Mary Callahan Erdoes, the chief executive at JPMorgan Asset Management, is one of highest-ranking women in all of banking, but she didn't get where she is today on talent and hard work alone.

Erdoes, the No. 6 Most Powerful Woman in Banking for 2010, says that a major force behind her rise at JPMorgan Chase & Co. has been Jes Staley, now the head of the firm's global investment bank. Staley, she says, continually pushed her to take on bigger jobs and more responsibility-even as she was raising three young daughters-and today, Erdoes runs one of the bank's most important business lines that manages some $1.6 trillion in client assets and is one of just 12 women on the global banking giant's 59-person executive committee.

Staley "saw potential in me that I didn't see in myself," says Erdoes.

Many of the 75 women profiled in the following pages have similar stories to tell. Without that push from someone who took an interest in them, they say, they might never have tried to climb that next rung on the corporate ladder. That's why so many of this year's Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance are committed to giving back and, despite their hectic schedules, make it a point to coach up-and-coming young executives, particularly women.

(To jump to the full listing of The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking, click here.)

Carrie Tolstedt, the head of retail banking at Wells Fargo-and this year's Most Powerful Women in Banking-says mentoring doesn't have to be formal, but rather "can happen moment by moment."

One person she has mentored through the years is Jonathan Velline, Wells' senior vice president for ATM Banking and Store Strategy, and the first man to ever be featured in this magazine's Most Powerful issue. Velline says that while Tolstedt has certainly given him career advice, it's the day-to-day encounters with her there that leave a more lasting impression.

"I learn more from her in an operating review, strategy presentation, or even just an afternoon chat," Velline says. "It's in those discussions where she helps me think differently about my business, and to make small tweaks and continuous improvements."

Still, while women are more than happy to mentor young men, talk to enough female executives and you sense a frustration that women are not moving up the ranks fast enough. While there are roughly as many women as men in middle management at financial services firms, women are under-represented at the highest levels of bank management and make up just a small percentage of bank boards.

It would appear that banks based outside of the United States are doing a better job than banks here at promoting women to top jobs. Indeed, the three largest banks in the U.S. with women as CEOs are HSBC Bank USA in New York, Citizens Financial Group in Providence, R.I., and Harris Bank in Chicago, and all are foreign-owned.

Irene Dorner, the CEO at HSBC Bank USA, has worked for HSBC in both Europe and Asia, and she believes one way banks could do better grooming women for both board seats and top executive posts is through cross-industry mentorship. Dorner's lobbying U.S. companies to participate in a program modeled after one in the U.K. in which the senior-most executive at one company (usually a male CEO) would mentor an up-and-coming executive at another (usually a female), with the goal of preparing more women for top jobs.

And Dorner speaks from experience: it was her participation in the U.K. program that led to a job as CEO of HSBC Bank Malaysia and, in turn, her job in the U.S. "It really does open your eyes to the possibilities," Dorner says of her own experience in which she was mentored by the chairman of a multi-national industrial company. "I'm a great believer in getting outside of your own comfort zone and your own environment and listening to what other people have to say, has a huge influence on you."

That advice has many advocates. Among them are many of the members of U.S. Banker's Advisory Council to The 25 Most Powerful rankings. For the past two years, U.S. Banker has engaged the Council of past Most Powerful honorees and female representatives from industry associations like the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America, to help guide the events related to the rankings. This year's group, led in spirit by Karen Peetz (No. 3, BNY Mellon), Diane Reyes, (No. 3 Woman to Watch, Citi), Diane D'Erasmo (No. 23, HSBC), and others have pushed their peers to move from dialogue to action. A first-ever industry-wide "Call to Action" will emerge later this fall, asking women, and men, in the industry to take action on some of the efforts that are known to result in women advancing to senior executive positions. Among them: Guide women into jobs with P&L responsibilities earlier in their careers; act as executive 'sponsors' to women to help them advance into more senior jobs; encourage real mentoring relationships, not merely formulaic mentoring programs; teach women young and old the value of networking, of not keeping their noses to the grindstone hoping to get noticed. And finally, along the lines of Dorner's cross-industry mentorship ideal, encourage women to increase their knowledge and contacts outside their current job, and their current firm.

In the face of this "Call to Action," the question of where women get derailed along their career paths-is it because they opt out when they have kids, because of the "old boys' network," or some other reason-is less important. What's important now is taking the steps that are proven ways to remedy the situation.

Dorner is one of a number of newcomers to the rankings of the Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance this year, making her debut as the No. 1 Woman to Watch. Right behind her is Heidi Miller, the No. 1 Most Powerful Women in Banking for three years running, but is now a Woman to Watch because she started a new job heading JPMorgan's international expansion efforts in June. (To be eligible for the Top 25, a candidate must have been in her current job for a full year as of June 30.)

The new No. 1, Tolstedt, is Wells' executive vice president for community banking-a title that is a bit of a misnomer. As head of community banking, Tolstedt oversees a network of 6,600 branches and 120,000 employees and is responsible for nearly everything associated with retail and small-business banking. She's not a CEO, but the operation she runs (it made more than $1.7 billion in the second quarter this year) is larger than most banks.

There are also seven newcomers to the Top 25, including five who moved up from last year's Women to Watch. The biggest mover was Bank of America's Sallie Krawcheck, who after a year out of the Top 25, was back in at No. 4.

There's also a new No. 1 in our third category, The 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance. Fidelity Investment's Abigail Johnson moved up from No. 4 last year, due largely to her appointment as head of all distribution channels at the nation's top mutual fund firm-a move many believe moves her a step closer to eventually replacing her 80-year-old father, Edward C. "Ned" Johnson 3rd, as CEO.

An intriguing newcomer to the Finance rankings is Dominique Senequier, the CEO of AXA Private Equity, based in Paris. Senequier has been a PE power player for more than a decade, but what put her on the radar in the U.S. this year was her firm's purchase of $1.9 billion portfolio. Senequier called the deal "a milestone"-and says more U.S. deals could be on the way.

Rebecca Sausner, Glen Fest and Melanie Scarborough contributed to this story.

The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking 2010
1) Carrie Tolstedt, Wells Fargo
2) Deanna Oppenheimer, Barclays Bank
3) Karen Peetz, BNY Mellon
4) Sallie Krawcheck, Bank of America
5) Pamela Joseph, U.S. Bancorp
6) Mary Callahan Erdoes, JPMorgan Asset Management
7) Cara Heiden, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
8) Peyton Patterson, NewAlliance Bancshares
9) Julie Monaco, Citi Global Transaction Services
10) Donna DeMaio, MetLife Bank
11) Barbara Desoer, Bank of America Home Loans
12) Ellen M. Costello, Harris Financial
13) Ellen Alemany, Citizens Financial Group and RBS Americas
14) Jane Fraser, Citi Private Bank
15) Linda Verba, TD Bank
16) Avid Modjtabai, Wells Fargo
17) Melissa Moore, JPMorgan Treasury Services
18) Lynn Pike, Capital One Bank
19) Colleen Johnston, TD Bank
20) Shelaghmichael Brown, BBVA Compass
21) Anne Finucane, Bank of America
22) Merrill Sherman, Bancorp Rhode Island
23) Diane D'Erasmo, HSBC Bank USA
24) Alberta Cefis, Scotiabank
25) Deborah Wright, Carver Bancorp

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