As the only female member of the Global Retail and Commercial Banking business leadership team at London-based Barclays Bank, Deanna Oppenheimer knows a little something about facing challenges on two continents.
In her three years at Barclays UK Retail Banking and Financial Services, she has transformed that division from an underperforming business to one of the top assets under the Barclays umbrella. After her appointment as COO of UK banking in 2005, she was quickly named CEO of UK Retail Banking. Her success with the Brits comes after spending 20 years in senior management positions at Washington Mutual.
Oppenheimer could be forgiven if she's thankful to have escaped U.S. banking these days; retail banking in the UK has fared better than it has on this side of the Atlantic. In the first half of 2008, Barclays' net income grew seven percent to $1.4 billion, compared with the same period in 2007. Revenue for the first half increased three percent to $4.3 billion. The bank also added 100,000 new savings accounts-growth of 31 percent.
At the same time, Oppenheimer's division moved to the top tier in market share from mid-to-bottom ranking for new flows in key product areas, including current accounts, local business, savings, mortgages and unsecured loans. Specifically, local business switchers have led to a 20 percent increase in market share in that segment in the first quarter of 2008; new startup business market share was up to 21 percent. Mortgage net lending grew from a three percent loss in 2005 to growth of two percent, eight percent and 26 percent in the three subsequent years.
Growth in these areas was the product of a three-year transformation the Retail Banking group underwent when Oppenheimer joined the bank. "We looked at our product offerings," Oppenheimer said. "And we really focused on customer-facing products...That delivered extraordinary results for this bank."
Under that program, which was started in 2007, bank branch employees called 55,000 customers to see if they were happy with their services and products. She said "it was about creating the sort of culture where all our employees take equal responsibility for delivering the best possible service." At her direction, the retail bank now interviews more than 250,000 customers each year.
Oppenheimer does not take her status as a woman at Barclays lightly. She is a strong supporter of "The Women of the Year Awards," a program that recognizes women in the UK and worldwide. In keeping with that, Oppenheimer also has an internal competition at the bank to find the most outstanding female employees.
Not one to forget her roots in the state of Washington, Oppenheimer also chairs the University of Puget Sound Board of Trustees, and has just launched a $150 million capital campaign.
Oppenheimer says she likes to work closely with people, whether as part of work or in her charitable role, because she believes "people really make the difference" in all you do.
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