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John "JJ" Madia on What Military Experience and Investment Banking Have in Common

The Pallas Foundation for National Security Leadership recently hosted a conversation with John “JJ” Madia, Director at RBC Capital Markets (Royal Bank of Canada). The discussion addressed how lessons learned from military experience can apply to a private-sector career – including Wall Street. Check out three takeaways from the discussion below.


Military experience provides an invaluable skill set for a multitude of careers, including roles in finance. After graduating from West Point, JJ spent six years in the US Army. While in leadership roles, he conducted counterinsurgency operations, integrated and synchronized multiple assets, and led his battalion’s information operations campaigns. During his conversation with Pallas Foundation, JJ said he left the Army knowing he wanted to transition to a career in finance because he liked working with quantifiable data – something that he had experience with firsthand in the Army. Characteristics common in investment banking also resonated with him as they were similar to some elements of his military experience: a need for internal motivation, a strong work ethic, and the competitive and fast-paced environment. Indeed, JJ described investment banking as the “combat arms of finance.”


There are a lot of misconceptions about investment banking. As JJ clarified, investment banks do not manage money for individuals or advise on stocks, and they aren’t market makers or floor traders. At RBC, JJ advises clients on large, strategic initiatives such as mergers and acquisitions, preserving long-term growth, and optimizing the capital structure. JJ sees RBC as a “true investment bank” that provides strategic advice and distributes securities, but also brings a balance sheet to lend as principal to clients. As far as his day to day, JJ describes valuing companies as a science and as well as an art form. For example, when developing an Initial Public Offering (IPO) valuation, you must examine the numbers, but you also have to consider future changes to a company’s valuation based on past, present, and future indicators.


Military leadership lessons are definitely applicable to private industry – including the mindset that you’re never too senior to help. When asked what leadership lessons from his time in the military he applies to the finance world, JJ explained that in the Army, leaders always “do and lead from the front.” JJ discussed how he took his experiences from the military, working hand-in-hand with his soldiers, and applied that to his work in the financial sector by pitching in with junior employees. Ultimately, he said that he gained respect from younger employees because of his willingness to support his team however he can in order to get the job done.


John “JJ” Madia is a Director at RBC Capital Markets. Before RBC, he was an Investment Banking Associate in the Financial Institutions Group at Nomura and at Sandler O’Neill & Partners, L.P. JJ served in the military prior to entering the finance world. After graduating from West Point, JJ spent six years in the US Army. He was a Platoon Leader in Iraq, conducting counterinsurgency operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was then a Battalion Effects Coordinator, responsible for the integration and synchronization of indirect fires, attack aviation and close air support assets for an infantry battalion and leading the battalion information operations campaign for three Afghan provinces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. JJ earned an MBA in Finance from Notre Dame.