Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 22, Huntington's Helga Houston

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Chief Risk Officer, Huntington Bancshares

Like many senior bank executives, Helga Houston credits her career to the guidance she received from bosses who pushed her out of her comfort zone and into new career opportunities.

So now she’s paying it forward.

Houston says one of the best parts of her job is the opportunity she has to mentor up-and-coming leaders at the $105.4 billion-asset Huntington. While she works with several young employees across the company, there’s one in particular of whom she is particularly proud.

The employee, whose name Houston declined to provide, was recently a top performer in finance, but executives at the firm, including Houston, knew he had the potential take on a more challenging role.

“I had a sense in working with him quite a bit that he had the capacity to do more, but needed a role that would push that leadership,” Houston said.

Houston encouraged the employee to take on a different job, in capital planning. The role required “indirect leadership,” or working with executives across a wide range of departments, such as risk modeling and finance, as well as with financial regulators, she said.

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Due to a series of internal shuffling at the company, Houston moved him into his new role three months earlier than expected. The faster-than-anticipated transition has gone well, she said.

“He hit the ball out of the park,” Houston said. “I could not be more thrilled with having made that choice.”

In her day-to-day role, Houston is responsible for Huntington’s annual capital plan, as well as maintaining solid credit quality. On that front, the company’s performance has been strong, as nonperforming assets in 2017 fell 19%, to $389 million, compared with a year earlier.

It’s a big job — but amid all of the demands on her time, Houston said helping develop emerging talent remains one of her top priorities. “I invest a lot in finding that time with colleagues to just sit down and understand what their aspirations are,” she said.

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