Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 10, Bank of America's Andrea Smith

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Chief Administrative Officer, Bank of America

At a time when technology and regulations have led many banks to centralize their operations, Bank of America is placing a bigger emphasis on localized strategies.

The bank’s nine-year-old Local Markets initiative has been expanded in the last year under the leadership of Chief Administrative Officer Andrea Smith.

“What we’ve realized is that the key to success as a global company is making it local for our clients, our customers and, importantly, our employees,” Smith said.

Under the Local Markets structure, B of A has market presidents in 92 local areas, including both big cities such as Chicago and small ones like Amarillo, Texas. These executives serve as brand ambassadors in their regions, meeting with government officials and serving as the point person on volunteerism initiatives, among other duties.

But market presidents do not manage all of B of A's employees in their region, instead holding their titles in addition to other responsibilities as bankers.

In recent months, the Charlotte-based bank has increased its commitment to the initiative by ensuring that at least one full-time employee is assigned to each market president. The bank has also created a strategic plan for each market. These plans lay out goals on everything from hiring to philanthropic giving.

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The localized structure allows B of A to track metrics such as customer referrals by geography — rather than just by business line. The initiative has also made it easier for B of A employees to pursue new positions within the company that are outside of their current business unit.

“Now you can go up from a teller to a financial adviser to a commercial banker,” said Smith, who has held a number of senior positions at the bank, including global head of human resources. “It allows people to stay in their home market and still advance their career.”

Wells Fargo, a B of A competitor that long prided itself on its localized structure, has been centralizing its operations in response to regulators’ concerns.

Smith said that Bank of America sees the Local Markets initiative as a competitive advantage. “We think this is absolutely something that is differentiating us against our peer group.”

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