Lian Duan, China Merchants Bank | Most Powerful Women: Next

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Deputy head of legal and compliance at the New York branch of China Merchants Bank Co.

Lian Duan is easy to spot among her peers.

"If you gathered the U.S.-based senior counsels of the major Chinese banks operating in the United States, the group would contain mostly veterans who served at high levels in government supervisory agencies such as the Federal Reserve," said Joseph Loffredo, assistant general manager and chief financial officer at the New York branch of China Merchants Bank Co. "But among this distinguished group, you'd find one outlier, a lady about half the age of most of the others."

Even so, Duan notes that her unique background has prepared her well for the role.

She joined the bank in 2012, after four years working as a legal counsel for a Chinese insurance company. Fluent in English and Mandarin, Duan is able to serve as a key facilitator between the bank's $10 billion-asset New York branch and the headquarters in Shenzhen, China.

In this capacity, she's helped guide the parent company, China Merchants Group, through several important initiatives in recent years.

The work earned her a spot as one of the 15 women on our inaugural Next list. (An extension of our Most Powerful Women in Banking program, the list is meant to highlight high-achieving women in the leadership pipeline who are age 40 and under.)

The initiatives she played a major role in include getting Federal Reserve approval to become a bank holding company and obtaining authorization from the New York State Department of Financial Services to offer investment advisory services to high-net-worth clients.

"I did a lot of work in transferring information from the branch to the head office to get them more accustomed to what we are experiencing in the U.S.," said Duan, who was the first in-house counsel hired at the branch and now has three others on her staff.

"That's the key for a company operating in several jurisdictions."

Nominating executive: Joseph Loffredo, assistant general manager and CFO

What he says: “Ms. Duan has gained the respect and confidence of her colleagues and counterparts in the foreign banking community with her strong reasoning power, capacity and willingness to work, enthusiasm to learn about new products and issues, ability to manage a professional staff, and unfailingly pleasant demeanor,” Loffredo wrote in nominatng Duan for the Next list.

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Compliance Commercial banking High net worth New York China Women in Banking