Click on a name below to be taken directly to each profile.

1) Heidi Miller
2) Carrie Tolstedt
3) Barbara Desoer
4) Cece Sutton
5) Doreen Woo Ho
6) Pamela Joseph
7) Amy Woods Brinkley
8) Barbara Stymiest
9) Mary Callahan Erdoes
10) Diane Thormodsgard
11) Leila Carr
12) Charlotte McLaughlin
13) Iris Chan
14) Heidi Stanley
15) Carol Nelson
16) Julia Gouw
17) Claudia Slacik
18) Patricia Moss
19) Babette Heimbuch
20) Min Jung Kim
21) Deanna Oppenheimer
22) Michelle Van Dyke
23) Karen Lee Hail
24) Susan Horton
25) Donna Coughey

CEO, Treasury & Securities Services // JPMorgan Chase

By most accounts, Heidi Miller has the muscle and the intellect to be CEO of any major financial institution. She has reams of impressive performance numbers. Consider just two: her division at JPMorgan Chase, Treasury and Securities Services, if viewed as a standalone entity, would have ranked 13th among U.S. banks last year, falling just behind BB&T with $8.5 billion in revenue, according to numbers from the most recent Fortune 500. 

More impressively, it would be No. 1 based on profitability; its 48 percent return on equity would have far outpaced The Bank of New York's leading 29.14 percent ROE of the top 100 U.S. banks, according to 2006 SNL data.

She's no stranger to the C-suite, having risen to CFO at Bank One before it was acquired by JPMorgan Chase in 2004. Miller sits on JPMorgan Chase's 12-person operating committee, playing a crucial role in mapping out the bank's short- and long-term strategy.

When Miller talks about the past year, she focuses on the acquisition of Bank One that brought her to JPMorgan Chase. It may sound like old news, but she spent long hours this summer overseeing the finals stages of merging the platforms for corporate checking accounts. The process, which culminated in the largest U.S. dollar clearing conversion in history, involved changing millions of lines of computer code, not to mention adhering to daily government deadlines globally for check clearing. It was something akin to "changing the tires of a car while you're driving," she says, but it was completed flawlessly and without a single missed deadline. Was it stressful? "It was not without concerns," she acknowledges.

While her TSS team was changing that particular tire, the group increased second-quarter net revenue to a record $1.7 billion, a 10 percent hike from the same time period last year. Net income surged to $352 million, 11 percent higher than the year-ago period. And ROE for the second quarter was 47 percent, up 11 percent over the previous quarter. Also in the second quarter, assets under custody rose to $15.2 trillion, a 32 percent increase.

A few more tidbits: The TSS group is ranked No. 1 in U.S. dollar clearing for ACH transactions and No. 1 in U.S. dollar overnight sweep investments. And according to the company's annual report, the group delivered eight percent of the firm's overall profit in 2006.

Her long-term goal for the group calls for more international growth: Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, China and India are of particular interest. In fact, the China Banking Regulatory Commission approved Chase's opening of a locally independent bank in July, Miller says, the first time a foreign institution was allowed to incorporate in Beijing.

Over the past year, Miller also oversaw several important acquisitions. In April, the company bought Xign, a provider of business-to-business, on-demand financial-settlement services. JPMorgan Chase and Xign had struck a business relationship in 2003, but with the acquisition the bank added more than 40,000 global suppliers to its settlement network. Her group also was involved in two deals to extend the bank's reach in the healthcare field: the acquisition of FisaCure, a data-capture company for healthcare providers, and the formation of a partnership with McKesson Corp., a healthcare information-technology firm.

Outside of her day-to-day TSS obligations, Miller has long been an advocate for women in business. She helped plan the White House Project's Women's Leadership Summit in 2001 and sponsored a program in 2003 that led to Bank One providing seed financing to the Executive Leadership Institute of Women of Color.

Miller's accomplishments have made a favorable impression on Wall Street analysts. Richard Bove, a financial institutions analyst at Punk Ziegel, says she has the talent to head a company. Describing her as "absolutely brilliant and very hard-driving," he notes that she has another quality that differentiates her. She has an "almost compliant personality" and genuinely makes everyone around her feel important," he says. "She'll really listen to you and care about what you have to say," he says. "She seems to allow people to make their points without interrupting them, even though you know she's smarter than you." -LC

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Senior EVP, Community Banking // Wells Fargo

Carrie Tolstedt spent much of her childhood in tiny Kimball, NE, frosting cakes and working the counter at her father's bakery. But her favorite job was helping prepare the daily deposits and delivering them to the local bank. "My dad knew I was going to be a banker before I did, because I enjoyed it so much," she says.

Tolstedt, 47, has run Wells Fargo & Co.'s retail bank since 2002. In June, small-business and business banking were added to her duties. Combined, those operations serve nearly 11 million clients through some 3,200 outlets, and employ 58,000 over 23 states. It's a huge job. Community banking accounts for roughly two-thirds of $540 billion-asset Wells' earnings, and Tolstedt hasn't disappointed. Net income in her unit jumped 20 percent in the first half of the year, with 4.8 million products sold in the second quarter alone-a nine percent jump over year-earlier levels. Over the past three years, the unit's earnings have grown more than 25 percent.

Chief executive John Stumpf credits Tolstedt's numbers savvy and ability to connect with frontline workers for much of that success. "Retail is all about detail. ...If you can't measure it, you can't manage it," Stumpf says.  "Carrie is highly analytical. When you mix that intellect and attention to detail with this wonderful human-a person who can empathize and deal with a team-that's where the magic happens."

Subordinates say Tolstedt's natural curiosity makes her a good people person. Store visits, often a perfunctory, drive-by task for many senior managers, are something she relishes. "Carrie won't leave a store without having spent 15 minutes talking to each team member," says Jay Freeman, evp of regional sales and service, and a direct report. Those discussions center not only on the job, but also upcoming weddings and other personal events. "People always underestimate the amount of time her visits will take," he adds.

These twin strengths are in play now, as Wells strives to overcome an apparent disconnect. In recent years, even as retail cross-sell figures hit an all-time high of 5.4 products per-customer, Wells' customer-satisfaction scores suffered. In 2006, the American Society for Quality singled out the company, saying that "despite its otherwise good reputation, [Wells] has clearly not been able to deliver the kind of service quality its customers expect." Long-term, that's not tenable; unsatisfied customers are less likely to buy additional products. Under Tolstedt, Wells now conducts 50,000 surveys each month to better understand customers. "There are very few decisions where we don't go back and ask, 'What do the numbers tell us? What can we learn from them?'" she explains. Tolstedt also likes searching for best-practices solutions in the field. A recent visit to Colorado, for instance, found a branch that developed a "two-step rule," mandating that all customers be greeted by the time they take their second step inside the building. Today, many Wells outlets have duplicated the practice. "With 3,200 stores, it's like having 3,200 labs," she says.

The results of such efforts have been heartening: the ASQ's 2007 rankings put Wells' customer satisfaction ratings up 7.5 percent over 2006, the largest gain of any financial-services company.

A University of Nebraska graduate, Tolstedt first worked for a bank in Denver. A few years later, she latched on with the old Norwest in Omaha, doing loan workouts, commercial lending and auditing, before moving onto retail. She recommends younger women seek to broaden their backgrounds. "I've focused more on following my passion and purpose than on where my career takes me," she says. So far, it's been a rewarding journey. -JE

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Chief Technology & Operations Officer // Bank of America

Life is never dull for Barbara Desoer. The chief technology and operations officer for Bank of America oversees an array of projects and initiatives so big and so vital to the company's performance that even she sometimes wonders how to manage it all. "I have to be very intentional as a leader to ensure that I'm devoting sufficient time to the most critical roles I have," including talent selection and strategic planning, she explains.

Among the things under Desoer's purview: a check-imaging system, two years ahead of most competitors, which already clears 15 million checks each day; a 22 million-customer-strong online banking system that draws 2.3 billion visits a year; and a monster private-data network that processes 400 transactions a second and links 5,700 banking centers and 17,000 ATMs. 

The numbers are so immense, and BofA's profile so high, that pressure is inevitable. "She has a great weight on her shoulders to ensure those systems never go down," says Alenka Grealish, managing director at Celent. Even so, Desoer is a banker, not a tech geek, having started with the old BofA in 1977 and climbed the organizational ladder mostly on the consumer-banking side. That's given her "an ability to connect business strategy with technology better than her competitors," says Bill Bradway, managing director of Bradway Research. Bradway says BofA was a technology laggard before Desoer arrived on the scene in 2004. "Under Barbara's leadership, they're more focused and execute better...the best of the big banks," he says.

One of eight direct reports to CEO Ken Lewis and a member of the $1.5 trillion-asset bank's powerful Risk and Capital Committee, Desoer's influence shows up in the numbers. In a tough operating environment, BofA's first-half net income, before merger charges, rose five percent over 2006 levels. Diluted per-share earnings jumped 8 percent. Over the past three years, the company's quarterly net income has risen 51 percent, to $5.76 billion in the second quarter, with a return on equity of 17.55 percent. The company's efficiency ratio, often associated with technological prowess-and profitability-is a healthy 48 percent. But her impact goes far beyond that.

Desoer heads strategy for a fast-growing payments system that already handles more than a quarter of all U.S. transaction volume. Desoer aims to leverage the company's size to do more. "We're all about using our positioning across the extremes of our customer segments-from consumers to large corporates-to differentiate ourselves and create operational value," she says. Another key thrust involves using check imaging, image ATMs and remote-deposit capture to digitize as much paper as possible. Paperless operations are more cost effective. Housing information online-and making it accessible to personal bankers and investment advisors-enables better segmentation and sales strategies, which drives revenue growth. 

The integration capabilities of Desoer's team also are crucial to making M&A deals pay off: A recent consolidation of BofA's credit-card portfolio onto 2006 acquires MBNA's platform, for instance, is expected to produce $850 million in after-tax savings this year. She's engineering two other big integrations-U.S. Trust and Chicago's LaSalle Bank. 

If that weren't enough, Desoer oversees a workplace group that manages some 9,000 BofA facilities and more than 90 million square feet of space. Among its tasks: development of the showpiece $1 billion Bank of America Tower in New York, which is touted as the world's most environmentally responsible office building.

Finding personal time is a challenge. Desoer loves kickboxing and traveling with husband, Marc, and their 14-year-old daughter. They recently journeyed to Greece. "Getting into a different environment and connecting with ancient history is a great way to unwind," Desoer explains. Given the scope of her responsibilities, she needs it. -JE

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EVP and Head of Retail and Small Business Banking // Wachovia
Wachovia's Cece Sutton had a high-profile challenge on her plate this year-handling the integration of Golden West Financial into Wachovia's retail and small-business division, just as the mortgage market was imploding. So far, so good, Sutton says. "From a credit perspective, our portfolio is doing very well, and not suffering as some of the other names we're reading about," she notes.

As head of Wachovia's retail and small- business division, the third-largest in the U.S. based on deposits and market share, Sutton is responsible for about one-third of the company's total earnings. Her purview includes 3,400 financial centers and 29,000 employees in 21 states. Sutton's boss, vice chairman Ben Jenkins, has high praise for her. "Cece is passionate, and she is directly responsible for the success of the finest retail bank in the business," he observed. 

Praise from observers is more telling. Citi analyst Keith Horowitz wrote in a recent report that "Wachovia runs one of the best retail banks in the business." And Marion Sandler, former co-CEO of Golden West, says that "Cece is one of the brightest people I've worked with in years."

In the first half of 2007, core deposits were up six percent, loan growth was up 12 percent, revenue was up six percent and net income up 10 percent, all compared to a year earlier. Net new checking-account production is on pace to beat one million accounts for 2007, almost 50 percent higher than the year earlier. From 2005 to 2006, earnings for the retail and small-business bank grew 23 percent from $2.2 billion to $2.7 billion; revenue grew 11 percent during the period. Customer attrition has dropped to 12 percent from 20 percent and unaided brand awareness stands at about 48 percent, according to company research. 

It's probably not surprising that Sutton is leading the Golden West integration well. Over the years, she's handled the integration of SouthTrust and Wachovia into First Union's retail-sales and service model, among others. The early results at Golden West are encouraging: in the first two months of this year, Golden West Savings' 285 branches sold more checking accounts than in all of 2006. "I am very, very pleased with the integration going on within the retail bank," Sutton says. "The morale is outstanding, turnover is incredibly low." She acknowledges her long experience with mergers "and many of them have had great outcomes," she says. "But this probably is one of the most engaged and excited teams I've worked with in a merger environment."

At the same time, Sutton and Jenkins decided to reorganize the retail and small-business bank along functional lines, eliminating the geographic reporting structures. The idea was seeded when the company began its Western expansion with a smaller acquisition in 2005, and was planned in earnest when the Golden West deal arose. "We'd been trying to think about how you run a national franchise," she says. "Were there opportunities for greater speed to market, greater speed to execution?"

With the new organizational structure, the bank "will be able to demonstrate a much more consistent deployment of key strategies," she says, as Wachovia continues to build a national franchise. "The opportunity to build on the West coast is incredibly exciting," Sutton says. "We're already beginning to see why so many of our peers do so well out there." That said, Sutton has no illusions about the challenges the coming year is likely to present. "You just have to buckle down," she says. "Sometimes you just need something to galvanize a team, get them directed, focused, tuned to execution. That's what's happening here." -RS

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President, Consumer Credit Group; President, Corporate Trust Services // Wells Fargo Bank    

It was a busy year for Doreen Woo Ho, president of consumer credit and corporate trust services at Wells Fargo Bank. The pace for Woo Ho is nothing new. One of the highest-ranking women in finance, Woo Ho manages 8,000 employees and brings in $4 billion in revenue at the nation's fifth largest bank. 

This year has been especially rough. The recent turbulence in the housing markets and the student-lending scandal have thrown Woo Ho-who oversees $81 billion in home-equity lines and $14 billion in student loans-right into the fire. "Wells Fargo is a very strong institution, and we're in a very different circumstance than other players in the market," says Woo Ho, who in addition to the home-equity group also runs personal-credit management. "But there's always a ripple effect."

That ripple effect has included, among others, rising credit losses in home-equity loans and lines over the past year. But given industry-wide turmoil, Wells Fargo has fared pretty well: Credit quality only fell slightly compared to its peers-with average FICO scores of 748-while double-digit growth in home-equity revenue during that period helped boost the bank's bottom line. 

Those results are no coincidence. Woo Ho says she started scaling back the home-equity business 18 months ago when the housing market began showing its cracks. As a result, Wells Fargo now ranks as the second-largest home-equity lender, giving up the No. 1 spot, which Woo Ho helped capture after she joined the group in 1998. Woo Ho is more than happy to give up market share to protect the bank and its customers. She has worked in banking long enough to have seen many down cycles, and points out that times like these provide an opportunity for an established lender to prove itself. "The bigger players like ourselves will get stronger, as we have less competition in the marketplace," she says. 

Wells Fargo doesn't have to go far to prove itself. Even though California has been one of the hardest-hit states in the housing meltdown, the $540 billion-asset bank continues to post record numbers. Net income rose nine percent in the second quarter from the same period a year ago to $2.28 billion, putting earnings per share at $0.67, compared with $0.61 a year earlier. Non-interest income rose 23 percent to $4.7 billion. The net interest margin rose to 4.89 percent in the second quarter of 2007, compared with 4.76 percent in the second quarter of 2006. The return on assets hit 1.82 percent, up six percent from the previous year. The return on equity dropped slightly to 19.55 percent from 19.76 percent, and the efficiency ratio also edged down to 57.9 percent from 58.9 percent. Total assets rose eight percent to $540 billion; loans rose 11 percent from a year ago to $332 billion; and deposits are at $301 billion, up 14 percent from a year ago.

Woo Ho says one of her goals is to increase the size of the student-lending division she took over last summer, which rose 11 percent in the second quarter of 2007, compared to a year ago. So far, the bank has come away clean in the corruption scandal that prompted Congress to introduce sweeping reforms of the $85 billion industry. Woo Ho says the firm is working on ways to increase profitability in the face of tighter regulation. "It's important for us to be in the student-lending business," she says. "It's not just about lending money to a student, but we're hoping that student will have a lifetime relationship with Wells Fargo." 

Meanwhile, the portfolio of the corporate-trust services division has doubled since Woo Ho took over in 2004, standing at $2.5 trillion. While issuance of securitized paper has been hurt by credit tightening this year, she believes the division is poised for more growth in the long term, as capital markets for asset-backed securities, mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations expand. With a loan portfolio of $103 billion, or a quarter of Wells Fargo's total, under her wing and an impressive track record so far, who would doubt her? -DF

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Vice Chairman, Payment Services;  Chairman and CEO, Nova Information Systems // U.S. Bancorp

Chicago native Pamela Joseph, who attended the same West-side suburban high school that graduated Hillary Rodham Clinton, has a health-care plan, too. 

The U.S. Bancorp Payments Services vice chair and chairman and CEO of Nova Information Systems is aiming to put U.S. Bank at the forefront of provider-insurer payment integration. It now links to more than 5,000 hospitals, clinics and physician's offices, and earlier this year her division launched a patient finance option through the bank's credit-card business line in anticipation of more high-deductible programs. 

And no, she's not tone-deaf to the election-year, post-"Sicko" momentum for a universal, single-payer system. "There will be changes [in coverage], and there have to be," says Joseph. "But things like online eligibility and the tools we're bringing will enhance what they're already doing, and I don't think that's going away."

U.S. Bancorp is depending on it, as the payment division's six-month intake of $1.7 billion has grown to encompass 24 percent of corporate revenues in the first half of 2007, along with 37 percent of fee revenue. That's significant for a bank whose efforts to expand its retail, deposit-gathering arm are, in most analysts' eyes, progressing too slowly.

While payments revenues are up 11 percent, the division's half-year $490 million in net income is a 2.5 percent improvement over 2006-a figure Joseph expects to improve in 2008, following platform conversions demanded by acquisition sprees over the past few years. Joseph's division, one of five business units at U.S. Bank, has surged to produce double-digit annual growth in merchant processing, corporate-payment products and credit/debit fees. 

The growth in payments and transaction revenue stems from Joseph's plan to double the payments-revenue stream by 2010, which has already almost reached 92 percent of its $5 billion goal. Her firm is now the second-largest commercial-card issuer globally and the third-largest U.S. merchant acquirer and payment processor, with one billion-plus transactions a year. It's now the fourth-largest acquirer in Europe, with plans to delve deeper into corporate payments and supply-chain finance offerings there.

And Joseph has nothing but the future in mind. The bank is pushing electronic business-to-business invoicing with the PowerTrack network; an international merchant-processing platform goes online in fall, accommodating 32 currencies, which can be used in 18 countries. Plans to expand processing into the Asia-Pacific realm are on deck.

Joseph, a 22-year banking veteran, devotes much of her free time to Atlanta-based Gift for a Child, which helps place foster children with permanent families. She also is spearheading projects for Habitats for Humanity that, along with the Financial Services Roundtable, sponsors "community build" days in 173 markets. -GF

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Chief Risk Executive // Bank of America
Managing risk is the banking industry's raison d'etre, and few embrace it like Amy Woods Brinkley. The chief risk executive for Bank of America has spent much of this decade building a system that promotes a balanced, holistic approach to managing all sorts of risks-interest-rate, credit, market, liquidity and operational ones-at the business-line level, with backstopping from her centralized team. "It's fundamentally what we do, the business we're in," she explains. "Philosophically, we approach it as a capability that has to live in every part of the company."

At the most basic level, the system has performed well under trying conditions. BofA's net-interest margin in the second quarter was 2.59 percent, down 26 basis points from a year earlier, while non-performers rose to 0.32 percent of loans and leases, up from 0.29 percent in the same quarter of 2006. Holding more or less steady helped increase the $1.5 trillion-asset company's first-half earnings, before merger charges, by five percent over 2006 levels-good for a return on equity of 17.55 percent. Second-quarter net income was $5.76 billion, up a whopping 49.6 percent from $3.85 billion in 2004. "BofA manages risk as well as anyone in banking," says Jeff Harte, an analyst with Sandler O'Neill & Partners.

But there's more to risk than the balance sheet. A member of the bank's eight-member risk and capital committee, Brinkley also oversees legal, audit and corporate security. Her eight direct reports and 5,000-member team assess the risks of everything from marketing initiatives to the loss of a top executive. 

Among her latest initiatives is a business-continuity system that focuses on the impacts of potential events, rather than trying to prepare specifically for, say, a pandemic, hurricane or terrorist attack. Since 80 percent of impacts-an inability of employees to get to work, for instance-are the same no matter the crisis, "we're able to do a whole lot more in terms of building immunity, resiliency and responsiveness," she says. 

Eugene Ludwig, CEO of consultant Promontory Financial Group, says Brinkley's energy and eye for innovation have boosted her industry profile. "A lot of great people head the risk shops of large financial institutions, but Amy is a real standout," he explains. "She's a very modern thinker, a force for good both in Bank of America and the industry in general." Perhaps it's small wonder the 51-year-old's name comes up as a potential successor to CEO Ken Lewis, 60.

Brinkley says a diverse background is important. Her career began in 1978 with BofA predecessor NCNB. She hopscotched through stints in international and commercial banking, consumer credit and marketing before landing in 1999 as president of consumer products-a job she kept until taking her present position. "Sometimes the best moves can be horizontal...because they prepare you to be a better candidate for the next bigger role," she explains. 

But if one gets near the top, be prepared to make compromises. There's only so much time to go around, and the demands can get difficult. "The idea of 'having it all' is a myth," she says. "There are trade-offs implicit in life, and it doesn't matter who you are or where you sit. You have to figure out what's most important to you." For Brinkley, it's been a risk worth taking. -JE

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COO // Royal Bank of Canada    

Barbara Stymiest was wooed to the new position of COO at Royal Bank of Canada in 2004 with a mission to lead the charge to reinvent the organization, which had weathered a string of disappointing quarters and questions about its strategy.

Stymiest directs enterprise strategy as well as all corporate functions, including risk management, finance and treasury. She's also a member of RBC's Group Executive, an eight-member team that sets RBC's strategic direction.

When she arrived at RBC, the institution had already had the bones of its "Client First" initiative. Stymiest took the helm and created a 3,500-member Global Functions group. And what began as a temporary vehicle to guide the mission was made into a permanent performance-management center handling not only frequent performance reports, but also enterprise-level forecasting. "All organizations have financial reporting, which is periodic and after the fact, and that gives you what I call 'the vertical view'-at any point in time you know what your results are, looking backward," Stymiest says. "[This office] captures all the significant initiatives we have that drive future performance. We track those projects knowing what the health of those projects are so we have a full view on what the financial outcome should be."

The realignment, intended to increase shareholder value, has been successful. For the two-year period ended October 30, 2006 (the end of RBC's fiscal year), total returns were just over 29 percent. In 2005, net income was 20 percent over 2004, and for the full-year 2006, net income soared 40 percent. The year 2006 also marked a significant milestone for RBC: the bank recorded income of $940 million-plus (or $1 billion, Canadian) in each quarter. So far, 2007 is looking pretty good as well. In the first half of this year, net income rose another 21 percent; in the quarter ended April 30, net income rose 14 percent.

Stymiest is proud of the bank's shareholder returns. "A bank that can create that much value for shareholders is clearly No. 1," she says. By some counts, anyway. RBC is the sixth-largest bank in North America, operating in 34 countries. In the past two years, the institution has aggressively expanded, increasing the number of branches by 10 percent, to 1,117 branches. "We're growing very, very fast and we need to continue to make sure that we don't grow out of control," she says, mindful of criticism that the bank had done just that.

Stymiest held a high profile in Canada long before her RBC role. Previously, she was CEO of TSX Group, where she was the first woman to lead the Toronto stock exchange, and created the first publicly traded exchange in North America. Before that she was evp and CFO for Bank of Montreal's investment-banking division. In March, she joined Research In Motion's board of directors-bringing some gravitas to the accounting-challenged Blackberry maker. -RS

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CEO of JPMorgan Private Bank // JPMorgan Chase

Since becoming CEO of JPMorgan Private Bank two years ago, Mary Callahan Erdoes has seen assets under management grow by $100 billion, to $450 billion. That's about $170 million per day or $20 million per hour. Not too shabby. 

Not too easy, either. Erdoes says high-net-worth individuals always think in terms of absolute returns; they want to increase their wealth in the good times and preserve it in the bad times. (As opposed to institutional investors, which are more focused on benchmarks, even if they are declining.) "They say, 'I don't want to see benchmarks. I want to preserve my wealth,'" she says. Wealthy people, in other words, are among a bank's most demanding clients, but they're also its most profitable.

Richard Bove, an analyst with Punk Ziegel, underscores the importance of her role. "It's a pretty powerful position," he says. "Private banking is the area that [JPMorgan Chase] relies on the most for its most profitable customers." If recent financial results are any indication, the private bank is keeping those customers pretty happy. Through the first half of 2007, its revenues rose 28 percent to $1.164 billion, compared to the same period in 2006, and pre-tax earnings jumped 70 percent to $434 million. Compared to 2005, revenues in 2007 were up 39 percent from $836 million, while earnings grew 72 percent from $252 million.

Erdoes has taken a number of steps to improve the dialogue with clients and manage in a choppy market. "We're entrusted with a tremendous amount of client assets, and we're sitting among the most complex global markets ever, and so we need world-class risk management tools and technology," she says. To that end, she worked with the private bank's advice lab to develop a proprietary model that client-facing teams could use to stress-test client portfolios daily. The idea was not to just back test, but to reassemble different potential market events based on potential reoccurrences. And in what can only be described as extraordinarily good timing, the new risk-management tool was rolled out in May, several weeks before the global credit crisis.

During her tenure, Erdoes has also doubled the client-facing staff globally, opened eight new offices around the world, and significantly changed the tone of client interaction by combining the roles of sales trader and portfolio manager. This step, she explains, allows sophisticated investors to go to one person and have a deep dialogue about their investments, "without having to go searching around for answers from different people." That, she says, would not make, nor keep, them happy. -MS

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Vice Chairman and Head of Wealth Management // U.S. Bancorp

The scope of Diane Thormodsgard's business has tripled since last year-and with it the promise of greater things to come. Today, as vice chairman and head of wealth management, a position that encompasses her former role as head of corporate trust services and institutional trust and custody, she is spearheading the bank's fresh approach to high-net-worth clients.

"I'm pretty excited," she says. "It's a group of businesses with great foundations and great growth prospects." Her laundry list of duties is exhaustive: she is responsible for corporate trust, institutional trust and custody, the private-client group, trust technology and support services, private asset management, fund services, investments, insurance services, First American Funds and FAF Advisors. These units bring in about $2 billion in revenue, or 15 percent of U.S. Bancorp's total.

Of course, U.S. Trust is not alone in targeting the wealthy, given the huge amount of wealth transfer expected as Baby Boomers enter and move through retirement. The trick is execution, something the bank clearly understands, as evidenced by its decision to put all wealth-management functions under a Thormodsgard-held umbrella. Indeed, most of the projected growth this year is coming from the lines of business she led before assuming her larger role. Going forward, she says, the focus will be on building teams and breaking down internal silos, branding the new group, fine-tuning product offerings, and reaching out to current clients. "Ninety percent of new business comes from existing customers and referrals," she notes.

For 2007, projected revenue for wealth management is 200 percent higher than the combined corporate trust and institutional trust and custody businesses managed by Thormodsgard in 2006-and 340 percent higher than in 2005, though that increase is primarily due to the additional lines of business she took on in 2007, as well as several acquisitions. The entire wealth-management unit hit an 18 percent compounded annual growth rate between 2005 and 2007. During that same period, the corporate-trust business that she previously managed had a compounded annual growth rate of more than 40 percent.

Richard Bove, an analyst of Punk Ziegel, says that Thormodsgard has her work cut out for her. Wealth management at U.S. Bancorp "is an area that needs some work," he says. "They are focusing more heavily on organic growth, and I assume she's been brought on to stimulate better organic growth." -MS

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Chief Retail Officer and EVP //  Synovus

In just under seven years, Leila Carr has advanced from svp and director of sales, marketing and product development at Synovus to evp and chief retail officer. This year she was named to the corporate executive group at the $33 billion-asset financial company. Ambition, however, is not what motivates her. Career advancement, she says, is a "byproduct of the work." Her main motivator? "The challenge. I love a challenge."

And the right challenges at the right time, Carr says, gave her the chance to develop the abilities that explain her performance at Synovus. Before joining in 2000, Carr worked for 17 years at First Union as it gobbled up at least half a dozen banks and grew into an 11-state, $6 billion franchise. "Every year there was a new opportunity," Carr remembers. "The core leadership team was asked to play larger and larger roles and that's a very fortunate position for anyone who is moving up in any company."

Great mentors, Carr says, also taught her early how to lead and coach others, indispensable ingredients for achieving results as a leader.  "Creating 'followership'," she says, "is really how people get results. If people do it for what they're going to get out of it, you don't create 'followership'. You have to do it for the customer and the company and for the team."

In 2004, Synovus promoted Carr to retail-banking executive. In 2005, the bank launched the first phase of a retail-banking strategy aimed at forging a sales model that integrated mortgages, investment sales and card products with core banking services. In that unit, net income rose by 18.2 percent in 2005, compared to 2004, and earnings per share increased by 16.5 percent to $1.64.

Retail growth continued in 2006. Core deposits increased by 14.1 percent over the previous year, and retail fee income grew by 11.7 percent. Retail loans grew by 6.8 percent and home-equity loans increased by 11.9 percent. Retail brokerage revenues jumped nine percent. Synovus now averages 3.35 services per relationship. This year, Synovus' second-quarter earnings rose 6.5 percent over the same quarter in 2006, with a diluted earnings per share growth of five percent. Retail deposits have grown by 10.8 percent, retail loans increased by six percent, and retail banking fees jumped 5.2 percent over the same period last year. 

Carr says she was able to join Synovus at a time when the vision was to transform it from a service-oriented culture to a sales-and-service-oriented one. A very aggressive growth plan, she says, has called upon leaders like her to tap underperforming or underinvested parts of the company and reposition them for growth. "It's all about assembling the right team," she says. "We are all very fortunate to work with very talented people. I love to position teams for success." -MB  

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President and CEO, PNC Capital Markets // PNC Financial Services Group

Charlotte McLaughlin says that one of her great satisfactions is building and retooling businesses. "I like making changes, [taking] calculated risks, innovating and using my imagination. If I'm going to be here this many hours," say the CEO of PNC Capital Markets, "I want to do something unique and really add value."

As chance would have it, she's had ample opportunity since assuming this post in 2002 to do just that. PNC Capital Markets was in something of a crisis before she assumed the helm, having run afoul of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for improperly accounting for some troubled loans. The regulators wanted PNC to improve risk-management and financial controls, a challenge that suited McLaughlin well. From 1996 to 2002, she had built up the firm's derivatives and foreign-exchange business and had a keen knowledge of risk-management issues. And prior to joining PNC, she served as manager of global-rate risk-management products for Mellon Financial Services.

Today her unit is going great guns and contributing to the top and bottom lines of the $101 billion-asset Pittsburgh-based parent company, PNC Financial Services Group. Since 2005, fixed-income sales jumped 89 percent and derivative and foreign-exchange sales have risen 32 percent. In 2006, her unit's revenue hit $87 million and looks to top that with $46.7 million coming by mid-year 2007.

Part of that growth is thanks to the creation of the Financial Institutions Group. After an intensive self-analysis of its portfolio, McLaughlin realized the process had given PNC valuable expertise around risk management that could be the core of a great product offering; in mid-2005, PNC launched the Financial Institutions Group to provide institutions with assets of $200 million to $20 billion a variety of strategies, tools and services to assess their own portfolios and improve management of assets, risks and operations. In 2007, the group is on track to notch $14 million in revenue.

Not surprisingly, when you're retooling old businesses and creating new ones, a lot of hiring occurs. And McLaughlin saw early on that PNC was missing a "pipeline of talent," something she took pains to develop. Today, about a third of her employees have come through her training program. It's been so successful, in fact, that PNC has absorbed the program into the larger corporate/institutional bank. "That's fine with me," she says. "It gets more resources, and I get more time for other things." -MS

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EVP and Group Head of Commercial Banking // Wells Fargo & Co.
One of the hallmarks of Iris Chan's tenure at Wells Fargo as evp and group head of commercial banking, a post she's held since 2003, is her aggressive expansion strategy. For a bank associated so strongly with doing business in the West-its logo is a stagecoach, don't forget-its commercial-banking arm is now achieving a higher profile in the East. 

It matters not to Chan that much of her expansion over the past four years has been into states where Wells Fargo actually has no community-banking presence. "Everyone is fighting for growth opportunities," she says. "They're trying to sustain double-digit top and bottom line growth." In pursuit of that growth, she has refused to be constrained by the bank's retail footprint. Since 2003, Chan has increased the number of commercial-banking offices to 80 from 50, including 10 states where the bank has no community-banking presence: Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

The trick, she says, has been fixating on the right markets and finding the best established local talent. New Jersey, she says, is a perfect example. The state has an abundance of middle-market, private companies, and that suits her unit well; it serves businesses with annual sales of $10 million to $500 million. The bank, which entered the state in December 2005, had to find the right people in the Garden State to help hang out the Wells Fargo shingle. "We have to explain [to recruits] why they will succeed with us, even without a community presence," she says. "But we have a good story to tell. We value our people and we give them resources. People are our competitive advantage." 

Judging by the financials, Chan's expansion strategy has worked. Wells Fargo's wholesale banking, with commercial banking as its largest component, saw revenues grow 20 percent to $2.2 billion in the first half of 2007, compared to a year ago; while net income rose 13 percent, to $570 million. Average loans reached $81.4 billion, up 16 percent from a year earlier; average core deposits rose $17.6 billion. Wells Fargo declined to break out the commercial-banking figures from those of the wholesale-banking group, but said the total sum of commercial-banking loans grew 11 percent and deposits by 46 percent in 2006.

Impressively, Chan has managed to marry that aggressive expansion strategy with successful cross-selling initiatives, getting more out of existing customers. Average products per commercial-banking relationship topped seven in 2006, the highest in the bank. In the end, successful cross-selling is the best evidence of customer happiness. "The most satisfying part of my job is seeing my people successful and thriving in every market," she says. -MS

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Vice Chairman and COO // Sterling Savings Bank

Growth comes naturally to Sterling Savings Bank vice chair and COO Heidi Stanley. Under her direction in the past year, the Spokane-based mid-tier bank completed five acquisitions, boosted its net income 60 percent and made its first foray into California. For Stanley, who joined the bank in 1985, it was just another step toward fulfilling an ambitious vision. 

"Our vision is very clear: to be the leading regional community bank in the West by all measures," says Stanley. Sterling is inching closer to its goal each year. Founded 25 years ago, the firm has increased its assets to $11.5 billion and two years ago converted its charter from thrift to commercial. It now has retail branches in five western states, and mortgage operations in nine. But Stanley insists that "leading" in her book doesn't refer to size, but to excellent customer service and a special focus on her 2,600 employees. "It isn't about how large we can become as much as it is about how we go about growing-while maintaining our ability to serve the customer in a 'hometown helpful' manner," she says, referring to the bank's mantra of knowing the customer well, and selling them products and services they need. 

But pure numbers growth has been nothing to scoff at. Second-quarter net income jumped 59 percent from the same period a year ago, to $26.98 million, putting earnings per share at $0.52, compared with $0.48 a year earlier.  Non-interest income rose 65 percent to $24.87 million. Net-interest margin rose to 3.41 percent in the second quarter, compared with 3.26 percent in second-quarter 2006. Return on assets hit 0.94 percent, up from 0.85 percent the previous year. Total assets rose an astounding 42 percent to $11.5 billion from a year ago; loans rose 54 percent to $8.6 billion; deposits jumped 43 percent to $7.6 billion. However, both return on equity and efficiency ratios dropped sharply, with ROE down 350 basis points at 9.60 percent and the efficiency ratio down 130 basis points at 60.40 percent.

Sterling's acquisition strategy didn't just boost its numbers, but also its geographic reach. The bank opened its first branches in California in the past year, and expanded its footprint with five purchases across the West: Golf Savings Bank, Mason McDuffie, Sonoma National Bank, FirstBank Northwest and North Valley Bank. Having overseen all 19 of Sterling's acquisitions in the past two decades, Stanley is a practiced professional at integration, pointing out that the biggest challenge is helping employees keep the firm's customer-centric culture in clear focus.  

Half of Sterling's bottom-line growth is organic. "There's an expectation by the executive management that we will continue to grow organically in the low double digits," she says. Stanley pays a lot of attention to productivity, process improvement and efficiency. To that end, Stanley has introduced a series of initiatives over the past year to improve production and incentive tracking, pricing analysis, and treasury management. Kaizen Events, a Six Sigma activity, has been a favored tool. "It's not me standing up high and pointing a finger and saying you're doing that wrong," she says. "It's they who look at their processes and evaluate how they can do them better." -DF

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President and CEO // Cascade Bank

Carol Nelson says her first mentor gave her the big picture of what it takes to be successful in banking: make it a lifestyle and not just a profession. She recalls him telling her there are three opportunities for getting new business: "breakfast, lunch and dinner." 

A thriving community bank with $1.3 billion in assets headquartered in Everett, WA, Cascade Bank has produced profits every year since Nelson was hired as CEO and president in 2001. For the first six months of this year, total loans, deposits and assets were up by seven, six and four percent, respectively, over the same period last year. Net-interest income was up 11 percent; non-interest income by 34 percent; net income by 19 percent; and earnings per share by 19 percent. In June, the return on equity was 13.76 percent and return on assets is 1.11 percent.

The numbers are impressive and not just for 2007. In 2006, Cascade Bank's total loans, deposits and assets grew by 15, seven and 11 percent, respectively, over the previous year. Lars Johnson, Cascade Bank's CFO, applauds Nelson's performance. Since she joined Cascade, "the compound growth in earnings and the stock price have been in the double digits," he says. "The entire business model has been transformed and a sales and service culture has been implemented."

Nelson, who graduated from Seattle University at the top of her class with a B.A. in business and finance and an MBA, says she is "very proud of our record. You have to have a vision of where you want to go, but it takes more than that. You need to get into the trenches and understand how you can add value to the organization."

Nelson's hands-on management style has driven the transformation of Cascade Bank from a traditional savings institution to a community bank with a heavy focus on commercial lending. Her key initiatives include a remote deposit-capture program, which she launched in 2006; an intensive direct-mail campaign to increase new accounts; a redesign of the bank's business-checking product line; special incentives to motive employees to increase sales; and early adoption of Financial Accounting Standards Board 159 accounting practices.

With 29 years of banking under her belt, Nelson says she'd like to someday "resurrect" her golf game, but her extensive community and professional commitments indicate that may have to wait. Last year, she was appointed to the board of the Seattle branch of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank. Some 30 years ago, her uncle Tom Hirai, a farmer in eastern Washington, sat on the same board. -MB

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EVP and CFO // East West Bancorp.

The road to success for Julia Gouw is flatter than it was just a few years ago-and "flat" in this case means much harder. "It was easy for banks to be profitable just a few years ago," she says. "Now, the flat or even inverted yield curve makes it tough to increase earnings."

But for Los Angeles-based East West Bancorp, the growth has been there, thanks in large part to Gouw's efforts to manage interest-rate risks. When rates rose in 2005 and remained flat since, the institution outpaced its rivals.

The bank's earnings-per-share growth in 2006, for example, was 19 percent, compared to one percent for all other California-based banks with more than $1 billion of market capitalization. And that's just part of the story. Total assets grew from more than $10 billion on June 30, 2006, to nearly $11 billion as of June 30, 2007. Net income grew 23 percent, from $128 million to $157 million. Earnings per share increased 16 percent, from $2.20 to $2.55. And non-interest income jumped 27 percent, from $32 million to $40.6 million. 

And by year-end 2007, the bank is on pace to have its 11th consecutive year of record earnings. It's all part of a long-term record that has allowed the bank to maintain a margin close to four percent in a variety of interest-rate environments, be it decreasing rates in early 2000 or rising rates and the flat yield curve of the past few years.

As chair of the bank's asset-liability committee, Gouw is front and center in the battle to tame interest-rate risk. She has fostered discipline to not take too much interest-rate risk exposure, so that bank is not betting on the direction of interest rates or the shape of the curve. She has positioned the bank well for an economic downturn by using her membership on the institution's senior-loan committee to argue for reducing a high concentration of risk in very large credits.

"She really understands the balance sheet within the banking environment," says Dominic Ng, CEO of East West. He says Gouw, who has been with the bank since 1989 and has been CFO since 1994, has shown a remarkable ability to "grow." The bank expanded from $600 million in assets in the early 1990s to more than $11 billion today, and the CFO job has become much more complex. "You often find executives who may not be able to catch up with that kind of aggressive growth," says Ng. "But Julia, on the other hand, can grow as the capacity of the organization grows." -JA

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Global Head, Trade Services and Finance // Citi

This globetrotter is fortunate that everything in life has prepared her for this job-a big one, as head of the global bank's international trade services. She's even more fortunate for a cool and level head. Everything the laconic, gravelly voiced Slacik says sounds and feels like common sense.

Which is good, because she approaches her job from a theoretical perspective which, in lesser hands, would sound hopelessly academic to number-crunching bankers. In talking of her role, she draws on the long history of commerce in civilization and development, of lifting people out of poverty, and its darker legacies: the sociology of apparel and electronics.

But Slacik knows her onions. She's putting this thinking to service no less than the reimagining of a venerable worldwide trading network. And the results in three years on the job mean 27 percent growth since 2005, 14 percent growth this year over last, and 28 percent growth in profits year-over-year. Citi's overall Trade Book rings up now at more than $21.6 billion on balance-sheet commitments. She's done this in her division as one powerful boss-Ellen Alemany, now head of RBS America-came and went, replaced by another, Paul Galant.

Slacik's division is moving past letters of credit toward financing the entire supply chain. "It's like the old railways: they thought they were in the train business," she says. "They were in the transportation business. There's a difference." By coming to Citi's "anchor tenants"-the Nikes of the world-as an advisor and financer across the supply chain, Citi can help its clients manage and reduce the costs of goods sold, the effects of which go straight to the bottom line. This makes for better relationships. Citi now provides financing support for Nike throughout China and its distributors in Russia, and in doing so Slacik is able to get a word in about workplace conditions, which is another measure of influence.

"Unlike some women, she's not fazed by conflict," says old friend, first woman president of Smith College and Nike board member Jill Ker Conway. "She grew up thinking of how to take on the world, and she's done it."

Joe Juliano, chief executive of supply-chain technology vendor PrimeRevenue, is impressed with Citi's consistency in its trade-services operations. What's in New York is the same as in Jakarta, which is not always the case for these kinds of operations. "They're aggressive and commercially savvy people," he says. "And they're coordinated." Thank Slacik. -MD

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President and CEO // Cascade Bancorp

A lot of bankers use the phrase "customer experience" as a way to describe product delivery in a multi-channel age. But unless there's true sophistication in how a bank identifies and engages its target consumers, "customer experience" becomes little more than a buzzword.

Cascade Bancorp president and CEO Patricia Moss has turned the practice of targeting a market and becoming its bank of choice into an art. The institution has ridden a Moss-developed customer-relationship strategy to win more than 33 percent in market share in its primary footprint in Bend, OR. And in the past year, it has made significant inroads into Idaho, following its acquisition of Farmers & Merchants State Bank of Boise. 

A key component of that success is the bank's deposit-services program and a focus on relationship building that goes beyond traditional banking, including Moss' personal participation in new-customer prospecting. "We actually have deposit officers who, just like lending officers, go out and make calls on our deposit relationships," says Moss, a 32-year veteran who leads a 10-person staff, who supervise 557 employees. A string of strong performances has brought the bank's total assets to $2.3 billion, up 298 percent from $578 million in 2002. 

The bank's three-year compound growth has been 47.4 percent for loans; 36.7 percent for deposits; 24.8 percent in earnings per share; 36 percent in stock-price appreciation; and 15.7 percent in cash dividends. Return on assets, as of second-quarter 2007, was 1.76 percent, compared to the average of 1.32 percent for its peer group. The institution's return on equity was 14.1 percent, compared to 13.5 percent for its peers. 

The deposit-services strategy combines tailored product, price and delivery to individual depositor's accounts. Moss has a strong understanding of how product application combines with technology deployment and pricing. The strategy is also core to the mission of every employee of the bank. Teams of customer experts are part of this effort in every market the bank serves. "[Moss] also makes an effort to be visible in all of our markets, in Oregon, Seattle and Idaho," says Peggy Biss, svp and chief human-resources officer for the bank.

The institution has enjoyed a particularly strong rate of deposit growth in the last year, with checking, money market and savings accounts now making up 86 percent of the firm's total deposits. -JA 

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CEO and Chairman // FirstFed Financial

A conservative stance is beginning to pay off for Babette Heimbuch. First Federal Bank of California's CEO and chairman says she began tightening real-estate- lending standards two years ago, only to find herself struggling to compete with institutions with more generous lending rules. "When everything collapsed in August, we started doing much better," she says. "All the loose underwriting standards we were trying to compete against are gone." First Federal uses deposits to finance single-family homes, which make up the vast majority of its loans.

Setting high lending standards has hurt the fourth-largest financial institution in Los Angeles in the past year: Loan originations plunged in the first half of the year to $440 million, compared with $1.3 billion in first-half 2006, helping depress interest-earning assets and pushing down net income three percent to $61.5 million. Now, however, the strategy is bearing fruit. Heimbuch points out that First Federal has fewer non-performing assets than its peers, at 0.85 percent of total assets in the second quarter. While Heimbuch expects the number to deteriorate further as the housing bubble deflates, she says First Federal should still outperform the competition.

Recent financial data, however, still point to a tough year ahead. Doing business almost exclusively in California, which has been hit more severely than other states in the real-estate bust, hasn't helped either. Net income dropped 12 percent in the second quarter from the same period a year ago to $29 million, putting earnings per share at $1.74, compared with $1.92 a year earlier. Return on equity dropped 24 percent to 15.98 percent from 20.99 percent; return on assets hit 1.44 percent, up 15.2 percent from the previous year, and the efficiency ratio rose 13 percent to 27.93 percent. Total assets fell 25 percent to $7.7 billion; loans dropped 26 percent from a year ago to $7 billion; and deposits fell 11 percent to $4.9 billion.

Times might be tough, but so far Heimbuch has led First Federal quite deftly. When Heimbuch joined the bank 25 years ago, it was a thrift with $1 billion in assets that was losing money. Since then, she has taken the bank public to raise growth capital, revamped the loan portfolio to reduce interest-rate risk, and added a commercial-banking division to diversify income sources.

On Heimbuch's to-do list for next year: Building up the commercial-banking division and opening five to seven retail branches. As for concerns about more fallout from the housing debacle? The bank's role as a portfolio lender, which funds mortgages with deposits and federal borrowings instead of through the secondary market, has protected it from the liquidity crunch. "Portfolio lenders are the ones that are still out there: We don't have a funding problem," she says. "The market is going to be smaller. Since there are fewer players, that's great with us." -DF

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President and CEO // Nara Bank

The way to the top has been short and sweet for Min Jung Kim, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Nara Bank. After joining as chief credit administrator in 1995, Kim, the first female head of a Korean-American Bank, was named COO in 2003 and landed the top slot in late 2006. Since taking over, Kim has already shown strong results.

"Despite a very challenging environment, we were able to outperform our peer banks," she says. Net income rose 11 percent in the second quarter from the same period a year ago to $8.8 million, putting earnings per share at $0.33, compared with $0.30 a year earlier. Gains resulted partly from strong loan production, which lifted net interest income by three percent to $24.2 million, despite a net interest margin that dropped 6.5 percent to 4.72 percent in the second quarter.

Non-interest income rose 39 percent to $6.1 million. The return on assets hit 1.63 percent, little changed from the previous year, while the return on equity dropped 11 percent to 17.53 percent from 19.75 percent, and the efficiency ratio dropped eight percent to 46.38 percent. Loans rose 19 percent from a year ago to $1.9 billion; deposits rose six percent to $1.8 billion. Nara Bank had assets of $2.1 billion at the end of June 30-up 10 percent from the prior year. In addition to California, the bank has 27 offices in seven other states.

Despite some declining metrics, Kim says she expects the new sales staff and loan-production offices to boost the bottom line. In addition, she says, employees are motivated by a clear message: Cut costs, produce results and you'll be rewarded. In the past year, she has introduced several new initiatives to cut expenses and increase efficiency. For example, administrative functions are centralized in the back office, so sales staff aren't burdened by compliance paperwork or journal entries. Overhead expenses were trimmed by assigning ownership to every expense; one IT manager cut the annual phone bill by $100,000, simply by shutting down unused lines. Kim introduced an incentive program that extends to every employee: Technology managers share in the savings they achieve and salespeople earn bonuses based on the size of their portfolio.

Looking ahead, Kim plans to focus on increasing core deposits and business accounts, and has beefed up Nara's cash-management system and online capabilities. She plans to hire 20 new salespeople to concentrate on business clients, and says she'll continue to free up the sales staff from service functions so they can focus on bringing in new clients. "With that initiative we can take our bank to the next level," she says. -DF

Return to top 21) DEANNA OPPENHEIMER
CEO, UK Retail Banking // Barclays Bank PLC 

As this issue was going to press, Barclays of London was plotting a rare public meeting to reassure investors about potential losses in volatile credit markets-a vital PR move in the giant firm's lengthy campaign to purchase Dutch bank ABN Amro. One thing investors won't have to be reassured about is performance in domestic U.K retail banking, which looks stronger and stronger under the leadership of American retail whiz Deanna Oppenheimer.

In fact, as Barclays institutional traders turned to bond triage, Oppenheimer was shouldering greater responsibility for the $2.3 trillion-asset bank's marketing efforts-she'll be taking over temporarily for newly departed group-brand and UK marketing director Jim Hynter. Laying new groundwork will put Oppenheimer, a 20-year veteran who helped establish Washington Mutual as a powerhouse retail brand, in position to make her mark not only on Barclays' domestic businesses but its name and image in the marketplace.

Overall, Oppenheimer's got no easy brief: to light up a mature, drowsy enterprise and drag it into the 21st century, all while in the shadow of more charged group businesses such as the muscular investment bank, Barclays Capital.

This shoreup role is all the more critical now that the credit markets are under severe pressure and BarCap taking Barclays stock with it struggles in American subprime markets.

The retail unit is doing well, however. First-half profits increased nine percent, clocking in at $1.3 billion, even after a $175 million hit for consumer overdraft-fee settlements that affected the entire U.K. banking industry. This puts the business on track for a 13 percent profit increase this year over $2.3 billion last year, itself a 10 percent hike over 2005. That was the year Oppenheimer moved from being Wamu retail president to COO at Barclays UK retail and then onto chief executive of the unit. Barclays CEO John Varley points to two bank laggards before Oppenheimer showed up: mortgages and savings. Those two businesses have both enjoyed a complete turnaround under Deanna's leadership, he says.

Doing so in a three-century-old institution in London is resonating. We appoint and promote on merit, he says. Having said that, it's a very good thing for us that one of our most senior leaders is a woman. Nothing works more powerfully in my experience than role models. And Deanna is a formidable role model for successful women at Barclays. -MD Return to top

Regional President, Fifth Third Bank Michigan President and CEO, Fifth Third Bank Western Michigan // Fifth Third Bank

Think of Michigan, and it's old industry, the Motor City, Michael Moore and the grim rabbits of Flint. One generally doesn't think about elite businesses taking root for well-heeled clients of $100 million and up.

But that's what Michelle Van Dyke, regional president of Fifth Third Bank Michigan and president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank Western Michigan, has been tasked with from her base in Grand Rapids. She is building a model to be replicated throughout Fifth Third. That this is part of her charge along with increasing market share and investing $100 million in blighted eastern Michigan is a testament to her versatility, as well as the responsibility to which headquarters in Cincinnati entrusts her.

It's all part of a bigger plan. Since I was a little girl, about seven or eight, I said I would own a bank. They laughed at me, says Van Dyke, a trim Midwesterner who studied business economics at Calvin College, a Protestant liberal-arts school in Grand Rapids. When I was a girl, I took my birthday money to the bank. I thought it was so cool to go there: so quiet, purposeful, serious. I'm goal-oriented. It made me a good lender.

Van Dyke measures influence by listening to those around her and leading by example, which has endeared her to Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell. They've known each other more than three years. She's a consensus-builder, which I appreciate, he says, citing her work on the Downtown Development Authority, where sometimes city and county interests butt heads. She's a careful, thoughtful listener. Not the first to speak, but when she does, it's with assurance and authority.

One of the Van Dyke's initiatives is polling Fifth Third employees to take the pulse of her operation. She is decisive, but recognizes the importance of employees believing C-suite executives are both listening and responsive. They could say we don't have a printer that works, or they could say 'We're not connected to the vision of the organization.' And it's there you have to make sure that as a leader you are listening.

Doing so stanches turnover, she says, and her part of Fifth Third has the lowest turnover rate in the overall organization. This kind of reputation let her poach the talent now leading the firm's Multi Family Office initiative, which has been seeded from the top and launched over the summer. It'll take in 12 to 15 Grand Rapids families with net worths of $100 million-plus, with an eye to replication across the entire bank. I thought, 'Yes, we can launch this.' And it will have far-reaching results as a business. Simple as that. -MD

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COO and Senior EVP // MidSouth Bancorp

Growth is the mantra at MidSouth Bancorp. The $824 million bank plans to increase our size, substantially, according to COO and senior evp Karen Lee Hail. We have decided to focus on strategic planning, addressing structure and leadership in this transition to huge growth. MidSouth President and CEO Rusty Cloutier is unreserved in his admiration for Hail: I would classify her as a winner, he says. We go back 23 years. We started this bank from nothing, and soon we'll be a billion-dollar institution. Karen is very determined. She defines 'hands-on.'

For the six months through June, earnings at MidSouth rose $4.4 million, up 9.5 percent from the similar period a year ago. Earnings per share jumped 9.8 percent, while net interest margin stood at 5.04 percent versus 4.9 percent. The bank's second-quarter performance was impressive, with earnings up 11.6 percent from the same period in 2006; net interest income showing a 13.7 percent rise; and average loan volume rising 13.1 percent. Return on earnings held steady at 16.03 percent. Credit quality was robust: Nonperforming assets to total assets fell 24 percent to 0.21 percent.

MidSouth's careful expansion is a key to these results, Cloutier says. Karen has personally orchestrated all these moves, he says. She believes in getting her hands dirty. It's no easy situation in the current real-estate market, and Karen's a tough negotiator. The branch-building program will soon yield six new facilities three each in Texas and Louisiana. I'm responsible from the acquisition of land to the opening, says Hail. Construction is very expensive in Texas, and more so in Louisiana. There's a serious labor shortage.

A strength is the bank's very strong core deposit base, says Hail. Attention to customer needs has led to high retention and referral levels, and internal surveys show that MidSouth is the primary or sole bank account for 60 percent of its customers. We were helping people stay at hotels during the hurricanes, Hail explains. We told customers to put hotel managers on the phone, and guaranteed credit. And we helped other banks' customers, without one loss or bad check. Stay that course, and it pays off over and over.

Hail also brings her determined nature to the cause of abused children. A single mother of four adopted older children who were wards of the state, Hail's life mission is to raise public awareness in the judicial system about the plight of abused children. Bemoaning the absence of prosecution or arrests of abusers, who are often family members, she calls it the huge problem nobody talks about. I'm grateful that my career has given me a platform. -JR

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Chairman, president and CEO // Wheatland Bank and Community Financial Group

Susan Horton, chairman, president and CEO of Wheatland Bank, spends much of her time acting as her bank's in-house demographer, scouting new locations for potential expansion.

She pores over population and wealth numbers, looking for lucrative new areas of business for her Spokane, WA-based institution. In gleaning data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., she looks for a minimum of $20 million in aggregate deposits at rivals' branches knowing that those areas are ripe for more banks. To determine the strength of a potential location's customer base, she analyzes the number of businesses in a one-mile, three-mile and five-mile radius.

All of this analysis, from a woman who is also a certified public accountant, is for organic expansion. She takes a tough stand on acquisitions: not that she's against them, exactly, but she has found they're usually are not worth the cost. She admits to having recently considered a few small-bank acquisitions all with under $100 million in assets but after crunching the numbers she had always decided, without fail, that each purchase would not boost earnings. The bank, however, plans to open three new branches before 2008, though she declined to provide additional details.

The bank's financials indicate her growth strategy is paying off. Net income before taxes was $911,000 in the first six months of the year, up 15 percent from the same time period in 2006; deposit growth rose eight percent. When Horton took over Wheatland in 1999, it was a troubled, $75 million institution, and from day one, she emphasized asset quality. Even within the agricultural-loan business, she makes sure to diversify between dry-land-farm loans and irrigated-farm loans. If one kind of crop has a bad year, it can be offset by another. Dry-land crops, for example, include wheat and barley; irrigated-land crops include potatoes and onions.

Horton's talents are on full display in her volunteer work on the board of Downtown Spokane, a civic group. President Marty Dickinson credits Horton with sparking the renovation of the bleak downtown area eight years ago with the financing of a condo project; a $3 billion downtown construction boom followed. She says Horton brings a rigor to the group's meetings, and is always willing to ask the tough, but necessary, questions. She's not there to just drop a bomb and then walk away, she says. She's looking for solutions with us.-LC

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President and CEO // Willow Financial Bancorp

Some might call Donna Coughey a glutton for punishment. After overseeing the conversion of Chester Valley Bancorp from a thrift to a commercial bank shortly after her arrival there as president and CEO in 2000, she signed up for the same tough slog in 2005 when Chester Valley purchased Willow Grove Bancorp to form Willow Financial. The process is no picnic, a 'bear' in her words, especially when it comes to instilling a 'consultative' sales culture.

Yet changing the bank culture, as challenging as that is, is just a slice of what she must accomplish as head of the Wayne, PA-based bank. The balance sheet must be radically transformed from reliance on certificates of deposit and residential mortgages to one that is more diversified and less dependent on net-interest margins. While the tough interest-rate environment is pressuring the old thrift's traditional income just as merger expenses such as rebranding and hiring new talent hit, Coughey is serious about developing new streams of income, including a new employee-benefits broker. And while such strategies have not fully kicked in, the bank, under her tutelage, is headed in the right direction.

The combined institution's increased its total assets 64 percent between 2005 and 2006, to $1.6 billion. In the same time period, total loans almost doubled to $1.1 billion and net income grew 65 percent to $11.1 million. In this year's second quarter ended June 30, Willow posted a profit margin of 16.05 percent, a return on equity of 4.55 percent and a return on assets of 0.60 percent. Core deposits rose 11 percent from a year earlier and non-interest income a key metric as the bank shifts from the thrift model jumped 60 percent. But vintage Coughey who led Chester Valley to outperform its peers is just getting started, making believers of all who work for her.

Throughout the entire conversion process, CFO Joseph Crowley says that Coughey has shown her strong leadership abilities. The management team would run through a wall for her, he says. For instance, even though senior managers at the bank and thrift had agreed to operate as separate entities for three years after the merger, she convinced them to merge operations almost immediately after the union was consummated. She argued that it was vital to unite under a single brand for the sake of employees, so that no 'us versus them' culture developed, and for the sake of customers, who had no idea what other products and services were available. The brand's new tagline, 'See what WillPower is Worth,' seems to suit Coughey's own personality to a tee. -MS

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