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10 Who Had a Good Year in Banking

Citigroup Citigroup

Heard much about Citigroup lately? Exactly. It gladly handed off its status as Banking Pariah No. 1 to Bank of America Corp. in 2011. That has as much to do with B of A’s much-publicized stumbles, but Citi helped itself by slimming down and making money again. The hiatus from the headlines is giving CEO Vikram Pandit time to figure out how Citi can keep the momentum going by broadening international pursuits and narrowing focus in the U.S. on more urban, richer customers. (Image: Bloomberg News)

Canadian Banks Canadian Banks

Sure, Royal Bank of Canada is exiting retail banking in the U.S., but its two main rivals are thriving here. Toronto-Dominion's TD Bank has built itself into a U.S. powerhouse thanks largely to strategic acquisitions, while Bank of Montreal's BMO Harris Bank more than doubled its assets in 2011 with its acquisition of M&I Bank. (Image: Bloomberg News)

Jim Rohr, Chairman, CEO, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. Jim Rohr, Chairman, CEO, PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

Rohr went on a buying spree in 2011. With its absorption of National City behind it, PNC bulked up in the Atlanta and Tampa areas with two branch deals and announced a blockbuster, $3.5 billion agreement to buy RBC Bank USA that firmly establishes PNC as a player in the Southeast. Stay tuned — Rohr is said to be contemplating more deals. (Image: Bloomberg News)

Irene Dorner, CEO, HSBC USA Irene Dorner, CEO, HSBC USA

Already one of the highest-ranking women in banking as head of HSBC Bank USA, Dorner gained even more power in October when she replaced Niall Booker as head of HSBC's U.S. operations. In her expanded role, Dorner now oversees HSBC's banking and consumer finance units in the U.S. and reports directly to the global banking giant's chief executive, Stuart Gulliver. (Image: Bloomberg News)

M&T Bank Corp. M&T Bank Corp.

There were higher-profile deals made in 2011, but few have the potential to be as game changing as M&T's acquisition of Wilmington Trust. The Delaware bank had some loan troubles — that's why M&T was able to snag it on the cheap — but it's a fee-generating powerhouse that gives M&T a diversity it lacked and a fresh new income stream at a time when all banks are searching for new ways to make money.

Retailers Retailers

Thanks to new caps on swipe fees that took effect Oct. 1, retailers now are paying banks about half as much on average as they used to on debit transaction. Perhaps more importantly, the Durbin amendment did what many bankers had for years dismissed as an impossibility — it regulated the interchange system that retailers have long despised. The question now is will it open the door to new regulations — specifically caps on credit card transactions? (Image: Bloomberg News)

Kevin Hanigan, CEO, Highlands Bancshares Inc. Kevin Hanigan, CEO, Highlands Bancshares Inc.

Hanigan hit it big in December when he struck a deal to sell his bank to ViewPoint Bank. Not only did he fetch a nice price — $71 million — for shareholders, he climbed a big rung on the career ladder when ViewPoint named him its new CEO. When the deal closes in early 2012, Hanigan will take over a top-performing bank that is roughly six times larger than Highlands and poised to become one of Texas' breakout banks.

Class Action Attorneys Class Action Attorneys

So far, lawyers have extracted some $450 million as settlements in a massive class action that accused roughly 30 banks of manipulating the order in which they processed debit transactions in order to maximize overdraft fees. Look for more banks to settle in 2012 to avoid the cost of litigation. On another front, class-action suits forced some acquirers to pony up more cash to sellers after shareholders complained that initial deal prices were too low. (Image: ThinkStock)

Jack Dorsey, CEO, Square Inc. Jack Dorsey, CEO, Square Inc.

No doubt, Square has its detractors. This year, one rival went so far as to set up a website to allege that Square's mobile credit card reader is a glorified skimming device. But that did not deter Visa Inc. from investing in Square in what was a a major endorsement from an established player. Square also continues to evolve; it recently transformed its payment-acceptance system into one that could make payments as well. (Image: Bloomberg News)

Mary Lynn Lenz, CEO, Professional Business Bank Mary Lynn Lenz, CEO, Professional Business Bank

Lenz is a veteran of turnarounds — she had fixed up a Massachusetts bank and sold it for a nice premium in 2008 — but when she joined the ailing Professional two years ago the situation was dire. Last year she engineered a unique reverse merger that removed the bank from life support, then in November she struck a deal to sell Professional to Bank of Manhattan. Lenz may have merged herself out of a job in the process, but she burnished her credentials as a fix-up artist.

Here are 10 financial service players that stood out in an otherwise challenging year defined by weak loan demand, heightened regulation and plummeting stock prices.

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