Head of Transaction Banking Americas, MUFG Union Bank

Ranjana Clark took a risk when she left banking five years ago for a job in fintech. But the decision put her on a fast track to the executive suite.

Now Clark not only leads transaction banking in the Americas for San Francisco's MUFG Union Bank, but serves as its Bay Area president and is one of three women on the executive committee for its parent company, MUFG Americas Holdings Corp. She is also an executive officer of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, which is the largest bank in Japan. (All three are part of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.)

The reason she took a chief marketing officer job at PayPal in 2011 was to gain experience in consumer payments and digital marketing. Moving into fintech was a culture shock at first, as PayPal had a more casual workplace and a lot of skepticism toward bankers. But she gained valuable insight into how startups innovate quickly.

She went back to banking in 2013, in her current role. Clark said she has a broad array of duties that allows her to draw on her disparate work experiences and even maintain her fintech ties. One aspect of her work is overseeing an innovation unit in Silicon Valley.

"I've moved industries, and I've moved geographies," Clark said. But "at some stage of your career, you have to knit those experiences into a cohesive whole."

The innovation unit is meant to be a "source of creative thinking" for the global company, to encourage a fast-moving, high-tech mindset, she said. The deals it has struck over the past year include participating in a $10.5 million investment in Coinbase, a digital currency exchange and wallet service. The bank also formed a partnership with Plug and Play, a tech accelerator with ties to companies such as Dropbox and PayPal.

Clark has a daughter who recently graduated from Stanford University and accepted a job at Morgan Stanley in New York. Asked what advice she would give her daughter about succeeding in the industry, Clark said, with a laugh, that children rarely take advice from parents. But she added that she hopes her daughter takes career risks.

"Stay intellectually curious and agile," Clark said. "The roles that will exist 20 years from now may not even be here now."

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