Most Powerful Women in Banking: Helga Houston, Huntington Bancshares
Chief Risk Officer
For Helga Houston, the global pandemic brought an unexpected opportunity. After decades of managing risk at work, she is now seeing the benefit of all that experience on the home front.
In early March, her father, two of her children, a daughter, 20, and son, 23, along with her son’s girlfriend had all converged on her home in Columbus, Ohio. The plan was for her father to stay in Columbus to look after her three younger children, ages 13, 15 and 18, while the others spent spring break together in the Cayman Islands with Houston.
Those plans were soon aborted.
“Everyone stayed and I adjusted to working from home with nine people in the house,” said Houston. It was especially raucous, having four extra bodies in the household and kids of various ages trying to finish school remotely as the adults worked." Houston remained positive — cherishing the moments. “The time we are having together as a family is a true gift,” she said at the time.
Much like with her family, Houston’s been instrumental in guiding Huntington Bancshares through the pandemic.
She has served as chief risk officer since 2012 and is a member of the executive leadership team. With oversight of the $109 billion-asset company’s risk management framework, she has direct influence on capital allocations, strategy and critical business decisions. In 2019, her duties expanded to include oversight of more credit functions, including credit policy and strategy, credit approval, collections, bankruptcy and credit bureau reporting.
One critical move Houston made in 2019 that set the company up for success during the pandemic was creating a new director of global risk position that consolidated the responsibility of identifying and reacting to emerging risks. Previously these responsibilities had been dispersed among several leaders, which made it difficult to provide deep risk analysis as they juggled other responsibilities.
For the first time, American Banker's Most Powerful Women in Banking celebration is open to the whole financial community. Join us virtually October 6-8 to hear our 2020 honorees' stories and experiences. Register here.