If you think that studying finance is the only preparation for a career in banking, you haven't met Karen Peetz. With a Masters degree in applied behavioral science and a specialization in how organizations change, Peetz has just the kind of expertise needed in today's constantly shifting financial landscape. "It prepared me to analyze and lead change in each of the positions I have held," Peetz says. "Change management is the skill set that has contributed most to my success."
That skill set has allowed her to rapidly climb Wall Street's ranks: in July, Peetz was promoted to CEO of issuer, treasury, broker-dealer and hedge fund services at $201-asset billion Bank of New York Mellon, where she's in charge of 40 percent of the company's bottom line.
But it's her performance as CEO of global corporate trust at the bank, however, that earned her a spot in this year's ranking (the methodology requires that an individual be in her position through June 30). In the 12 months ending in June, the corporate trust business grew nine percent. It quadrupled its revenue and logged a compound annual growth rate of 39 percent from 2002 through 2007. The bank also became the world's largest corporate trust provider, with a business double the size of its largest competitor.
About half of that growth came from a huge deal which Peetz, as part of the 12-member executive committee, helped orchestrate. In 2006, Bank of New York struck a deal to swap its retail banking and regional middle-market businesses for part of JPMorgan's corporate trust business. "Our joke is we executed our 10-year strategic plan overnight," says Peetz, explaining that The Bank of New York had been transforming itself from a retail bank into a securities processing company over the previous decade.
Peetz, who was in charge of integrating the massive corporate trust services division, which now has 4,000 employees in 18 countries, didn't let herself get distracted. While still executing the merger, her group continued to snag more new issue business than all of its competitors, putting it at the top of corporate trust rankings across all debt categories.
The integration wasn't easy. The JPMorgan swap added 12 new international offices to The Bank of New York's six, giving Peetz a whole new perspective on change management. Making sure all offices around the world were working on the same page proved to be her biggest challenge. "Every one of those countries has a different set of constraints that you have to completely analyze as you're trying to plan a conversion," she says. "You end up with a series of technology issues and legal issues."
The key to it all, she says, was making sure that employees started working in integrated teams as soon as the merger began, and that smart people were put in charge. That focus on people is one of Peetz' hallmarks, one she plans to stick to in her new job.
That is after she has nabbed the top market share in all of the sectors she manages. Currently, The Bank of New York's hedge fund services rank 8th, while treasury services hovers below third place. With more than 20 years of bringing about just that kind of change, Peetz has no doubts she can succeed. Her strategy, she says, will be to focus on the bank's core values: client focus, teamwork, trust and performance. "My purview has grown exponentially," she says, referring to her new employee count of 10,000, and the 70 offices around the world she now oversees. "I'm pretty fired up about that."
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