By: Yosef Kerendian  | 

The Big One, The Great One

“The Big One,” was how the Business Leadership Club phrased it. And, Allen Friedman certainly lived up to this moniker, and then some. Armed with a B.A. from Yeshiva University, a J.D. from Columbia University, and a LL.M. in Taxation from NYU, Mr. Friedman is a true role model and inspiration to every current and aspiring Sy Syms student. Mr. Friedman is currently a managing director, or MD, and head of JP Morgan’s tax department. Prior to joining JP Morgan and working alongside CEO James Dimon, Mr. Friedman was a lawyer with Cravath, Swaine, & Moore (1984-1989) and a law clerk for Chief Judge Jack Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York (1983-1984).

Typically, the BLC brings in speakers from an array of different backgrounds and experiences to present in front of a large audience of Yeshiva University students. Maor Shoshana, a Syms senior and President of the Business Leadership Club, moderated the conversation with Mr. Friedman. Maor opened by asking Mr. Friedman how he got to where he is today, to which Mr. Friedman responded that “A lot of fortunate accidents got me to where I am today. I got very very lucky. Nonetheless, tax requires illogical thinking and applying rules to complex sets of facts, something I am good at.” Mr. Friedman also mentioned that he “established a good mentor early on”—advice that should resonate with all YU students.

Next, the conversation shifted to Mr. Friedman’s current position and the corporate culture at JP Morgan. Mr. Friedman was enthused with the topic and said that “at JP Morgan, we encourage strong legality enforcers, pushback from our peers, and challenging ideas. In addition, there are no dumb questions. If you don't ask questions, then you aren't paying attention, so ask questions and ask questions often.” Mr. Friedman added that above all, when James Dimon took office in 2004, he unarguably enhanced the culture at JP Morgan which is now noticed by everyone internally. Mr. Friedman concluded the question by comparing a corporation to a family. “A corporation is like a family—you need strong parents and strong leaders to have an affect and change their kids lives for the better.” Without them, you neither have a family nor a corporation.

The next burning questions was about defining success and the metrics used to define this magical glory. One which we all strive to achieve over our professional career. “There is no single right answer,” said the YU grad. “Everyone can value success in a different way. In my experience, you should ask a lot of questions. When asked to do something, overshoot the project and give it everything you have. On top of that, never take credit for someone else’s work. If you didn't do the work, don't claim it as yours. Lastly, your boss doesn't have prophecy. Always let them know what you are up to and the things you are currently doing.” If this doesn’t define success, I don’t know what does.

Similarly, the qualities of a great leader include, but are not limited to, “Openness to pushback, willingness to listen, making hard decisions after considering all possible decisions, reemphasizing your main points, and being able to talk the talk and walk the walk,” said Mr. Friedman. On the flip side, when asked about his biggest regrets, Mr. Friedman responded, “I honestly can say, I don’t have any regrets. I've been very fortunate in my career.”

On the topic of establishing a mentor, a person whom we all need to succeed in the cutthroat 24/7 business world, something to look for is “a successful individual who looks out not only for himself, but for others as well. Someone who has great interpersonal skills, and is both smart and politically savvy.” And when asked about the benefits Mr. Friedman gained from a Yeshiva University education, he claimed “YU taught me my soft skills such as hard work, discipline, and how to think and express myself clearly.” Many students today would agree that we, at one point or another, have learned and utilized one or more of these skills over our time at Yeshiva University.

The discussion then transitioned and focused on the Dodd Frank Act; an act requiring large institutions to maintain large capital reserves, and how the Trump Administration will affect JP Morgan. Mr. Friedman mentioned, “Banks are over regulated and have a heavy load of paperwork which needs to be filed even though no-one will ever go through or read once it has been printed on paper. We are anticipating reduced regulation and lower taxes which will significantly affect JP Morgan.”

Last on the agenda, the president of the Business Leadership Club asked, “What is the future in the general tax department and JP Morgan as a whole?” Mr. Friedman answered, “Tax law is complicated and was created 35-40 years ago—before the internet, financial products of today, and the unfathomable amounts of trading happening daily—yet has a bright future. Tax laws are looking towards a new set of rules coming in a couple of months. It will affect large multi-national corporations such as Walmart, Apple, and JP Morgan as well as almost everyone else in America. The future of banking depends on regulations which await in the coming months.”

Jonathan Singer, Sy Syms ’18, told The Commentator, “Mr. Allen Friedman grew my ambitions to triumph and succeed in business by establishing hard working tactics, maintaining great mentor relationships, and building a knowledge base that is everlasting and irreplaceable.” Again, it is unfortunate to those who were not able to attend this event, because this event undoubtedly lived up to its billing as The Big One.