Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 3, CIT Group's Ellen Alemany

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Chairman and CEO, CIT Group

Over the past two and a half years, Ellen Alemany has made several big changes at CIT Group, selling off international business lines and turning the focus to traditional middle-market lending.

But among her list of accomplishments, there’s one change that she is particularly proud of: appointing more women to the $49.9 billion-asset company’s senior ranks.

When Alemany took the helm, in April 2016, there were only two other women on CIT’s executive team. There are now five women on the 15-member panel, in roles such as chief technology and operations officer and chief credit officer. Additionally, women currently account for one-third of the New York company’s board.

“With a woman at the top of the house, you actually attract more women to the organization,” Alemany said.

Having more women in management has been “very empowering” for younger women at the company, she said.

Over the past year, Alemany has continued to make progress on her turnaround of the once-troubled CIT. The company, for instance, raised its 2019 target for its return on tangible common equity — a key performance metric — to 11%, from 10%.

Additionally, the company has made strides in increasing deposits, particularly from its digital bank, which added 20,000 customers and $1.5 billion in deposits during the second quarter of 2018 alone. Total deposits as of June 30, meanwhile, rose 1% from a year earlier, to $31.2 billion.

“We’re really proud of the progress we’ve made with that group,” Alemany said.

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As one of only two female CEOs of U.S. banks that are considered systemically important, Alemany was asked earlier this year why banks have largely avoided the spotlight of the #MeToo movement.

Alemany, who has spent four decades in banking, said the industry tackled sexual harassment head on in the 1990s, improving workplace policies following the boom-boom-room scandal at Smith Barney.

“I think that the industry, to give it credit, was terrific in terms of … sensitivity training, making sure you have proper codes of conduct, actually having public firings if someone has demonstrated inappropriate behavior,” she said.

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