Meghan Ryan, Ally Financial | Most Powerful Women: Next

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Chief financial officer of consumer and commercial banking products

To advance her career, Meghan Ryan had to get comfortable with uncertainty.

In 2016, Ally Financial announced it would expand the services it offers by buying TradeKing, a digital wealth management firm. Ryan, who at the time was director of capital planning and management for the Detroit company, was selected to be the director of finance for the TradeKing integration.

Specifically, she was charged with assisting the relatively young fintech with transitioning to the more complex financial forecasting and modeling that is required of Ally as a publicly traded company.

Ryan didn’t have direct experience in the brokerage business or with integrating an acquisition, and though her broad mandate was outlined, the details were largely left up to her. That meant the now 35-year-old had to embrace the uncertainty that comes with that type of an assignment.

“Uncertainty is where I’ve grown the most, whether it’s in my personal or professional life,” said Ryan, one of 15 executives selected for our second annual Next list. (This extension of our Most Powerful Women in Banking program is meant to highlight high-achieving women in the leadership pipeline who are age 40 and under.)

“When I’m uncomfortable, I make an effort to slow down and really embrace it and lean into it,” she added.

Ryan has found that starts with actively listening to those around her, which, she said, is one of the most important skills a leader can have and something that can be especially critical during an acquisition. A buyer can undermine the value of a deal if leadership fails to recognize what the target and its employees can deliver.

For Ryan, who is based in Ally’s Charlotte, N.C., office, her mission to listen well meant heading across town to TradeKing’s offices often, to get to know the employees better, whether it was grabbing a quick lunch or being around for spontaneous conversations.

Meg is incredibly proactive and always keeps the big picture in mind while teasing out potential risks that bear monitoring.
Diane Morais, Ally's president of consumer and commercial banking products

Being present and engaged helped Ryan establish credibility, and others were more willing to follow when meaningful changes had to be made, such as rebuilding the financial forecasting modeling so it was more granular and consistent with Ally’s processes, she said.

The experience with TradeKing, which is now called Ally Invest, paid off for Ryan. When Ally acquired Health Credit Services last year, she was once again tasked with helping get the new business integrated with Ally’s financial reporting systems.

“My confidence improved a lot with TradeKing,” said Ryan, now chief financial officer of consumer and commercial banking products. “I demonstrated to myself and others that I can learn something new. Having that experience under my belt was necessary for subsequent jobs.”

Nominating executive:
Diane Morais
President of consumer and commercial banking products

What she says:

Ryan is particularly adept at synthesizing a lot of disparate information — both quantitative and qualitative — to propose strategies that will help the company achieve its goals, said Morais, who is also impressed by Ryan’s leadership skills, collaborative approach and business acumen. “Meg is incredibly proactive and always keeps the big picture in mind while teasing out potential risks that bear monitoring,” Morais said. “She has a unique ability to navigate complexity in a seamless manner and works extremely well across all levels of the company.”

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