Chief Strategy Officer, Synovus Financial

Liz Dukes Wolverton, Synovus Financial's chief strategy officer, admits that she has not always been the best champion for women in the workplace.

As a high-level executive juggling multiple responsibilities while raising two children, Wolverton, who joined Synovus in 2003, did not necessarily view mentoring other women as a high priority. Then last year she was named one of American Banker's 25 Women to Watch and, suddenly, up-and-coming female colleagues at Synovus were reaching out to her seeking advice on how to advance their careers.

Calling it "a lightbulb moment," Wolverton said she now understands how important it is for high-ranking women to make time to open doors for other females. Just recently, in fact, she encouraged one of her longtime team members to accept a leadership role in another division within Synovus — even though the employee herself didn't believe she was ready for it.

"It's my responsibility to use the role and influence that I have to help improve the path and development of rising female talent," she said.

Formerly Synovus' director of finance, Wolverton was named to the newly created post of chief strategy officer in 2014 and tasked with nothing less than designing a blueprint to reshape the company for the digital age and positioning it for long-term success.

Reporting directly to Chief Executive Kessel Stelling, Wolverton works closely with the heads of all business units to help set the strategy around everything from budgeting to the delivery of products and services to acquisition opportunities to capital deployment to community and customer relations. A big part of her job is also to nourish a "culture of collaboration" across the various business units to ensure that opportunities and needs identified by business heads align with Synovus' overall strategic plan.

One of Wolverton's favorite phrases is "attitude determines altitude." Smarts matter, of course, but Wolverton said that what she looks for most in employees is a positive attitude. "I would always rather have the most determined, encouraging, find-a-way person on my team than the smartest person in the room," she said.

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