Most Powerful Women in Finance: No. 3, Barclays' Barbara Byrne

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Vice Chairman, Investment Banking, Barclays

A formative moment of Barbara Byrne’s nearly four-decade career in investment banking came during a one-on-one meeting with the legendary Lewis Glucksman of Lehman Brothers.

They were discussing a security Byrne had done without consulting others at the firm who actually traded that type of security. As the analysis ended, Glucksman took out a pencil and snapped it in two, saying, “This is you.”

He then picked up a large number of pencils, trying but failing to break them. “See this group?” Byrne remembers Glucksman saying, “This is our team. You can’t break a team.”

Byrne describes Glucksman’s words as some of the best insight she has ever been offered, and she has spent her career trying to assemble the strongest possible teams and making sure each member of those teams has a voice. A big part of that is what she calls “diversity of thought,” bringing together people of different genders, backgrounds, educations and ages in hopes of finding new perspectives.

“Diversity of thought is the source of creativity; it’s the source of innovation,” Byrne said. “Our job is to deliver the best of who we are.”

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With that in mind, she recently drafted both a septuagenarian and a 19-year-old intern to be part of a team charged with tackling a complex problem, as a way to apply experience and a jolt of fresh ideas.

Byrne is one of the public faces of Barclays, serving as one of its five official delegates at the Davos World Economic Forum, where she was a panelist at a session on shaping the future of gender equality.

Inside Barclays she has leading roles in groups such as the Social Innovation Facility, which is attempting to develop commercial solutions that address societal challenges. The company last year launched its Barclays Impact Series, which puts the expertise of its research department to task exploring the social impact of economic, demographic and disruptive changes affecting markets and society at large.

Byrne is particularly proud to be one of the guiding forces inside Barclays as it seeks out ways to positively impact its communities, a trend she sees as accelerating rapidly as millennials continue to enter the workforce. “What’s good for business can be good for the community as well,” she said. “The power of ‘we’ is so important. A strong team pushing in the same direction can have incredible results.”

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