"Confidence is what leadership is really all about."
Vice Chairman, BNY Mellon
It's easy to prove Karen Peetz is powerful in the traditional sense of the word.
She generates roughly half of BNY Mellon's pretax income. She manages a third of its 52,000 employees in 115 cities around the globe. She is the first female vice chairman in the company's 227-year history. She started, and still leads, the bank's wildly successful women's network.
But Peetz's power goes far beyond the standard definition.
She is a connector of people and ideas. She thinks creatively about everything she does. And she does it with so much grace and confidence that you want to do it with her.
It is no exaggeration to say Peetz has inspired generations of women in financial services and beyond. As a competitor put it: "Karen is a leader in every program she supports, every group that she joins, and every event that she participates in." That surely is true of Peetz's involvement in our 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking initiative. She generously provides her time and insights, speaking at events and serving on our advisory council. She does it all with a broad smile and count-me-in attitude. Her genuine, down-to-earth personality makes her approachable, a key trait both for motivating colleagues and mentoring younger women.
What may stand out most is how effortless Peetz's success appears. There is no drama surrounding her. No arrogance. Just a calm confidence polished with optimism.
Peetz is one of the rare executives who excel at both the soft and hard sides of business. Her ability to forge real relationships, to make the people around her feel special, has been a huge factor in her ability to build and drive businesses. She also is superb organizationally, breaking down problems and developing profitable strategies.
Her inherent optimism often leads her to find solutions where others see only problems. One of Peetz's biggest fans at BNY Mellon was Robert Kelly, who stepped down as CEO last month after a disagreement with the board and was replaced by the firm's president, Gerald Hassell.
Peetz says she would love to be the CEO of a major financial institution herself someday—though at 55 she realizes that the window won’t be open for long.
"You've got to get clear on what your goals are and how important are they to you," Peetz says. "You have to go for it. No one comes in with a silver platter."
Sounds a lot like the great advice she's been selflessly sharing with other women for years.
2. Carrie Tolstedt
Senior EVP of Community Banking, Wells Fargo
• Oversees the largest retail deposit bank in the United States
• Manages a division with 120,000 employees
• Achieved a retail bank cross-sell ratio of 5.8 products per household as of the first quarter, up from 5.6 a year earlier, with 7.4% net growth in consumer checking accounts over same period
"Everyone's career journey is different based on their experience, strengths and goals. I encourage emerging leaders to concentrate on the value they can bring to their teams."