Having had 25 publishers reject the idea for her next book, a cash-strapped young author with "no assets except chutzpah," walked into a Barclays Bank branch in London and asked for help. Media maven Arianna Huffington never forgot the banker who assisted her all those years ago, as she attested in her keynote speech at our 2011 dinner honoring the Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance.

Heidi Miller, meanwhile, was wondering how today's bankers might hope to be remembered. Accepting a lifetime achievement award, the JPMorgan Chase veteran, who retires early next year, made an impassioned plea to her peers to be more accepting of the idea of corporate responsibility. Giving a rundown of the dismal statistics on household income and unemployment, and highlighting the especially daunting plight of minorities and young people, she said, "This is a level of pain you can't and shouldn't ignore." All around the ballroom, heads were nodding, a silent consensus that the outspoken Miller had it just right.

There was an air of celebration, too, as other accomplished women took the stage. BNY Mellon Vice Chairman Karen Peetz, No. 1 on this year's list of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking, challenged the conventional thinking that women are being held back by a lack of role models and networking opportunities. "I'm not convinced these so-called barriers still hold," said Peetz, Exhibit A for her own argument. Additional evidence was provided by KeyCorp's Beth Mooney, the first female CEO of a top 20, domestically owned bank. Mooney acknowledged the sense of obligation she feels to women who hope to follow her into the C-suite. "I remember trying to act like I belonged," Mooney said. "And guess what—now we do."

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