Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 23, Huntington's Sandy Pierce

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Senior EVP, Private Client Group, Regional Banking Director and Chair of Michigan, Huntington Bancshares

It took Sandy Pierce nearly two decades and several big promotions in banking to gain the confidence to talk about her modest upbringing with colleagues.

Pierce grew up in Detroit, where she lived with her family above the bar her parents owned. She was one of 10 children and the only one to graduate from college, with scholarships making her degree from Wayne State University possible.

Given that she was surrounded mostly by affluent male colleagues from top-tier schools, she worried that discussing her background would hurt her career.

“I actually began to think as I was getting promoted that, if people knew, it might stymie me,” Pierce said. “It might be an unconscious bias.”

But now she uses her influence as a senior executive to help encourage others from working-class backgrounds.

“I say all the time, ‘Don’t let anybody tell you that where you came from, or how you were brought up, or where you were educated, make you not good enough,’ ” she said.

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At Huntington, Pierce serves on the executive committee and leads several revenue-generating businesses, including wealth management, insurance and auto finance.

Pierce joined Huntington in 2016, when the Columbus, Ohio, company acquired her previous employer, First Merit. Among her most significant accomplishments last year was merging the wealth units of the two banks and rebranding the business as Huntington Private Bank.

CEO Stephen Steinour said that the business is “thriving” under Pierce’s leadership, far exceeding its first-year loan and deposit targets.

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