Vice Chairman and Co-Head of Wholesale Banking, U.S. Bancorp

Leslie Godridge marks her 35-year career in banking by the downs as much as the ups. The way she sees it, tough times can impart important lessons and present new opportunities.

Godridge was hired by Bank of New York in the early 1980s, and the U.S. economy was soon mired in a deep recession. Her work centered on the automotive sector, where the distress was particularly severe.

“So you learn a lot about companies, their management, their credit, their strategy, how they deal with the crisis,” Godridge said. “It was the best training, and credit training, I could have ever gotten.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, Godridge was running Bank of New York’s corporate bank from an office in lower Manhattan. “This was an incredibly challenging time, which taught many people, including myself, leadership skills that I could never have learned from business school,” she said. “I evacuated our employees. I walked to Midtown. We set up corporate banking operations in a temporary space overnight. We made sure employees were safe, and we continued to support our customers and keep the financial wheels turning.”

In 2007, Godridge was hired to build U.S. Bancorp’s corporate banking unit, then a regional operation, into a national business. The financial crisis provided a growth opportunity for the company, which managed to weather the storm better than many of its rivals. “Other banks were retreating, retrenching. And I took advantage of the stability provided by U.S. Bank and was able to recruit top talent,” she said.

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Last year, Godridge helped to launch U.S. Bank’s women business resource group, which focuses on retaining female employees and helping them advance inside the company. She and her co-head of wholesale banking, Jim Kelligrew, have committed to broadening the pool of candidates for all open positions in their unit, as part of a push for greater diversity.

“This is about inclusion,” Godridge said. “It’s not about giving an advantage to one person over another. It’s about making sure that everyone has the same opportunity for growth and advancement.”

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack is a California-based reporter for American Banker who covers the U.S. consumer finance industry.