimes you get into a lacrosse game and you have a game plan but something gets thrown out there really quick and you need to adapt.”

There’s no one path that lands someone on the trading floor at J.P. Morgan. Team members majored in everything from finance to engineering to Spanish. But a minor in lacrosse doesn’t hurt. 

“There’s no book on learning to play lacrosse,” Shanahan said. “It’s the same thing as working on a training floor. No one gives you a textbook. You learn from the people that sit next to you.”

Chloe Lewis, who played four years at Duke, echoed those sentiments.

“You didn’t get there on a whim and you didn’t get here on a whim,” said Lewis. “You have to be very regimented in your process.”

Just like a college lacrosse field, traders begin developing their skills long before they step on the trading floor. Traits that help one succeed in the NCAA — adaptability, accountability, grit, organization and being able to multitask — are essential.

“Athletes have a certain skill set that works well to being on a team,” said Kara Wollmers, a sales analyst who played at Williams. “You learn to handle scenarios that can potentially be stressful.”

“I don’t know if it’s a chicken or egg that there’s so many athletes here,” Lewis said. “It’s very similar. You just have to find that confidence.”

The day starts early, mirroring predawn workouts in college. Instead of lifting and conditioning, the team is researching and preparing for the day ahead. Instead of film, they’re watching the news. How did the Asian markets finish? What is Europe doing? Is the Federal Reserve planning a rate hike? Is the president going to speak? Are there mergers or acquisitions on the horizon?

It’s all about being in the best position to succeed. Then the team works together to execute the game plan. People run across the floor to inform when plans change. Some days it’s pandemonium. Being adaptable is key. Whatever works to win the day. Everyone plays a role.

“It’s about doing what’s best for the team and not the individual,” said Chad Morse, a former team captain who helped begin the turnaround at Hamilton. “Doing what’s best for the team is what’s best for the clients.”

When the final bell — the whistle that ends the game — finally rings, they reflect as a team and help each other improve.

“There’s a team-building culture,” Wollmers said. “You learn from your teammates. There’s no textbook. You have the base set of skills and then make sure you’re ready to tackle any challenges.”

The team-building culture, and lacrosse connection, extends beyond the trading floor.

The heavy lacrosse presence helped to bring in Morgan’s Message — the organization founded in honor of former Duke lacrosse player Morgan Rodgers — which came to speak to employees about mental health awareness.

Earlier this summer, sales people and their clients met in Chelsea to play a lacrosse game with women’s rules. For the second year in a row, it was a chance for clients and their traders to deepen their connection. And to remember how much lacrosse is still a part of their lives.

“You can lose sight of how fun the game is,” Lewis said. “It’s great that you can pick up your stick and feel like a kid again.”

“Every time you leave the field, you have this itch to keep playing lacrosse,” Morse said.

That itch is why so many were drawn to J.P. Morgan, where they can get the rush of the game without being on the field. For others who might follow in their footsteps, the advice will be familiar to any lacrosse coach. Never stop work. Never stop improving.

“You have to be willing to learn, work hard and look ahead,” Shanahan said.

And if you’re open, don’t be afraid to call for the ball.

“One piece of advice I would give myself back when I was 10, 13, 15, 19, is always ask questions,” Wollmers said. “Learn more. Reach out to someone to find out more about what they do. That can open a door that you might not even have thought was possible. Never be afraid. Be inquisitive.”

Good advice for anyone, whether they’re playing wall ball or trying to get to Wall Street.


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