Women in Finance Awards Q&A: Jessica Gaffney, Mizuho


Jessica Gaffney, Director, Head of First Line Risk and Control at Mizuho, won Rising Star at Markets Media’s 2019 Women in Finance Awards.

What is the ‘secret of your success’?

Jessica Gaffney, Mizuho

I think what has made me successful in my career to date is my willingness to roll up my sleeves and help solve problems in a pragmatic way. I think that is why I’ve always leaned towards advisory/risk management roles in my career. A lot of what I do entails evaluating risks, related control gaps and weaknesses and helping the business determine how/when to implement remedial measures. A significant aspect of my role is coaching the business to appreciate and evaluate when it is appropriate to accept a risk. I enjoy being a trusted partner to the business, and add value in that they can present and raise issues to me that we need to address and we can work collaboratively to get them done. I find it satisfying that we can bring such items to closure as a result of this partnership. Giving stakeholders an opportunity to be heard, partnering with them to achieve their objectives and bringing the project across the finish line are of the utmost importance when working in the financial services industry.

How do you strike a work-life balance?

When I am in the office and during normal working hours, work has my undivided attention. When I go home however, I always make it a point to spend some time to myself technology-free, fully in the moment, whether it is working out, cooking a nice meal, or watching a show on Netflix. I try to limit the amount I check emails at the end of the night, with a strict rule to disconnect at least one hour before bed, so I am fully refreshed for the next day.

What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?

My extracurricular passions and hobbies are traveling and hiking. I’ve had the pleasure of being able to hike in some fairly remote, exotic and unique places to date. Some of these places include, a jungle trek in Sumatra Indonesia to see wild Orangutans, hiking the Inca Trail and Huayna Picchu (famous peak in Machu Picchu) in Peru, glacier trekking in Iceland, hiking Torres del Paine in Patagonia, Chile, and a trek in Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas.

Many would think that since I work in a risk management role, that makes me risk-averse in my personal life. But in fact, I think my experience in the workplace has actually made me better at evaluating risk and reward. In all of these hikes and treks, I have routinely stepped out of my comfort zone and challenged myself in order to be able to obtain the benefit of beautiful and breathtaking experiences. In both my professional and personal life, I’ve learned that hard work reaps great returns. As a result, my mantra has developed to: don’t be afraid to take prudent risks and to always confront a challenge head on, because in the end, it will all be worth it.

What is your advice for women considering or just starting financial careers?

I would tell any woman starting a financial career to get involved in stretch projects as much as possible and try to stand out and make partnerships while you’re working on them. In the end this will not only help build your brand but also expand your network, which can help further your future goals.

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