6. Barbara Byrne
Vice Chairman Of Investment Banking, Barclays Capital

Thinking can't be automated. The rise of technology in financial services, and in investment banking and trading in particular, hasn't negated the need for the human element, but rather made it more pronounced, says Barbara Byrne.

As a 28-year veteran of the failed Lehman Brothers, she can attest that around-the-clock markets, warp-speed trading and the risks of an interconnected world exacerbate volatility.

"The biggest change in the last 10 years in finance is the impact of technology on the speed of information processing and delivery, and the ubiquitous access to the information," Byrne says. "But as the past few years have ably demonstrated, full access to information does not equal full understanding."

Believing strongly in the opportunity for advisers to build lasting relationships, Byrne has retained that personal touch in the past four years at Barclays, where she is the global senior client relationship manager for the likes of GE, IBM, Microsoft, Kraft, Williams and EMC.

7. Diane Offereins
EVP, Discover Financial Services; President, Payment Services

This was the year that Diane Offereins truly made Discover a global player in payment services.

Though Discover customers have been able to use their cards overseas since the firm's 2008 acquisition of the international Diners Club brand, Offereins led efforts to expand Discover acceptance even further by extending credit and debit alliances with networks in Puerto Rico and India-which in turn brought popular card brands in the Caribbean and Asia onto Discover's payments grid, including the PULSE ATM network.

More deals such as these are expected to come. They'll complement progress in the U.S. market, where Offereins continues to help forge relationships with merchant acquirers that bring aboard the small to midsize companies that help fuel Discover's growing acceptance.

Last year, Offereins' team increased network sales volume 13% over 2010 to a record $281 billion. Offereins also led Discover's focus on emerging alternative payment offerings-an area with 65% volume growth-by supporting partners like Bill Me Later that give online retailers access to Discover's closed-loop merchant network.

8. Margaret Keane
President And CEO, GE Capital Retail Finance

A paper-averse CEO, Margaret Keane saw the promise of mobile technology and delivered on it.

After GE Capital Retail Bank was folded into her responsibilities last year, the unit introduced mobile smartphone applications that allowed for credit applications, rewards tracking and payments. The hunch paid off with mobile logins topping 1 million a month this year, and for the first time GE is receiving more customer payments online (including on mobile devices) than through checks arriving via mail.

On the regulatory front, Keane responded to the new environment by creating a separate unit for compliance and devoting major resources to getting her team ready to handle the demands of the Dodd-Frank Act.

9. Mailz Beams
CEO, ING U.S. Retirement

Named as CEO in June 2011, Beams is not only running the country's No. 2 retirement plan provider-both in institutional plans sponsors (49,492) and participants (5.28 million)-she's also mapping out an eventual spinoff from parent company ING Group.

For Beams, a 30-year banking veteran, that has meant putting a sharp focus on quick, profitable growth this past year that will help make the case to the investment community. Beams set in motion a three-year business plan to boost return on equity by growing the business with consumers, advisors and plan distributors. She also integrated the retail and institutional businesses, and commissioned a marketplace review that led to expanding the rollover and advice platforms.

In Beams' first year, she already has achieved some historically high returns, according to ING. First quarter 2012 sales of $3.2 billion were a 20% increase over the same period last year, driven by activity with small to midsized firms' 401(k) plans.

10. Candace Browning
Head Of Global Research, Bank Of America Merrill Lynch

As the euro zone crisis boiled, investors began seeking more information from their advisory services, and Candace Browning understood some strategic consolidation was in order for Bank of America Merrill Lynch's global research team.

She realigned fixed-income and currency strategists along with economists in hot-button regions, creating a single Europe/Middle East/Asia team to monitor sudden events more closely with the firm's equity and research analysts. She also expanded coverage into covered bonds, property derivatives and regulatory capital for the institution's international structured finance research division.

In the U.S. the focus was on keeping clients informed with analysis of domestic rates products including Treasurys, TIPS and swaps. More than 20,000 clients dialed in for regular discussion sessions in the past year.

Browning, who joined Merrill in 1990 after 18 years as an airline industry analyst, has headed global research since 2003. She has long been involved in mentoring women for leadership roles on Wall Street, where females make up less than 10% of the executive field. She also has become involved with Global Ambassadors, a partnership with the Hillary Rodham Clinton-founded Vital Voices organization, pairing emerging women leaders from around the globe with established mentors in government, business and nonprofits.

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