Justine S. Iverson: Maximizing Her Potential in the Financial World

Top 10 Most Inspiring leaders in Finance of the Year 2023

Justine S. Iverson entered the realm of finance through a series of marketing roles. This unconventional approach required quick learning of the domain, but her commitment to hard work, fearless attitude, and growth mindset enabled her to successfully navigate that and other challenges. Today, she is in the top echelon of the financial world. She is the Senior Director and Head of S&P Global Marketplace along with having responsibility for Strategy at the umbrella Desktop & Channels business line at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

She is also the President of VALOR South & West, short for Veterans and Allies Leading for Organizational Results, which is one of S&P Global’s People Resource Groups. In March, she was honored with the 2023 Above & Beyond Award by WatersTechnology in the Women in Technology and Data Awards. This award was an honor to her because her colleagues nominated her for it.

Justine’s career accomplishments stem from her ability to set the bar high, set big goals, and then fearlessly go for them. “Maximizing one’s potential” is how she defines success. “It’s important as a leader and individual to be able to set yourself up in a way that you can do that,” she says.

The Career Path  

Justine has a unique background in several ways. She was born and raised in a blue-collar, agricultural family. Her parents were farmers and school teachers. The young Justine knew nothing about the financial world, where she is currently making a mark.  She pursued journalism – a field completely unrelated to finance – during her undergraduate at Elon University and the University of Montana. Following that, she began her professional journey with an advertising agency in Houston, Texas. She worked there in a public relations role.

While she found the work “super fun” and enjoyed working on different projects, she yearned to dig in a bit more. So, she moved in-house to IHS, a provider of data and SaaS solutions, at the time and stepped into a marketing role. “I transitioned from journalism into public relations where I did some marketing work, and then into a full marketing role,” Justine recalls. For a few years, she continued in marketing roles. Some of them had connections to the financial services industry but were not fully engaged in it.

Soon, she was itching to do something different. However, as she was still quite young in her career, she was unsure about her next move. Justine joined a Denver-based boutique asset manager. Although here, too, her primary focus was on marketing, the small size of the firm, comprising 30 to 50 employees, allowed her to handle different tasks. In addition to marketing, she also did sales, operations, and product-related work. “I enjoyed the exposure to all of them,” she says.

The firm was managing alternative mutual funds and there was a lot of money management involved. Justine points out that there was some technical side to it as well. “Since there were quantitative-based funds, it was very interesting to understand how that worked,” she says. But, then, there came a point where she felt that she had maxed out her potential. “I was gaining great experience, but small firms have only so much upside,” Justine says. “So, I decided to move to S&P Global.”

The asset manager that she worked for was a client of S&P Global’s data feeds. And that is the business unit she came in through at the time. The business focused on distribution of data and solutions to various types of clients – financial organizations being the key client base. “I knew that kind of workflow pretty well, as I was moving into a role where I was marketing to who I had just worked for,” she says. “So, I understood the use cases very well.”

After her stint at the advertising agency, Justine had mainly worked in marketing positions. The exposure she received at the asset manager made her realize that she wanted to do something different. So, while she was working at S&P Global, she decided to pursue an MBA from the University of Denver Daniel’s College of Business. In the MBA program, she had a focus on big data and data science. “After that, I pivoted into a product management role, which has evolved since,” she says.

During her formative years, Justine watched her parents and her community work extremely hard. She saw their struggle in tough times. And she also saw them work together, always treat people right, never waver from their main goals, and continually strive for success. “I think that my foundational childhood years and the way I grew up helped me get to where I am today,” she says. “It also helps me maintain perspective on what real challenges are, and what really matters, which is very helpful in the business world.”

Working at S&P Global

S&P Global is a provider of credit ratings, benchmarks, analytics, and workflow solutions in the global capital, commodity, and automotive markets. It is a gold standard for much of what it does. Justine joined the company in May of 2019. “Working for a company that is a gold standard is always a privilege,” she says.

She also says that the organization is people-focused — S&P Global cares about its people and creates an environment that allows people to thrive. Justine recalls that at an internal leadership event, someone who had been at S&P Global for a long time said to her, “The leaders of S&P Global are just good people.” And good people are the ones who end up sticking around. “As with any organization, people come and go, and we’re lucky that really good people stay here,” Justine says. “I believe that it permeates throughout the organization, from the top all the way through, making it a truly great place to work.”

S&P Global consists of five divisions, including Market Intelligence, where Justine heads the S&P Global Marketplace. She and her team are responsible for managing, growing, and expanding the S&P Global Marketplace, a data discovery tool that allows clients, prospects, and internal users at the company to understand all the datasets and solutions that they have from across the entire enterprise, not just the Market Intelligence division. “We get to work across all five divisions,” Justine says. They regularly engage with different stakeholders and different product owners across the organization. Her team also partners with technology organizations to develop the latest innovations for the product.

As part of her mandate, Justine also oversees the go-to-market function for feed distribution of S&P Global data.  The organization focuses on structuring all their data and content and then linking the data in such a way that clients can easily use various datasets together. For example, when someone is planning to buy a house, they just do not look at its façade. They tend to look at the school district, taxes, and other data points before making a decision. “Our clients do the same thing with our data,” Justine explains. They use all these different pieces of data together to make their decision. We structure, link, and deliver our data in a way to make this as easy as possible for our clients.” Justine’s team partners with all the product managers and product developers for the go-to-market strategy – it involves all the steps necessary to launch a product, internal education and partnering with the marketing team to create marketing campaigns that generate awareness and educate people about their data. Additionally, the team works with partners such as technology firms, Snowflake and Databricks, on joint efforts that meet the evolving needs of clients. These collaborations have been significant in creating another avenue of growth for S&P Global; the firm was also named the 2023 Financial Services Marketplace Partner of the Year by both Snowflake and Databricks.

In January of 2023, Justine stepped into an expanded role, which requires her to manage the desktop & channels strategy. Before taking up this role, she had mostly worked on the feed side of the business. In her new role, she leads much of the strategy formulation across the billion-dollar Desktop and Channels business. She partners with the head of the business and extended leadership team to assess and prioritize the big bets in the future, how they are investing in that, and how they can best meet the needs of their clients.

Most recently, Justine has been partnering on what they are doing in the AI and machine learning space and how they should be innovating to meet a client’s needs. She also assesses how they think of their business as a whole for growth.

Making Significant Contributions

The Market Intelligence division of S&P Global is a provider of information and services to global markets, serving a broad section of clients. It offers accurate, deep, insightful information to organizations across all different types of companies, including banks, investment managers, corporations, insurance firms, and governments. The information allows them to expand their perspective, operate with confidence, and make their business decisions with conviction. “We power our clients to grow their organizations,” Justine says.

In 2020, S&P Global announced the acquisition of IHS Markit — one of the companies where Justine previously worked. This merger impacted the Market Intelligence division significantly, and Justine has played a big part in that.

“When that merger was announced, I received a lot of messages from former colleagues and current colleagues at S&P Global,” Justine says. “It is an important life lesson that you never know where your career is going to take you and how it will connect, so always treat people right and never burn a bridge.”

Following the merger, the Market Intelligence division saw some significant changes. “It has been fun to be a part of that,” Justine says. “We’ve already uncovered a ton of potential and tapped a lot of opportunities through the merger, and we’re just getting started.”

Justine’s unique background and skillset have brought a different perspective to the team she works with. They often joke that if one needs a good story crafted, one should go to Justine. She explains that in a big organization, it is really important to convey the right message. By introducing her very technical team to a different viewpoint, she has generated a lot of positivity for Market Intelligence.

And, because of her journalism background, she knows how to ask questions to get information that can drive the business forward.

A Thoughtful Leader’s Achievements

“Thoughtful” is the word that best describes Justine as a leader. She tries to be “very thoughtful” in how she approaches her work. She does not follow a certain way of doing things because that is the norm. She is strategic in her approach and prefers to think through matters. “I always aim to be very thoughtful in how I approach my team, peers, and people who I work with,” Justine says.

She is proud of her team. She gets most excited when a team of hers grows or accomplishes something that they were aiming for. Prior to going to the business school and her career evolving, she coached competitive youth soccer in her free time. “I always share that because it parallels what I enjoy doing,” Justine says. “I enjoy coaching people, seeing people grow, and bringing a team together to accomplish a big goal.”

She also feels a sense of excitement when she sees the business grow. “In my role, I get a unique purview in the sense that I not only work across all parts of Market Intelligence, but I also work across all the divisions of S&P Global. Not many people get to do that,” Justine points out. “So, it is a great opportunity that my team and I have. You get to see growth in all different areas of the business and learn about various areas of the business.”

From where she started to where she is now, Justine figured out a lot of things by herself. She is proud that she was able to define the career she wanted. “I’ve always tried to challenge myself in different ways and have had some pivots that may not be traditional,” Justine says. “I’m proud of not being afraid to try something new and how I’ve compounded my varying experiences to make myself a well-rounded leader.”

Along the way, she also received guidance from some amazing coaches and mentors that she marks as essential to her success and opportunities. She points out that she is proud of building lasting relationships. “The relationships I have with people that have mentored me, or I’ve mentored, is something I’m really proud of,” she says. “In general, I love bringing people together.”

What Is Next?

The merger of S&P Global with IHS Markit has resulted in many benefits. “We’re just at the tip. We have much more potential and opportunity,” Justine says. She is excited to see how that unfolds and to help drive it forward.

She believes that the two organizations fit together in a unique way where they can create end-to-end solutions for clients. “The key is continuing to unleash all the potential of the merger, as we have already started to do,” she says.

Currently, there is a lot of work taking place related to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). For our clients, we can utilize AI to enable them to become more efficient, especially important given the huge volume of data and information available today, Justine points out. By leveraging AI, S&P Global — a data company — can set itself up for success. In 2018, the company acquired Kensho. It had great technologists and engineers, but they didn’t have the data that they needed to build solutions. “So, the marriage between the companies has set us up for incredible success in this space,” Justine says. “We have been working on AI/ML since 2018. So, we have a lot of experience already.”

Justine believes that AI and machine learning are going to change how the world operates. Clients will become more efficient, the S&P Global business will become more efficient, and it is going to evolve how people work day-to-day. “Being at the forefront of that in partnership with Kensho and others is a huge opportunity for our organization,” she says.

“The last, most important, part is that it is all about clients,” she adds. They intend to continue partnering with clients to build relevant products. “The continued partnership with our clients to do that is very key to how I look at my day-to-day, my team’s day-to-day, and my organization’s day-to-day,” Justine says.

Message to Aspiring Leaders

Justine tells aspiring leaders to go all in. “When you’re doing something, whether it is big or small, go all in,” she says. “It’s important to fully commit to whatever you’re doing, even if it’s something small. All those small things compound to big things.”

She also encourages them to stay abreast of what is happening in the market, as the financial services industry, as well as the global markets, are evolving quickly. She also tells aspiring leaders to expose themselves to people outside their industry, stay curious, and have an open mindset. “One of the ways to bring innovation into your organization is by understanding what others are doing and how you can apply that to make your organization better,” she says.

Justine has built true, deep relationships in her career. She advises aspiring leaders to do the same. “We are humans. We connect through people. You’re going to be more successful in whatever you do when you truly build relationships with your colleagues, partners, and clients,” she says. In addition to that, she also suggests that they should not only have mentors but also mentor others.

“You also have to manage your career,” Justine says. “You have to be vocal about what you want. You often have to prove you can do that thing before you get the opportunity. And be a little fearless in how you approach challenges.”

“What is the worst that is going to happen? It doesn’t work as planned,” she adds. “That is how we learn and grow, and you often learn more when things don’t go perfectly than when they do.”