The highest-ranking female at Fifth Third Bancorp is actually a relative newcomer to banking.
Teresa Tanner, Fifth Third's chief administrative officer, spent the first 18 years of her career as an executive at McDonald's Corp. before transitioning into banking in 2003.
Tanner made the move largely for personal reasons. She was traveling "100% of the time" for McDonald's and she wanted a job closer to home that would allow her to spend more time with her family.
Her first job in banking was at Provident Bank in Cincinnati, where, as vice president for human resources, Tanner quickly learned she would need to wear many hats. "In the first 30 days, I kept asking 'Who's in charge of this, and who's in charge of that?' and the answers kept coming back to, 'Well, that would be you,'" Tanner said. "It was so different from working at a big global organization like McDonald's."
Still, she enjoyed the new challenge, so when Provident was sold to National City Bank a year later, Tanner chose to remain in banking and landed a job at Fifth Third as head of human resources for the bank's operations and information technology division. She later became chief human resources officer for the overall company and held that job for about six years before being named CAO last year.
Unofficially, Tanner is known around Fifth Third as the chief culture officer. In the run-up to the financial crisis, Tanner believed that bankers — from loan officers to senior-most executives — had become too deal-focused and had gotten away from doing what's best for the customer. The crisis, she said, forced banks to change the way they do business "and put the customer at the center of every decision."
Tanner has been the driving force behind this cultural shift at Fifth Third.
On her watch, Fifth Third has invested heavily in leadership development training that focuses on collaboration, emotional intelligence, having empathy for customers and co-workers and, as Tanner put it, "those underlying things you can't see on a spreadsheet."
As overseer of the bank's Talent Optimization Program, Tanner is also responsible for assessing managers across the entire $144 billion-asset organization to ensure that they are adhering to, and living, this new culture.
Tanner's influence on overall culture is so valued that last year she was asked by Fifth Third's board to help write the job description and lead the search for the bank's new chief executive. The job ultimately went to Greg Carmichael, the bank's former chief operating officer and onetime chief information officer.
As she has moved up the ranks at Fifth Third, Tanner has become a more active and vocal supporter for the advancement of women. Most notably, she recently created Women in Leadership, an eight-month program designed to help high-performing females advance to the C-suite. Of the first class of 11 women, four were promoted or given additional responsibilities while enrolled in the program and fifth gained new responsibilities shortly after completing it.