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How Chi Nzelu is charting the  course for Nigerian and African professionals in the diaspora at JP Morgan

Nigerian professionals have advanced to more senior positions in the financial sector across corporate America and Europe. It was previously quite difficult for any African in general to hold executive and other top senior management positions in these sectors. 

However, the situation has changed are many are being recognized for their ability to think creatively and change the way business is done. Their professional growth and development are also seen as contributing to industry diversity.  

Top global corporations realized the need to take the diversity narrative for African/Nigerian professionals in senior management positions more seriously. 

Chinedum Nzelu is one of these young, fast-rising, and forward-looking Black African professionals who is charting corporate excellence in the diaspora. He is the Global Head of Macro Electronic Trading at JP Morgan in the United Kingdom. 

His academic and career background: He was born and raised in Lagos and attended Federal Government College in Lagos. He then travelled to the United Kingdom where in 2002 and 2003, respectively, he earned his first degree in engineering and his MSc in computing science. 

He started working for JP Morgan in London in 2005 as an FX eCommerce analyst. He later assumed control of the FX Automated Trading Strategies team in 2014, and since then, he has specialized in approaches for algorithmic execution and the creation of electronic markets. 

Currently, he is in charge of managing the creation of electronic trading algorithms for commodities, interest rates, and foreign exchange. 

He was promoted to Managing Director in 2016 and is in charge of assisting JP Morgan in transforming a sector of finance. At the institution, he is in charge of helping the bank transform an aspect of finance that has experienced slow growth. 

Nzelu’s career accomplishments: He typifies the kind of tech-savvy trader sought after by Wall Street corporations looking to digitize trading.  

Since joining JP Morgan, he has been instrumental in the creation and implementation of several innovative ideas that have helped in positioning the institution at the forefront of the banking industry in Europe. 

From Engineering and Computer Science: According to Chi, his background in Engineering and Computer Science as well as the exciting emergence of automation and algorithms in trading made him particularly interested in technology around systems and trading. 

This wasn’t easy for him, as electronic trading looked very different at the time, so he tried a few things and eventually arrived at the opportunity in Foreign Exchange. He said:

  • “Finding a job you like means you never have to work again. Success appears to occur when you are committed to continuous development in an area that you genuinely enjoy, with the understanding that making a real difference requires teamwork.”

Nzelu helped build JPMorgan’s institutional currency trading franchise — one of the largest on Wall Street through automation, research, and machine learning techniques. He was also integral in JPMorgan’s mobile trading efforts, which proved particularly useful when lockdowns swept the globe forcing people to work from home.  

  • “Personal and professional development requires candid feedback and guidance to understand your performance and make changes. I have been fortunate to have a very wide range of colleagues and managers that have provided candid feedback, which I have taken constructively. Finally, understanding the value and potential of cohesive teamwork enabled me to think more like an “owner” than an individual contributor,” he said.

Creating the right culture for teamwork: His upbringing in Nigeria, followed by his undergraduate and graduate studies in England, gave him a solid foundation for understanding the importance of inclusion and a strong sense of multiculturalism. 

Through this experience, he discovered that the value of group efforts can be truly amazing if various viewpoints are valued and advancement is motivated by merit. He believed it is crucial to establish the proper culture to draw in this diversity.  

What has fostered this strong culture of teamwork and multiculturalism, is his involvement with teams from various regions such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Brazil, New York, and London while employed by JP Morgan.

 Additionally, he has benefited from the various networking opportunities for diversity that JPMorgan Chase created for its staff, such as BOLD (Black Organization for Leadership Development), which has a variety of members from various backgrounds. 

Some tips for young professionals: Chi Nzelu believes that to excel as a young professional, you need to find your inner fire, and engage in the things that energize and drive you to grow. 

  • Also, stay curious and learn. Try to discover your passion, which is what will energize you and drive you to succeed.  
  • Continue to be inquisitive and learn and display integrity and originality. People appreciate originality. Having strong moral principles as well. 
  • Be balanced- make time for work, socializing, exercise and sleep, as this can enable you to enjoy the career journey, which is a prerequisite for success. 


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