Recessions have been surprisingly good to Beth Mooney, and she's doing all she can to make sure this one works out well, too.

Mooney, 54, got into banking in the mid-1970s downturn, scoring the only job she could find out of college: as a secretary at a Texas bank. She worked her way into that company's corporate lending group, and then made a bigger jump in 1990, just as the savings-and-loan crisis hit, when Citibank recruited her for a commercial real estate position. Now in what she calls her "dream job," Mooney is devoting all of her attention to improving client services and getting ahead of customers' potential problems to better position the bank, and its customers, for growth once the economy recovers.

Mooney, joined KeyCorp as vice chair of community banking in 2006, but the title is kind of misnomer. Key has more than 900 branches stretching from Maine to Alaska, and Mooney manages some 9,000 employees in retail and commercial banking, investment services, wealth management and other divisions. "I run the bank, for lack of a better term," she says.

Her dream job has kept her busy. Key, like other regional banks, has been plagued with mounting bad loans in its commercial mortgage and construction portfolios, among others. Her group lost $57 million in the second quarter, compared with a gain of $103 million a year earlier. Mooney attributed the loss to the FDIC special assessment as well as a "strategic" provision of $187 million in the quarter.

To improve client services, Mooney has been sending supervisors into the field to ensure similar customer concerns are addressed the same way at all branches and business segments. Her team is also instructed to track things like how many clients use online banking every month, and how many relied on the call center to resolve a complaint.

To get out in front of customer problems, Mooney created a special unit charged with helping all types of customers navigate the financial crisis. The group flags clients in every division that have concerns that need attention.

Mooney says the efforts are bearing fruit. "I'd say the core of the community bank is still profitable," she says. "We're growing deposits."

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