Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 11, U.S. Bancorp's Kate Quinn

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Vice Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Bancorp

Earlier this year Kate Quinn was confronted with an unusual workplace question: “What would you rather be chased by — 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?”

The query came during an informal “Ask Me Anything” session that U.S. Bancorp held for the first time earlier this year. The online event, which will be held annually, gave far-flung workers the opportunity to get to know some of the bosses on a more personal level.

Quinn laughed at the memory of the rapid-fire questioning. “You couldn’t really think very hard. So you really opened up a lot and shared a lot that you might not normally share,” she said. “And I think people really appreciated it.”

Quinn joined the Minneapolis-based company as the chief marketing officer in 2013 after many years in the health insurance industry. Two promotions since then — first to chief strategy and reputation officer in 2015 and then to vice chairman and chief administrative officer in 2017 — have expanded her responsibilities. Now she oversees strategy, government relations, communications, marketing, corporate social responsibility, customer experience, data and analytics, and human resources.

The “Ask Me Anything” session was an example of her focus on improving the employee experience.

In an interview, Quinn said that companies have long been focused on the experience of customers. “But there are very few organizations that have applied that toolkit to the internal employee experience.”

When new employees start at U.S. Bancorp, Quinn wants to offer more than the traditional HR orientation. She wants to ensure that the new hires’ offices are clean and inviting, and that they receive an enthusiastic note from their manager. They also get some swag sporting the company logo, such as a blanket or a water bottle. “They seem like small gestures, but those simple actions go a long way in helping someone feel welcome,” Quinn said.

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Several times each year, U.S. Bancorp also hosts town-hall meetings with employees so they can share their perspectives with executives directly. Since May, Quinn has held three of the meetings in different markets, with more planned for the fall. She said that constant communication is important in managing employees’ response to whatever changes are happening — especially considering that there are a lot more changes in the banking industry these days than there were years back.

“Banks have traditionally been a little bit slow-moving,” she said. “But we’re building more muscle around agility.”

Quinn said she was ready for a nap after the “Ask Me Anything” session. Still, she can’t wait to do it again next year.

And for the record, she said she’d rather be chased by one horse-sized duck. “Because I figured I could outrun it.”

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