No. 1
Amy Brinkley
Global Risk Executive, Bank of America, Charlotte, NC
Years in banking: 27 // Rank last year: #3 MPWIB

Ken Lewis, the CEO of Bank of America, has clearly put risk management at the forefront of his concerns. It is, in fact, one of the four pillars of corporate planning at the bank, along with strategic, financial and people planning. And since 2002 the person Lewis has relied on to manage the mind-boggling array of risks that can touch a global institution with $1.1 trillion in assets is Amy Brinkley.

She is responsible for anticipating and managing market, credit and operational risks facing the firm. The company's legal, audit, and regulatory compliance groups all report to her. All in all, 4,500 people fall under her purview, with eight direct reports. "I think BofA is the most risk averse big bank in the country," says Anthony Polini, an analyst at Advest. "They try hard not to put shareholders at risk. They're as tightly managed as any. I'd argue they're more tightly managed than the other big banks, such as JPMorgan and Citi."

Buttressing Polini's point is that credit performance in the bank's $522 billion loan portfolio remains impressive. Since the first quarter of 2003, total non-performing assets have declined from $5.03 billion (1.46 percent of assets) to $1.89 billion (0.36 percent of assets) at the end of the second quarter of 2005. During that time, and in keeping with an initiative to reduce single-issuer credit risk, the bank has reduced its corporate loan book from $100 billion to $36 billion.

Another initiative, the bank's recent decision to take a nine percent stake in the China Construction Bank for $2.5 billion, is an example of getting exposure to a hot market, but taking on fairly limited capital risk in case a tactical retreat becomes necessary, Polini says. "They've got a much more diversified earnings stream than others."

Denis Laplante, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, notes that Bank of America has also done an admirable job hedging risk by making smart trades in the credit derivatives market. Last year the premium for high-risk positions essentially disappeared and BofA's "attitude was that credit was for sale," he says. "They bought some credit protection in the credit derivatives market, and that helped them, because when those spreads widened this year they got some profits in their trading book."

But Laplante does see some possible clouds on the horizon for Brinkley, who declined to be interviewed. He notes that credit losses, particularly in the credit card area, have been ticking up recently. He attributes this to faster credit card portfolio growth than other banks, which has been driven by aggressive cross-selling in the branch network, and by a willingness to accept lower FICO scores from consumers with whom they have other relationships. Adding to the higher losses, he says, is a higher minimum payment schedule.

Another risk that Brinkley will have to cope with, says John Pandtle, an analyst at Raymond James, is how to replace income from the securities and trading areas as the yield curve flattens. These areas contribute roughly 50 percent of average earning assets. "How do you offset loss of income with other lines of business?" he asks.

But these financial risks are just part of the whole risk picture that Brinkley must consider. There are also operational and regulatory risks. Part of her strategy is to clearly spell out to employees what is proper and create a culture where risky behavior is curtailed.

In a speech given in May in Kansas City, Brinkley said, "We believe effective governance has two parts. First, it has the combination of structural elements to ensure the most important decisions are influenced by the right organizational considerations, processes and systems of checks and balances.

"Equally, if not more important, is the second component of good governance-and that is company culture. At our company, we share a set of values that serves as our cultural contract, expectations that all 170,000 of us have of each other. In addition, each year every associate is required to read and sign a code of ethics, which we see as anything but just a piece of paper. It is a working guide and framework for decision-making and behavior, for leaders and followers.

"No system is infallible...no individual or group of individuals perfect in their judgment. At our company, we have at times experienced events that were costly and regretful. And we have learned greatly from those experiences. But the combination of our culture and structure is designed to encourage and bring to bear many different perspectives and independent viewpoints on any given decision...to neutralize the kind of 'group-think' that can entangle the decision making of any organization." - Michael Sisk


No. 2
Peyton Patterson
Chairman, president and CEO, NewAlliance Bank, New Haven, CT
Years in banking: 22 // Rank last year: #2 MPWIB

There are those who love the art of the deal, and those who thrive on crunching the numbers. Peyton Patterson, chairman, president and CEO of New Haven-based New Alliance Bank, loves both. "I have a personal appetite for, and aptitude for, acquisitions," Patterson says.

Her aptitude for deals is evident, as is her appetite. This year, she looked at countless deals, and came to terms on two: the acquisition of Hartford-based Trust Company of Connecticut and Stamford-based Cornerstone Bancorp. Both are set to close in the next few months, and will expand NewAlliance's reach into the famously wealthy Fairfield County market.

These follow deals in 2004 in which she designed the largest merger-conversion in U.S. banking history, combining three community banks in Connecticut and raising more than $1 billion in an IPO. At the end of 2004 the newly created NewAlliance listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Now NewAlliance has burst into the top 100 largest banks in the country, with analysts harping for more.

"The biggest challenge she's had is the deployment of capital," says Jared Shaw, who follows NewAlliance for Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. "They raised an awful lot of money with the conversion. Some went to work right away, but they're still overcapitalized."

Peyton is clear about her ambitions to continue to increase the size of the institution, saying she's focusing on markets she knows. Read that as New York City and the surrounding area; she spent the bulk of her career in New York, first at Chemical Bank and then at Dime Savings Bank as evp of consumer financial services.

Analysts call the smaller or slow-paced acquisitions inefficient deployment of capital; colleagues call it prudent restraint. "The most important thing is she never lets the deal drive her; she drives the deal," says Brian Arsenault, evp of investor relations at NewAlliance. "She knows you should walk away from many more [deals] than you ever do."

And though she participated in scores of mergers and integrations during her big-bank career, she's quickly learning the lessons of successful community bank acquisitions. First, she says, board retention is as important as employee retention, lest displaced board members take their expertise and community ties to rival institutions. Second, hard work is required to build community ties for the new institution. "When you're an acquisitive company, you've got to go out and welcome, ingratiate yourself into the community," Patterson says.

To that end, NewAlliance has created three charitable foundations, including one endowed with $50 million, to help build goodwill toward the bank in the communities they enter.

Coming into a community and taking charge of the relationship by doling out charitable contributions is just Patterson's style. NewAlliance lead director Julia McNamara remembers when she was interviewed for the president's job a few years ago. "When she walked into that room, she did what she is so able to do: She took over the meeting," recalls McNamara, president of Albertus Magnus College in New Haven.

That requires a certain kind of savvy and incredible preparation. It's part of the job. "A CEOs job is always to worry," Patterson says. "You have to be asking questions, having the foresight to know where the pitfalls can be, anticipating things that could go well and not well. I have a lot of constituents to serve, and I have to make sure they're all happy." - Rebecca Sausner


No. 3
Marjorie Magner
Chairman and CEO, Global Consumer Group, Citigroup, New York, NY
Years in banking: 32 // Rank last year: #1 MPWIB

As of a few weeks ago, Marjorie Magner is back on her feet.

Knocked flat for the summer by a wayward taxi cab on New York's 71st Street, still mourning the loss of her mother, buffeted by Charles Prince's Citi executive suite shakeups which ultimately prompted her to step down, Magner might be expected to sound a little down. Actually, she sounds pretty happy. Like she's having fun.

Or as much fun as a national figure who's going through physical rehabilitation therapy and rearranging a life while leaving the financial world she's always known can be expected to have. "It's the most difficult thing I've ever done," she says. "I'm grateful to have the opportunity to do it."

This time a year ago, Magner ran one of the largest corporate operations in the world: Citigroup's global consumer group, which includes 170,000 employees in 54 companies, making up 60 percent of the financial giant's profits and pulling in $3.1 billion in one quarter.

This time around? On October 1, she'll be unemployed. Okay, not unemployed in the usual sense of the word, given that she's recently cashed out $10 million in stock and will more or less have her pick of what she wants to do next. But the trappings, the power of big business, the assistants, the long hours, being a respected player in a high-paced world Magner's known for 30 years? Gone. "Then what happens? How do you introduce yourself? 'Hi! I'm Marge Magner, civilian.' It's the way I've described it."

Her reasons for making such a tough call are complex. Prince is remaking Weill's huge financial machine. Magner came up under Weill and now her mentor and long-term colleague, Bob Willumstad, is leaving the firm. Prince is now restructuring the consumer operation, dividing it into North American and international components. Wait a minute. "If I'm CEO of the consumer business, shouldn't I decide how it's organized?" Magner says. "I've always had strong principles, strong values. We compromise all the time as managers, compromise in the sense that the way you see things might not always be right. Sometimes you look at things and realize, 'I really believe things in a certain way.'" And, she adds, you can't always fight that and back down.

So leaving is a matter of principle, then. "It's an overstatement," she says. "This is not a one-issue decision by any means." Good then, because, as Magner adds, on any given day there are five issues with management and they go all different ways, pluses and minuses.

This spring Magner was in the last day of sitting shiva, the Jewish seven-day period of intense mourning, for her mother. After stopping at her Manhattan apartment, she went downstairs to run some errands. As she tried to cross the street, a taxi came up Third Avenue. "He didn't stop; he just plowed into me," she recalls. It meant three months of "non-weight-bearing" activity: wheelchair, to walker, and hopping all the way. And introspection. "I've not spent a lot of time in the past focusing in on me," she says.

As Willumstad, the former Citi chief operating officer, says: Magner likes to see things in distinct terms. "Marge, I would've told you 20 years ago, was kind of a raging feminist," he says, a little tongue-in-cheek, a little serious, as traffic honked faintly in the background. "She had a perspective, like a lot of people that came through the '60s at her age, at my age, of being somewhat outspoken. Through the years, she had very little tolerance for the cigars-and-steak crowd. But like everyone in life, you mature and you mellow a little. I used to describe her as only seeing black and white, no gray. Over the years she's let a little bit of gray creep in."

Magner's style, says Citi president of retail distribution Maura Markus, is all about consistency and rolling up her sleeves. "Some people, the higher up they go, they change. She did not," Markus says, recalling Magner's ascent through the ranks over the last five years. "She lives the values she believes in everyday."

It may then make more sense, she says, why Magner would decide not to sign on at another big financial outfit and strike out for the entertainment or media world, or academia or philanthropy. She doesn't want to do finance again, because she's proud of what she had a hand in building. "I'm not terribly anxious to be competing against something I love so much," Magner says.

She believes the profession can make a difference, believes it's open for women, and oddly enough, maybe a woman's perspective in finance makes it easier to leave. She says, "Many successful women, not all, do face a continuous series of tradeoffs through their career: children, not children. Marriage. Relationships. What's your responsibility to your family, beyond your immediate. I used to go home, have dinner, give my son his bath, put him to bed, and go back to work. It worked out well for him, worked out well for me," she says. "That's part of the way you learn to be flexible." Which is what Magner wants-something different. This is fun. "I think in terms of where I want to walk," she says. "I want to walk all around the world." - Michael Dumiak


No. 4
Heidi Miller
CEO, JPMorgan Chase, Treasury & Securities Services, New York, NY
Years in banking: 26 // Rank last year: #3 WtoW

In the year that Heidi Miller has overseen JPMorgan Chase Treasury and Securities Services, the $8-billion-revenue business unit has been significantly retooled and increased assets under custody by 20 percent to $10.2 trillion.

Her division provides transaction, investment and informational services to wholesale clients through two lines: Treasury Services and Worldwide Securities Services, the second of which was restructured in April 2005. That restructuring involved the integration of Investor Services and Institutional Trust Services into Worldwide Securities Services.

The company says the new structure will enable it to respond to customer needs more quickly. In an email message from a business trip to Copenhagen, Miller says she feels gratified to help "connect the dots" between these once-disparate businesses and "create a structure with common platforms and shared services."

As examples, she says the groups previously had three different billing platforms, three account reconciliation groups and two corporate action groups. Now, those systems are coordinated and more efficient, she says.

Indeed, performance figures from the second quarter show an increase in her group's net revenue of $220 million, or 16 percent, in year-over-year comparisons.

In addition to a cash management operation that processes more than $3 trillion in wire transfers each day, the business also is a leading global custodian with more than $10 trillion in assets under custody and it services $6.7 trillion in debt and $250 billion in equities worldwide.

Her drive for efficiency is not contained to her own company. At last year's SIBOS conference she delivered the keynote address where she challenged every bank and every payment and securities participant to execute faster and cheaper for corporate customers worldwide.

But even after her 26 years in business, it's not just cold efficiency that energizes her. She has a streak of selflessness as well, championing a Bank One program (where she had risen to CFO before the acquisition by JPMorgan Chase) which provided seed funding to help create the Executive Leadership Institute of Women of Color.

Under the leadership of Dr. Ella Bell at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, the group is dedicated to helping minority women attain senior management and board position in corporate America, Bell says, and Miller has been invaluable. Miller has the unusual ability to truly empathize with other people and understand them. "You don't often see that," Bell notes. "She never assumes the lead role, but she empowers others to take the lead... and she doesn't have a big ego." To be sure, Miller counts among her strengths her management style of "disciplined project management." She says she takes lists and assigns clear roles and responsibilities all while tracking progress. - Lee Conrad


No. 5
Ellen Alemany
President and CEO, CitiCapital, Global Consumer Group
Evp, Commercial Business Group, Citigroup
Years in banking: 28 // Rank last year: #8 WtoW

As Citigroup's head of corporate banking for 18 Western European countries from 1999 until 2001, Ellen Alemany lived in London and got both autonomy and an education in the ways of the world. "Getting everyone to operate as a team while remaining sensitive to local customs and regulations was a fantastic growth experience," she recalls. Even so, when she was offered the chance two years later to run CitiCapital, the commercial leasing unit, Alemany jumped. Citi was in the midst of an aggressive acquisition spree, which saw its leasing business grow from $6 billion to $42 billion in 18 months. The opportunity to plot strategy and run an entire business end-to-end was too good to ignore.

Today, as evp of Citi's commercial business group, Alemany oversees not only CitiCapital, but also small- and middle-market business banking, and commercial real estate. It's a new blend for Citi, housed in the consumer bank, but including parts acquired or formerly held on the corporate side. Alemany, 49, faces high growth expectations and the challenge of aligning processes and systems to pull together diverse operations and encourage cross sales. By all accounts, she's met with rousing success. The group's revenues rose 13 percent in 2004, to $2.3 billion; net income jumped 46 percent, to $525 million. "This is an area where we want to gain market share and profitability, and Ellen's doing a great job plugging away at it," says Ajay Banga, co-head of Citi's global consumer group. "She's literally stitched it into a real business."

Alemany's inclusive management style seems tailor-made for the task. She solicits input through regular town hall meetings, emails and an in-house intranet site built to elicit suggestions for improvement. To encourage feedback, employees who submit ideas are entered into a quarterly drawing for gift certificates. "Employees who do the job on a day-to-day basis are in the best position to question the way we do things," she says. And make no mistake, the unit is a meritocracy: No matter the background, "the best person gets the job." Higher-ups value her strategic insights and integrity. "Ellen is very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of person," Banga says. Operationally, "she understands every single line of her P&L and knows how to make it work."

Such talents have boosted her profile within the company. Alemany is a member of Citi's 60-person management committee, and has been tapped for two key task forces-one promotes best practices in customer service across business lines, the other seeks ways to cut down on bureaucracy.

An English literature major at the University of Bridgeport (CT), Alemany's first job was in IBM's legal department. She quit after a year, and was hired in 1977 by Chase Manhattan to help automate its payments and collections operations. A boss recommended she expand her horizons, and for a while Alemany was studying in Chase's credit-training program by day, and getting an MBA in finance from Fordham at night. When it was done, she became a lender for the high-tech industry.

For all her talents, personal circumstances have influenced her career path. The eldest of Alemany's three children, now 20, was born severely handicapped, requiring intensive therapy when young, and special schooling later on. She jumped to Citi in 1987, mostly because the office was closer to home and required less travel. "It offered more flexibility," she recalls. At Citi, she worked first in leveraged capital, and then in U.S. corporate banking, before heading to Europe. While in London, she made monthly trips home to be with her daughter, who was in a residential program.

Her daughter's situation has had an outsized impact on her life, but she holds her emotions close to the vest. Banga says he worked with Alemany for three months before even learning about it. "There's a part of her that shields that side from her work. Only when you get to know her better does she open up about it," he explains. "It doesn't impact her management style. But you respect her for what she must be going through."

Asked how she holds it all together, Alemany laughs. She's an active fund-raiser for the March of Dimes, loves to ski and run, and has a few close friends. But her life is dominated by work and family. "I preach a work-life balance, but I don't have much of one myself," she says. It's a trade-off for success she's been willing to make. - John Engen


No. 6
Marion Sandler
Co-CEO, Golden West Financial Corp., Oakland, CA
Years in banking: 42 // Rank last year: #1 WtoW

Marion Sandler is the Grand Dame of banking. Together with husband Herb, she bought a $34 million-asset thrift in 1963, and methodically built it into one of the nation's largest and most-profitable financial institutions. "If you make a mistake, recognize it fast and do something about it," says Sandler, co-CEO of Golden West Financial Corp. Sandler, 74, says running a successful bank is more about management smarts than finance. Today's Golden West, holding company for World Savings, boasts $119 billion in assets and 280 branches. It has generated annualized returns of 23.1 percent over the past three years, and compounded EPS growth of 20 percent for 37 years. The Sandlers "have amazing discipline and focus," says Morningstar analyst Ryan Batchelor.

Sandler works hard to rein in costs, and believes money is best spent boosting productivity. Managers with funding proposals must answer the question, "What's the good business reason for doing that?" The answer had better be backed by numbers. "Decision-making is very easy if you can quantify it." Sandler is quick to cut her losses. Golden West didn't install ATMs in its branches until 1999, because it couldn't find a good reason. Since then, it has removed about one-third of them. The company's customers boast average balances of about $50,000, and simply don't use them enough.

Sandler's attention to detail is high. She replies to customer letters directly, and reviews weekly branch reports intently. World Savings president Jim Judd learned quickly to be careful what he asks her about the industry or company, "or I might spend an hour-and-a-half listening. ...She gives 100 percent to detail, and that tone permeates the company."

That may be, in part, a result of the road she traveled. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Wellesley, Sandler got a certificate from a one-year Harvard-Radcliffe business program. After training at Bloomingdale's, she sought a job on Wall Street. Despite her credentials, it took time to find a firm that would hire a woman. When asked by a trainer what she wanted out of her career, Sandler said she wanted to be a partner. "He said, 'Well, that's not really possible. You're a woman."

Marion settled that by becoming her own boss. Today, the Sandlers splits duties roughly along the lines of assets (Herb) and liabilities (Marion). "We never question each other's motives," she explains. The two put their wealth to good use, too, making regular stock contributions to their own foundation, which funds everything from a progressive political think tank to a research effort that helped find a vaccine for the SARS virus. "We look for niches that aren't being funded," Sandler says. - JE


No. 7
Doreen Woo Ho
Wells Fargo, San Francisco, CA
Years in banking: 31 // Rank last year: #7 MPWIB

Doreen Woo Ho once fancied herself as the first violin in an orchestra-the person best qualified to accomplish whatever task was placed before her. Today, Woo Ho, 58, says she's more like the orchestra's conductor. "Early on, you rely very much on your ability to make individual contributions," she explains. "Today, my job is to ensure we're making the best kind of music we can together as a team."

No one's arguing with her style, or with the results. As president of Wells Fargo & Co.'s consumer credit group, Woo Ho built the company's home-equity and personal line business from an also-ran with $11 billion in assets in 1998 to the nation's largest today, with $78 billion and 2.4 million customers. Last year, she added president of corporate trust services and its $1.3 trillion portfolio to her job description. "Doreen has a breadth and depth in business, and the ability to think strategically and act tactically," says Mark Oman, a group evp and Woo Ho's boss. Adds Colin Walsh, an evp and a direct report: "Doreen provides passion and vision, and she's able to get employees to take ownership of what needs to be done."

Woo Ho-who today with husband James is parent to three-learned self-reliance at an early age. The daughter of a Taiwanese diplomat, she spent her first eight years in Sydney, Australia. At age 13, her father was assigned to West Africa, and she was off to boarding school. "I didn't see my parents for five years," she recalls. "I had to make decisions on my own, and learn to take risks." Lacking guidance was understandably uncomfortable for a teenage girl of Asian descent. She faced subtle-and not-so-subtle-forms of discrimination, and had to fend for herself. But it paid off in the long run.

After getting a Masters in East Asian studies from Columbia University, Woo Ho worked for Citibank in Taipei. A year later, she shifted gears and served as a correspondent for Time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was 1972, and the Vietnam War was in progress. Woo Ho recalls sleepless nights listening to B-52 bombing runs in the distance, or Khmer Rouge rocket attacks near her apartment.

A year later, Woo Ho returned to the States. She enrolled in Citi's management-training program, and worked her way up the company's corporate banking ladder. In the early 1980s, her boss, Bill Farnsworth, encouraged her to shift to the consumer side, and she never looked back.

In 1998, just a month before its merger with Norwest, Woo Ho signed on as head of the old Wells Fargo's struggling home-equity lending unit. Post-merger, she put forward an ambitious strategic plan calling for new products, delivery channels and 30 percent compounded growth over the next five years. "Not many people are going to commit that kind of plan to paper," Oman says. "But if you look at the roadmap she put together, she clearly delivered." - JE


No. 8
Carol Nelson
Cascade Financial Corp., Everett, WA
Years in banking: 27 // Rank last year: #21 MPWIB

The Pacific Northwest is one of the more innovative places in the current American financial scene, and Cascade Financial chief executive Carol Nelson shows how it's done-by lending muscle and energy to the brainpower throughout the firm.

That's why, for example, Cascade is now the place to go if you're a dentist in Puget Sound. It started three years ago with a banker at the firm who happened to have experience in the dental field, an idea, and the moxie to reach out. "She's now grown that to over $32 million in loans," Nelson says, that idea being that there's a generational turnover in the dental industry now, and that many dentists out of school are looking to buy existing practices. "She's got more business than she can keep up with."

Aggressively carving out niches in smaller communities is how Nelson is building the commercial practice at her billion-dollar Everett, WA-based firm, once a sluggish thrift and now a 17-branch operation with a goal of adding another billion in assets in the next five years. Nelson, a veteran of SeaFirst Bank and former svp and regional executive for Bank of America, is as decisively focused on keeping politics out of the executive suite, and building a culture of participation, as she is on building deposits. If that sounds something like wooly Seattle idealism, well, maybe it is. But it works. And she knows who's boss. "Start with clearly articulated goals and expectations; have a vision of where you want the bank to go and keep communicating that vision," she says. "It's important to coach and mentor your people for success, and to set up goals and help people get there." And accountability's in the equation, too, she's quick to add.

Cascade may yet be a tiny operation compared with something like a Wells Fargo or Washington Mutual, but innovation is innovation and getting noticed in the community is, well, part of the point of being a community banker if not the source of its bread and butter. It is what gives Nelson clout. "They brought her in from SeaFirst and she hired some people with commercial banking skills and it's been far more successful than you'd think something like that would be. You can bring in people and do the commercial banking bit with everybody else, but she's really brought the bank head and shoulders about the competition," says John Wolcott, editor of the local Snohomish County Business Journal, which named Nelson its executive of the year. "She's showing up more and more and is sought after to get involved in the community. It speaks highly of her role." - MD


No. 9
Julia S. Gouw
Director, evp and CFO, East West Bancorp, San Marino, CA
Years in Banking: 16 // Rank last year: Not ranked

A fan web site for Michelle Kwan is so gaga for the Olympic figure skater, it has tabulated her every competitive triple, Lutz and Axel since 1992. Lately, the site's been buzzing over Kwan's new television, print and radio endorsements for East West Bank of San Marino, CA.

Never mind that the t ads are in Chinese, Julia Gouw is proud of the Kwan marketing coup. It's one of the first things she brings up when the East West evp and CFO discusses the activities of the past year for the fast-growing Chinese-American owned bank. "When they hear the voice of Michelle Kwan," Gouw says, "they associate her with East West. That really will benefit our image and penetration of the market."

Most financial chiefs at a $7.8 billion bank would be quicker to point out East West's ninth consecutive year of record revenue, or Gouw, the No.2 executive under East West Chairman, President and CEO Dominic Ng, directs nearly all areas of administration and operations, and is increasing her profile with the Street.

"I think an increasingly important part of her role is meeting with institutional investors to get the East West story out there," says Lana Chan, managing director at Harris Nesbitt and analyst of the Asian-American banking industry.

Taking the heat would be a real challenge, if there were any. East West, like other ethnic niche banks serving a primarily Chinese- and Korean-American customer base, has been among the sturdy banking performers in recent years. Rooted deep in the ethnic communities of San Gabriel Valley, East West turned in second quarter earnings this summer of $25.5 million, a 41 percent leap from 2004. No business loans have gone bad over the last five years, which has actually ended up costing East West some return on the $250 million in participation loan activity sent out to other banks. But that's OK, Gouw insists. "I'd rather not make every single penny that we can, [since] if something were to happen, we won't get hurt tremendously."

Gouw's antipathy for risk belies her philanthropic activities, where she usually is at the forefront of shaking things up. Named the 2003 Philanthropist of the Year by United Way in 2003, Gouw was moved last year by a speech given by UCLA medical school professor Janet Pregler lamenting the short shrift medical studies have historically given women. A short time later Gouw agreed to chair a drive that this year collected a $450,000 funding commitment from LA-area women business executives to launch pilot studies into why diseases affect women differently. "I see her as a kind of take-charge, get-it-done person," says Pregler. - GF


No. 10
Mary Lynn Lenz
Slade's Ferry Bancorp, Somerset, MA
Years in banking: 21 // Rank last year: #17 MPWIB

Mary Lynn Lenz says her biggest operational weakness is impatience. "It's been a recurring theme in performance evaluations," she says. "I get so excited about things, I just want to move forward. Not everyone wants to move that quickly." When it comes to career advancement, however, impatience has served Lenz, 50, well. Indeed, when young women ask how to advance in banking, her advice is simple: Don't wait for opportunity to come knocking; go out and seek it. "I don't think there was one turn in my career path where I didn't ask for the job," she says.

In 2002, Lenz was heading up Massachusetts retail operations for giant Citizens Financial, but thinking about her next step. "The only thing missing was being a CEO," she says. Citizens had too many senior managers to leapfrog, so she began her own job hunt, contacting fellow bankers and trade groups, looking for the right fit. She heard about a CEO slot at sleepy Slade's Ferry Bancorp in Somerset, MA, and she applied. "It lacked a sales culture and needed a lot of process improvement," Lenz recalls. "It was just what I was looking for: a place to build."

Getting the job was a mild surprise: Slade Ferry's board was all male and tradition-bound. "I thought they'd have a hard time appointing a woman," Lenz recalls. But directors were impressed with her personality and proposals. "We were in the Stone Age," says chairman Kenneth Rezendes Jr. "Coming from a big-bank atmosphere, she had some aggressive ideas to grow the company." It was a good call. Since her arrival, the bank has increased its asset base more than 60 percent, to $578 million, and emerged as a player in the state's competitive SouthCoast market. Net income for the first half of 2005 was up 61 percent over 2004.

The change has been breathtaking. Three years ago, Slade's Ferry had no on-line banking, cash-management services or bill pay, and limited ATM access. New accounts were opened on a typewriter and processed in the back office at night; the call center included one operator. Lenz upgraded the technology, addressed some nagging regulatory and portfolio problems and built a senior-management team out of existing employees, industry outsiders and refugees from big-bank consolidation. "Mary Lynn has made this a can-do place," says COO Deborah McLaughlin. "People here develop beyond their expectations because of the atmosphere she's created."

Lenz spent much of her career preparing for the task. As a senior manager with KeyCorp's Buffalo bank, she was tapped in 1995 to help create a vision of the company's future. The group explored branch design and location, ATM distribution and sales management. "I learned how to change an organization," she explains. Such know-how has been blended with a personal touch. Lenz is a fan of Synovus Financial CEO Jimmy Blanchard's notion of "emotional intelligence," which encourages leaders to open themselves to employees. "You've got to open your soul, trust employees and let them in, or they won't follow," she says. - JE


No. 11
Connie Lau
American Savings Bank, Honolulu, HI
Years in banking: 6 // Rank last year: #11 MPWIB

When Connie Lau was first named CEO of American Savings Bank back in 2001, she had a daunting task: Transform a sleepy thrift with hundreds of employees comfortable with a certain way of doing business into an innovative, competitive financial services firm ready to take on bigger rivals.

What she did next turned typical turnaround strategy on its head, and it showed just what kind of unique and compelling leader she is. There was no clearing of the decks, no purging of senior management, no hiring of outsiders to accomplish the task at hand. American Savings Bank changed because the existing employees changed their habits and outlook, and those employees changed because Lau showed them how.

Diane Plotts, a director on the board of Hawaiian Electric Industries, the parent company of American Savings Bank, says, "She can lead people better than anyone I know. The change she has brought the bank through, well, I would have said it could never be done-and without changing the people. If it had been me, I would've probably slashed and burned."

Lau responds that there were two reasons she didn't go the traditional let-the-heads-roll route: First, she asks, when you live on an island, where would all those people go for another job? And second, she realized that "if you're reinventing a business model, people from outside may not be any better than inside the organization [since] you have to break a mindset that is prevalent in the industry wherever you go. A lot of banks and thrifts have really good workforces and you can accomplish what you need by inspiring existing people to that new mindset."

That new attitude required employees to adapt from an institution that relied on passbook savings accounts and mortgages, to one that rolls out new retail deposit products while moving into commercial lending and real estate. Results continue to impress. Despite a tremendous flattening of the yield curve and compression of margins, American Savings Bank still managed net income growth of 11.5 percent in the first quarter, compared to a year earlier, fueled by organic loan and deposit growth.

Her accomplishments are not overlooked in her home state, where this year she was elected president of the Hawaii Bankers Association. Lau, with degrees from Yale University and Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, sits on a number of educational and non-profit organizations, including the Punahou School, Kamehameha Schools, Hawaii Business Roundtable, Charles Reed Business Trust, the Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation and the Maunalani Foundation. - MS


No. 12
Carrie Tolstedt
Group EVP, Regional Banking, Wells Fargo & Co., San Francisco, CA
Years in banking: 23 // Rank last year: #2 WtoW

When Wells Fargo's second quarter results were hit by a sharp decline in mortgage revenues earlier this year, Carrie Tolstedt's regional banking division came to the rescue. In part due to her group's 15 percent annual increase in core product sales, and a 17 percent gain in small-business loans, the nation's fifth-largest bank still managed to post record earnings.

"Our strategy starts with the customer," says Tolstedt, who runs retail, small-business and commercial banking in 23 states and oversees $214 billion in assets, half of Wells Fargo's total. "If we're selling the customer what they need, the solutions we provide them add up to products and the products add up to revenue."

With more than 50,000 employees, 3,000 branches, 6,000 ATMs and 10 million retail customers, the regional banking group's performance has a big impact on Wells Fargo's profits,which have risen 10 percent or more in 14 of the last 15 quarters.

"When I met Carrie Tolstedt last year, one of the questions on my mind was how a behemoth like Wells Fargo can consistently post 10 percent-plus growth every year," says Young Im, a senior banking analyst at Robert W. Baird in Chicago. "It starts with their attention to detail."

Unlike other large banks that simply announce strong top-line growth targets and wait for the chips to fall, Young says Tolstedt comes up with a meticulous budgeting process that shows the exact route the bank will take to achieve its goals.

As a result, he says, Wells Fargo's loan and deposit growth tops the industry average. Tolstedt, 45, says she picked up this exactitude from her father, a baker in Kimball, NE, whose workday started at midnight. "With a bakery in a small town, you are serving your friends and neighbors everyday. So you never ever want to let your customer down," she says.

Tolstedt's business is a tad larger than her father's bakery, but the philosophy seems to work. Since Tolstedt took over regional banking in 2001, deposits at Wells Fargo have grown 40 percent, loans are up 80 percent and 230 new branches have been opened. While loans and deposits have also been boosted by growth in other divisions that don't fall under Tolstedt, her contribution has been key, says COO John Stumpf. "She's done some very innovative things in our industry," he says, pointing to her technique of measuring team productivity to see if a business strategy is working. "With that she has taken the company, and our ability to grow organically, to a whole new level." - DF


No. 13
Melanie Dressel
Columbia Banking System, Tacoma, WA
Years in banking: 31 // Rank last year: #22 MPWIB

When Melanie Dressel took the reins of Columbia Banking System in 2003, analysts say the bank's asset quality was dubious and there was a feeling on the Street that the institution was drifting in the wrong direction. Since then Dressel has quietly but firmly turned the bank around; now, with asset quality under control, the bank has recently gobbled up a competitor and is moving into the lucrative Seattle market.

"They've been kind of below the radar, but they're building a solid franchise," says Jeffrey Rulis, a research analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co., who adds that the bank enjoyed a coup when a commercial lending team from Washington Mutual joined the bank. Also last year, the bank acquired Bank of Astoria, which added about $170 million in assets.

In the year ended June 30, assets are up 24 percent, loans jumped 23 percent and deposits have grown 13 percent. "They've done well recently," notes another researcher. "They had a very impressive [second quarter], with loan growth, deposit mix and stable margins that compare favorably to banks nationally and in the West in particular."

Dressel herself takes particular pride in the seamless integration of Bank of Astoria into the Columbia operation, noting that she is still occasionally asked when the transaction will close. But there are certainly many more challenges ahead. Top among them are the pricing and margin pressures that de novos are putting on the business.

"A lot of people are willing to take a run at our customers because they have capital to deploy," she says. "But you've got to have discipline." Particularly in the mortgage arena, "we need to be more responsible as an industry," she says, warning that regularly offering first-time homeowners zero-down mortgages is "a recipe for real damaging effects on the economy."

Besides setting aggressive ROE and market-share goals, Dressel is putting a great deal of effort into nurturing in-house talent. "One of our primary initiatives is to develop the next era of leadership," she says. "It's amazing how people thrive when you say, 'We trust you to run a branch.' I'm not upset if someone makes a mistake, but I am upset if they don't learn from it."

Dressel, a University of Washington graduate, is deeply involved in the economic direction of her hometown of Tacoma, as well as her state. These involvements include the Foss Waterway Development, which is redeveloping a former Superfund site, the Executive Council for a Greater Tacoma, and the State of Washington Economic Development Commission. - MS


No. 14
Sallie Krawcheck
CFO, Head of Strategy, Citigroup, New York, NY
Years in banking: 3 // Rank last year: Not ranked

Sallie Krawcheck's performance and the strategic sway she commands since her meteoric rise to CFO of Citigroup last year is, by many analyst estimates, still difficult to gauge. But one thing is certainly clear, she is firmly within CEO Charles Prince's inner circle, and his priorities for the global behemoth since his ascension two years ago marry up well with Krawcheck's strengths.

Krawcheck, of course, was hired by former CEO Sandy Weill in the face of withering criticism and investor lawsuits over conflicts of interest between equity research and investment banking. She was brought in from Sanford C. Bernstein to clean things up and establish research independence. "At the time Citi was embroiled in the Jack Grubman mess, and what better person to hire than someone who doesn't just have the perception of independence, but actually was independent?" says David Stumpf, an analyst at A.G. Edwards. Krawcheck declined to be interviewed.

And now, thanks to a bit of serendipity, the very reason that Krawcheck was hired has been Prince's focus for two years. He's determined to bring integrity back to every corner of the vast Citigroup empire and to put legal claims behind the institution. (Last year the company paid $5 billion to settle such claims.)

Then there is the other Prince priority: shedding Weill's financial supermarket vision for a more focused effort in high-growth areas. This is also a Krawcheck strength thanks to her years as an analyst at Bernstein. "I do believe her strongest contribution is going through the process of determining which businesses aren't meeting the necessary hurdles and which are," says Richard Bove, an analyst at Punk, Ziegel & Co.

The most dramatic example was the sale of Travelers Life & Annuity insurance unit to MetLife Inc. for $11.7 billion. Then over the summer, Citigroup agreed to trade its asset-management business to Legg Mason in return for stock, cash and a team of brokers in a deal valued at $3.7 billion. "She's very much a part of developing and implementing the policy, and her strength in analyzing businesses is being used in that regard," Bove says.

A lingering question, says Jeffrey Harte, an analyst at Sandler O'Neill & Partners, is her ability to communicate with the Street and investors. "They were hoping she would improve communications," he says. "So far it's difficult to judge. She been in a tough position, and has had to deliver some bad news to the Street and investors. But she's very smart, and I think she'll do a good job." - MS


No. 15
Patricia Moss
President and CEO, Cascade Bancorp, Bend, OR
Years in banking: 30 // Rank last year: #6 MPWIB

Lots of executives talk about respecting the differences in opinion and worldview that invariably accompany working within a large executive team. But when it comes time to manage the rapid growth of a business, talk can be cheap if it's not based in reality.

"People often talk about how they appreciate the uniqueness in team members. Then they try to change everybody in the next six months to make those team members look like them. Patty still appreciates the fact that people see the world differently," says Mike Delvin, president and COO of Bank of the Cascades, who's worked with CEO Patricia Moss for more than seven years. "As a result, her willingness to foster and encourage independent thinking and work in a collaborative manner is truly one of the critical areas in the success of our company."

The numbers suggest Delvin's take on Moss isn't a simple testimonial to an accomplished colleague. The bank has grown rapidly in the past couple of years, from a $250 million operation seven years ago to more than $1.1 billion, with nearly a quarter of that growth coming in just the past year. "Things have been pretty busy here," says Moss of the expansion, which has seen deposits grow 26 percent, combined with loan growth of more than 30 percent.

And that growth has been accompanied by a return on assets of 1.87 percent and return on equity of 20.7 percent, both well above the industry averages of 1.29 percent and 13.28 percent for community banks with assets above $500 million, according to the Independent Community Bankers of America.

As the bank has grown, job descriptions have changed, and Delvin says Moss' openness has helped the bank staff reach new heights, something that's part and parcel of her management style. "You achieve success by helping others succeed," Moss says. "The whole team has that attitude. If the team is successful, we will all have our own successes."

Moss, a Linfield College (OR) grad has been part of the bank's team for nearly 30 years, holding positions from utility clerk to branch manager to CFO, winning over management and employees along the way-creating team continuity integral to the institution's success.

"She's a very good people evaluator," says Gary Hoffman, the institution's chairman of the board. "The secret to our success has been 90 percent related to the people that we have on the team, and she has attracted those folks. Even when we've been a target for raiders who are trying to get our people away from us, we've managed to keep them." - JA


No. 16
Theresa Schefstad
President, CEO and Director, Raymond James Bank, St. Petersburg, FL
Years in banking: 29 // Rank last year: #22 WtoW

If any more evidence were needed to prove that Theresa Schefstad has effectively led Raymond James Bank since its inception 12 years ago, exhibit A would be this: Next year parent company Raymond James Financial will transfer $2 billion from the brokerage's cash accounts to the bank, nearly tripling its assets to $3.3 billion.

Schefstad is excited by the challenge, and she is well aware that it will indeed be just that. One of her greatest accomplishments this past year, she says, is that in a very competitive environment she was able to shift the bank's balance sheet from cash to higher yielding, high quality assets in the whole loan and syndicated loan arenas. "Our challenge will be deploying those assets," she says.

No doubt the parent company will be hoping for more of the same success. Net income as of March 2005 was 49 percent more than a year ago at the bank. Total loans increased 23 percent, assets grew 20 percent and deposits climbed 23 percent. All the while credit quality has been stellar. The bank has not had a loan loss since 1997.

Hjalma Johnson, past president of the Florida Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association, notes that he started four banks in his career and knows a little something about what it takes. "At inception you've got not one penny of deposits to now she's got more than $1 billion. It tells me a lot about her management style and ability and salesmanship. She's an outstanding leader and an outstanding banker."

William Klich, state president of BB&T, has known Schefstad since the 1980s and vividly remembers when, at Coast Bank, she took her satellite private banking operation and outperformed the home office. "I though, if she can do this with one region, I better give her the whole state. She's a natural leader-a leader not a boss-and a builder of strong financial institutions."

Schefstad, who spends what extra time she has with her seven brothers and sisters and 17 nieces and nephews, says part of her leadership challenge has been proving over the years to the financial advisors at the brokerage firm that they're better off with the bank. The economic downturn earlier this decade proved her point. Discussing bank products was a valuable talking point with clients at a time when many weren't interested in investing in the stock market. Today, the bank's syndicate loan connections are deepening the bank's role by serving as a lead for investment banking business. "Brokers at first did not see the need for the bank. But we've convinced them. - MS


No. 17
Cecelia "Cece" Sutton
Evp and Head of Retail and Small Business Banking, Wachovia, Charlotte, NC
Years in banking: 27 // Rank last year: #4 MPWIB

When describing her career and her management style, the word that Cecelia "Cece" Sutton uses more than any other is "results." Describing herself as result-oriented, she's clear that she expects others to be as well. Her own results, as head of the fourth largest retail operation in the country, are easy to spot.

Sutton, whose banking career began in 1978 as a clerk for First Union National, is now executive vice president, head of retail and small business banking at Wachovia. Her division accounts for about one-third of Wachovia's total net income, which was $1.6 billion in the second quarter this year, up 29 percent from last year.

In the second quarter, Wachovia's retail division increased deposits eight percent from a year ago and loans were up 10 percent, which helped boost revenue in her division by 10 percent.

Sutton was named head of retail banking shortly after First Union acquired Wachovia in September 2001-and kept the Wachovia name-when it was suffering from poor customer service and performance, she says. Her first order of business was revamping the sales force, and one of her major initiatives was to deploy more bankers with securities licenses in the branches. In fact, the bank says it now has more bankers licensed to sell mutual funds and annuities in its 3,100-plus branches than any other bank in the country.

She also helped lead the project that created the blueprint for the bank's integrated channel distribution system. Specifically, her team envisioned how the on-line and phone channels would be used by customers, resulting in a system that handled 197 million calls last year and an on-line channel that opens 15,000 new accounts each month.

All of these efforts have helped cut customer attrition to 12 percent in 2004, down from 20 percent in 1999.

This work has not gone unnoticed in the industry. Goldman Sachs named Wachovia among the best retail banks in its 2004 ranking of retail operations of national and regional banks. It also named Wachovia the most-improved retail bank in 2003.

Joe Belew, president of the Consumer Bankers Association, has seen Cece in action for the three years that she has been a member of the group's board of directors. In fact, she is up for the chairman position next year and he has no question of her ability to assume that role. "She'll do an absolutely great job," he says.

On his 18-member board she has made a name for herself as a tireless and tough executive, he says. "I can see it in her troops," he adds, referring to Sutton's drive to create a top-notch sales culture. - LC


No. 18
Beth Mooney
CFO, AmSouth, Birmingham, AL
Years in banking: 26 // Rank last year: Not ranked

Beth Mooney thinks leadership starts by convincing and, truth be told, convincing is how she got her career off the ground 25 years ago. Convincing a Dallas credit manager that an underqualified secretary would be a good bet for a training course, that is.

The 50-year-old Mooney, now chief financial officer of the $50 billion Southeast regional player AmSouth, looks back on those days with a wry laugh and amazement at how she got any sleep. "At that point in my life, I was looking for anything that would give me a paycheck and get me out from under my parents' roof," she says. "I graduated from the University of Texas and took a job as a secretary at a bank." She had a liberal arts degree instead of a business diploma, and Texas along with the rest of the country was in recession, gripped by an energy crunch. As she recalls, she found she could do more, and would: Mooney enrolled in a night-school MBA program at Southern Methodist University, and worked to make the move from the secretary's desk to the junior management track at Republic Bank of Dallas. "I assured the head of the credit training program that he would never live to regret hiring me although he viewed me as underqualified at the time," she says. "It was based on my commitment that I would go to school at night and get my MBA."

It's this doggedness and confidence-along with swiftly becoming as good and well-prepared a number-cruncher as anyone-that helped her rise through Texas banking in the '80s, a good-old-boy scene if there ever was. "I was mindful that as a woman these opportunities were unusual; I just didn't dwell on it," she says. "I didn't have enough sense not to get in there."

Now she's doing so as chief number-cruncher for a Birmingham, AL bank that boasts a second-quarter return on average equity of 20.9 percent and earnings of $184 million. Mooney is 18 months into her stint as CFO, having previously run the firm's Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi region after AmSouth took over First American.

She's variously described as a manager who appreciates consensus, but makes a call. "One of my gifts is getting people to see potential," Mooney says. Her friend Gail Trechsel, director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, puts it as the ability to see connections. "She's diligent, she's dedicated, she's smart," Trechsel says. "But there is this real sense about her where she sees the big picture."

Mooney's big picture includes work with the United Way, the Alabama Symphony, the UAB Business School and eating out at the Hot and Hot Fish Caf? and Highlands Bar & Grill. While she was still in Nashville, she was brought on to assist the city's economic development efforts and moved the focus to drawing in business headquarters from outside. The Caremark, Louisiana Pacific, Clarcor, Asurion and Big Idea companies all decamped from elsewhere and set up shop in Nashville. Convincing. - MD


No. 19
Janice R. Fukakusa
CFO, RBC Financial Group, Toronto, ON
Years in banking: 20 // Rank last year: Not ranked

Say one thing for Janice R. Fukakusa, in her 20 years at Royal Bank she has not limited her learning opportunities. She's held a record 15 jobs at North America's seventh-largest bank by market capitalization, and since September of 2004 she has served as CFO of RBC Financial Group. Before that she held positions in corporate banking, account management, corporate finance, treasury, strategic development, portfolio management, multinational banking, loan syndication, asset trading, global project, structured finance, risk assessment, commercial markets, specialized financing products, private equity, strategic planning, and risk and compliance.

"I was very fortunate," she says. "I had a huge range of experiences on both the retail and wholesale side. ...Where I have an advantage over other CFOs who are career finance people is that they often don't understand how a business works. Having all of that business experience really positions you to be more of a trusted advisor. You can speak the same language."

With an MBA from Schulich School and a B.A. from the University of Toronto, Fukakusa began her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she worked from 1978 to 1985. "The depth of her understanding of the business, plus her strong financial acumen, means that any issue that needs tackling is done extraordinarily well," says Barbara G. Stymiest, COO of Royal Bank, who supervises Fukakusa. "She's also a thoughtful leader and is strong at understanding the evolving nature of a CFO, including attracting top high-caliber talent."

As one of her first projects, she helped lead the finance department in launching the "Client First Initiative," designed to help officials achieve efficiencies without sacrificing growth. It seems to be working: Since the initiative was announced, shareholder returns have improved more than 38 percent and earnings are 25 percent higher than the same period a year earlier. "This is the biggest challenge that has ever been mandated to get value-add, from a finance perspective," she says. "We're trying to centralize and drive costs down."

The challenges are never-ending, particularly since the bank must comply with ever-changing regulations in Canada and abroad. She credits her ability to be decisive in helping her get the job done. "I like to err on the side of decisiveness," she says. "And I'm trying to get my team to be more like that. In the absence of certainty-and we don't have a lot of certainty these days-people will default to others to make decisions for them. There are so many regulations and so many judgment calls to be made that unless you can really give your team the tools and the thinking and the coaching to make those decisions, they won't do it." - KK


No. 20
Donnalee A. DeMaio
President, MetLife Bank, Bridgewater, NJ
Years in banking: 3 // Rank last year: Not ranked

Soon after Donnalee DeMaio started at MetLife Bank in 2002 as CFO-a year after the bank established operations-she was stuffing envelopes in a conference room and watching videotape monitors, waiting for customers to come into the bank. "There's one! There's one!" she remembers yelling.

It was the kind of entrepreneurial challenge she'd signed up for, and one her former fellow partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers thought she was crazy for wanting. "But I realized this was my chance in life to start a business with a parent company with prestige and capital behind it. I had the chance to be an entrepreneur in a corporate environment, which is the kind of environment I'm comfortable in."

DeMaio, who spent 20 years at auditing firms before joining MetLife Bank, was named president of the $4 billion-plus bank in July. Hers is an usual background for a bank president, but that suited Shailendra Ghorpade, the former president and CEO, just fine. "I wanted someone with an unconventional point of view, because what we were doing at MetLife Bank was unconventional." It was difficult for career bankers to grasp that the bank would serve the other units of MetLife, not the other way around, he says.

Besides "getting it," Ghorpade notes that she is a great leader that others at the bank, even those that didn't report to her, naturally sought out for counsel. "A leader is someone who can put a team together, share a vision and drive them there. We can find technically capable people in many places, but leadership is another matter."

Looking forward, DeMaio says the challenge will be taking an institution approaching $5 billion in assets to $50 billion. "We have a bank. We proved we could do it. But how do we get large enough fast enough to be a real contributor to the MetLife family of companies?" which collectively had about $42 billion in revenue last year.

In September she was planning to talk with higher ups at MetLife about increasing the bank's capitalization to allow it to grow faster; at the same time, she was planning an advertising awareness campaign, and was also rolling out a handful of new high-yield savings products specifically geared toward the Baby Boomers.

Outside of work, she has become very involved in the marshal arts with her son. She is currently a high brown belt and is hoping for a black belt soon. "You need to have balance," she says. - MS


No. 21
Anne Arvia
President and CEO, ShoreBank, Chicago, IL
Years in banking: 14 // Rank last year: #11 WtoW

Anne Arvia doesn't just talk about inclusiveness. She embodies it. The "we" in her conversation is usually not a reference to ShoreBank. Rather, it's a reference to the community. ShoreBank works to revitalize inner city neighborhoods of Chicago and Detroit mostly by extending loans to people interested in rehabbing apartments.

Single family loans and business loans are also part of the mix, but the multi-family dwellings get most of the attention, she says. In Chicago's South Shore community, the bank has a 78 percent market share in multi-family building mortgages.

Arvia started in 1991 as assistant controller and worked her way to CEO, changing the company mindset along the way. She has proven that good works can be done profitably. The bank increased net income last year to $15.7 million, up from $15.4 million in 2003 and $13.5 million in 2002. Just as significantly, it bested its peer group in the two categories that she considers the most important, return on equity and efficiency ratio. ROE was 15.5 percent in 2004; the peer group was at 13.3 percent. Efficiency ratio was 54.5 percent, four percentage points higher than the peer group.

Following ShoreBank's success in the tough neighborhoods, other banks are filtering in, including U.S. Bank, Chase, Fifth Third, National City and Wamu. But she says ShoreBank still has an edge in its knowledge of the neighborhoods. "We truly know the borrowers," she says. If someone wants to rehab a 40-unit building but doesn't have the necessary experience, her bankers know the area well enough that they can recommend a smaller building in the same neighborhood.

Still, ShoreBank cannot sit on its laurels, Arvia says. She is constantly looking for new areas where it can provide superior service. One example is the addition of "environmental health" to its two-pronged bottom line of earnings and community development. Now the bank talks about its "triple bottom line." The environmental efforts largely involve educating borrowers on ways to save on energy costs with various building materials, she says.

The next concerted effort will be to better serve the underbanked community. ShoreBank also is halfway through a major growth campaign with plans to double in size in five years. If it achieves that goal, it will be at $2.4 billion in assets by the end of 2007. Currently at $1.7 billion, it's on track, she says.

Ron Grzywinski, co-founder of the bank and chairman of ShoreBank Corp., says that since Arvia's promotion to president in 2002 and CEO in 2003, she has "taken the bull by the horns" and become a very strong leader, while exceeding expectations in new neighborhood loans by 70 percent. Arvia says one of her biggest concerns is that some developers are moving in and paying too much for plots of land. That will lead to a building with cash flow that cannot support the investment, and that could lead to more blight and drugs in the neighborhood, she says. "We're very worried about that." - LC


No. 22
Susan Pittman Horton
Chairman, CEO & President, Wheatland Bank, Spokane, WA
Years in banking: 6 // Rank last year: #12 MPWIB

Susan Pittman Horton has a lot of people counting on her.

The chairman, CEO and president of Spokane, WA-based Wheatland Bank has been one of the few receptive listeners to developers needing seed money to renovate Spokane's downtown area; her 66 employees look to the former Deloitte & Touche CPA to provide opportunities and long-term independence not usually guaranteed at a $163 million community bank; and members of the Independent Community Bankers of America appreciate her lobbying to promote Subchapter S privileges for small banks.

She's also the lifeline for wheat farmers in Northeast Washington through agricultural lines of credit that get them through a bad year-and preserve their way of life. "You need to have the appetite and the strength to go with them," Horton says of her rural customers, who still comprise a majority share of deposits despite Wheatland's major push into urban commercial real estate. "One or two tough years don't mean that it's over for the farmer."

Things might have been all over for Wheatland years ago had the bank, a flat-earnings $78 million institution when Horton took over in 1999, not diversified itself into commercial banking and built new branches in Spokane and elsewhere across the Columbia Basin. With the 2005 completion of those expansion efforts that included moving corporate offices out of sleepy Davenport, the urban branches now account for 80 percent of the bank's net profits. "In 1999, we didn't run into Wheaton at all," says longtime acquaintance Pete Stanton, CEO of century-old Spokane institution Washington Trust Bank. "She's done the right thing in moving her branches and headquarters into a market with a much bigger potential."

Horton also put the bank's name behind chamber-driven downtown renovation initiatives. The bank produced local television commercials that put Wheatland in prime time. She also sought unique customer service initiatives that played well with the city-slicker set: in-branch coffee bars, massages for new account holders, and courier pickup services for business deposits.

Many of these changes and upheavals were accomplished in the past year as Horton was dealing with personal challenges. She required extra time at home to care for an ill husband and a three-year-old daughter, Alexandria, now commanding attention for swimming lessons, horse-riding lessons and simple Mommy time. Which is just fine with Horton, 43. "I just took three weeks off for vacation, and we didn't even leave town," Horton says. "She's my priority." - GF


No. 23
Maryann Bruce
Evergreen Investment Services, Wachovia Bank, Charlotte, NC
Years in banking: 23 // Rank last year: Not ranked

The old stereotypes of men and women managers-with men being more decisive and competitive and women being more nurturing-still exist somewhat, says Maryann Bruce, and she is in a position to know. In her career path to become president of Evergreen Investment Services Retail and High Net Worth Sales and Marketing, a division of Wachovia, she says she's been accused of having more male traits.

Her competitive drive began early growing up as one of five siblings, all of whom are high achievers, and was honed on the Duke swim team, she says. She also is quick to highlight her family's achievements when asked about her own personal life.

She brought all these characteristics to bear on Evergreen. Since Bruce joined the organization in 1999, sales of mutual funds increased from $7 billion in 1999 to a high of $19.2 billion in 2003, with a projection of $12.5 billion this year.

Along the way, she also orchestrated two major shifts at the company. One was to increase the equity funds. Evergreen had been known traditionally as a fixed-income shop, but this year it is nearly 60 percent equity, up from 43 percent two years ago. She says she began that shift in 2003 when she saw the day of rising rates on the horizon and wanted to mitigate the negative fallout that rising rates would have on fixed income funds at the company.

Another company shift has been to begin aggressively selling non-Evergreen fund products. "When I got hired, their vision was to be a leader in asset management and we weren't even in the top 50." To achieve that goal, she quickly recognized that the company had to start marketing outside products as well as internal products. Since then, the ratio of outside funds has increased from 20 percent to 60 percent, she says.

Judging from the numbers, it all appears to be working. Her retail distribution line of business accounts for 18 percent of Evergreen's total assets, yet generates 40 percent of net earnings. Her "slightly hands on" management style is fully demonstrated by her hiring process. She values her team's opinion in hiring decisions so she puts applicants through a series of interviews so they meet all her top managers. She values their opinion enough that she says she will allow herself to be overruled if they all disagree with her on the value of an applicant. "They're the ones who will be working every day with a new hire," she says.

Steve DeLano, president of Market Metrics, a research firm that gets feedback from financial advisors on financial services companies, says he has watched Bruce's career path for 10 years. She has an absolute attention to detail as well as a devotion to her team, he says. If her company gets high marks in 10 categories, she'll focus on the one or two that she views as a weakness. "She could be CEO someday, nothing would surprise me with her," DeLano says. - LC


No. 24
Ellen Sas
Chairman, President and CEO, NorthStar Bank, Seattle, WA
Years in banking: 5 // Rank last year: Not ranked

The number of bank presidents who have more than tripled the size of their institution over the past five years is limited, with Seattle-based NorthStar Bank president and CEO Ellen Sas among them. It's that kind of success that caught the eye of Frontier Financial, which at presstime announced plans to acquire NorthStar in a stock swap valued at $48.2 million.

Sas, who led NorthStar for five years, will become evp at Frontier, overseeing risk management and participating in investor and government relations.

The merger was almost inevitable. Sas knew the $180-million bank couldn't survive in the consolidating financial services industry. Her major challenge last year was coming up with a strategy to get from $180 million to $500 million, or finding the right partner to take them there. To assist her, Sas hired a CFO with lots of M&A experience, after years of making due with only a controller. "It was clear that a combination with Frontier is the best long-term choice for our shareholders, customers and employees," Sas said in a statement.

The job as evp will be only Sas's second position in a bank; she started at the top when she was named president of the ailing Fremont First National Bank in 2000. Before that Sas had spent 11 years as a CPA, including one as a partner, working with more than 75 community bank clients in the Pacific Northwest.

"I saw what worked and what didn't work for 75 banks," she says. And as a consultant reporting to each bank's board of directors, "I now understand board dynamics probably better than most people who came up through the banking ranks."

When she was being interviewed for the president's job at NorthStar, some members of the board were concerned that Sas lacked the marketing expertise to grow the bank from its $50 million asset base. But board member John Patterson, also a CPA, recognized that Sas's career path in public accounting demanded marketing savvy.

"I could see she was more than just a bean counter," Peterson recalls. "You don't get to be partner in an accounting firm at such a young age (30) without knowing how to market and network."

A major lesson Sas took from her accounting days, and one she constantly works to instill in her children-the value of networking. Her daughter, now 17, accompanies her to a handful of banking conferences and events each year, both to get a look at her mom outside the "mom" role, and to learn crucial business lessons early.

"What I want her to get out of it is to see that you don't get what you don't ask for; you can't sit on the sidelines and expect things to come to you," Sas says. - RS


No. 25
Donna Sylver
SVP, CFO, Mutual Community Savings Bank, Durham, NC
Years in banking: 8 // Rank last year: Not ranked

Donna Sylver's life isn't fully defined by a robust entrepreneurial spirit, a career spent dismantling layers of glass ceilings, strong family ties, and an active role in making her North Carolina community stronger-but these attributes do paint a clear picture of where she's from.

"My mother was an early entrepreneur before she knew it," Sylver says of her mother, who managed retail operations at a small store and started a surrogate shopping service, all while fighting for civil rights in the 1960s. "And she did it while putting a lot of value on family. She gave me this whole concept of God and family and work."

Sylver's climb to the executive ranks of Mutual Community Savings Bank (MCSB)-where she's implemented the strategies to help achieve a 170 percent increase in net income in a single year while working on rebranding projects and improving efficiencies in human resources-is a testament to the legacy she's been given.

That legacy can be seen in the hard work she put in earning a BS in accounting from North Carolina Wesleyan College in 1989, while helping raise her family. "I was one of those late bloomers. My emphasis was to support my husband and children. It wasn't an easy thing to do," she says of returning to school to work on career goals. "I had two kids and was very involved in the community by that time. I had all of those responsibilities, my education work and a job. It was a balancing act."

And it didn't get any easier when she entered banking, taking a job working on budgeting at North Carolina-based Pioneer Savings Bank. "They didn't have a budget department, so it gave me an opportunity to start something from scratch," she says. Three firms later she landed at MCSB as svp and CFO. Her work at the bank has included restructuring the treasury and accounting department, in addition to the HR and branding projects. "She is constantly teaching, and she shares information freely," says Lori Church, an internal auditor at MCSB. "I love going to meetings with her. I'm always learning every time I'm around her."

And Sylver's impact goes far beyond her bank, extending to an array of community activities in the Durham area that work to eradicate problems such as domestic violence and homelessness. "She is one of the most gifted and talented individuals anywhere," says William G. Smith, president and CEO of MCSB. - JA

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