Featured Analyst: Joan McGowan

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20 December 2018
Joan McGowan

Joan McGowan has studied the many operational risks across the banking system for over 16 years. She has witnessed the profound and costly structural changes to risk management over the past ten years and believes the impact of what’s coming will be even greater. Joan’s goal is to help the industry improve its operational risk and cyber reliance in preparation for a transformed open marketplace. In her downtime, Joan can be found walking her dog in the woods, messing on the Chattahoochee, or spending time with her family and friends.

Where are you from originally / Where did you grow up?

My family is Irish and I mainly grew up in Beeston, South Leeds, England, not far from Elland Road.

Where do you currently reside?

Somehow I've ended up in Atlanta. I have lived here for 18 years and I love the city, the people, and the beauty of the state.

What is your favorite city/place you’ve traveled?

That's a hard one. It's probably Donegal, Ireland, but I do enjoy wherever I am at the time.

Favorite Animal?

Pandas. I can watch them for hours.

Any Pets?

I have the best dog ever, he's a Golden Doodle called Chuck. I also have a cat called Cat and a heron called Henry.

Any Hobbies?

Drinking tea, watching Leeds United, which is very painful, watching Atlanta United - which is less painful, hiking, and reading

Favorite Music?

There are so many and it depends on my mood but I do love funk, Motown, soul, R&B, punk, and the biggest influencers in my life would be David Bowie and David Essex.

Favorite Food?

I'm not a foodie but I do enjoy a Sunday roast (probably my comfort food), nursing a Guinness, and oranges.


I began my work life as a journalist/editor with The Economist Group and it was a wonderful experience. Full of smart people so willing to help and mentor me and making a mistake was not a big deal. I then moved back to Leeds where I worked with the BBC North on mainly political and news programmes but I did manage to interview Billy Bremner and Christy Moore. I also had four kids while in Leeds just in case they liked cricket. Then out of the blue, we moved to America. Because of the restrictions on my work visa, I found myself working for a technology vendor. I'm not sure they knew what to do with me so I started to write white papers, business articles, and worked on strategy. I quickly found myself gravitating towards the analyst community; in fact, Craig Focardi, whom I now work with, was my go-to analyst.

What does being analyst mean?

Being an analyst is a peculiar job and it takes a certain type of personality. We're hard to define. It's a quasi-academic, business, and technology role. I’m lucky to have open access to all parties in this space and being able to watch risks unfold and the industry’s resolve to mitigate these risks is fascinating but sometimes scary. As an independent expert, I get to ask the hard questions and I synthesize volumes of information to help our clients throughout their strategic planning, buying, and selection cycles. It feels good when the knowledge you share turns into action and improves the defense of an institution.

Any advice for people entering your industry or discipline?

Be curious, be objective, and stay informed. We have a privileged position as influencers and it’s our responsibility to remain independent and honest. The role can be intense and involves a lot of writing and travel but its great fun meeting people in the industry, having the opportunity to discuss the markets and new technologies, and learning something new every day. It is an extremely rewarding career.

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