President and CEO | Synchrony Financial

Margaret Keane spent the last few years transitioning Synchrony Financial from a wholly owned unit of General Electric into a publicly traded stand-alone company. Her more recent efforts have focused on what its next 80 years will look like.

Facing rapid change in the private-label credit card landscape, Keane is pushing Synchrony to be more innovative and to develop new digital capabilities to help retail partners.

Keane assembled 84 employees ranging from senior leaders to recent college graduates spread across the company's functions and work sites, then divided them into 14 teams tasked with finding solutions to specific business problems. The ideas generated by these teams will be assessed as part of Synchrony's annual planning process.

Artificial intelligence is an area of particular interest for Keane, who sees the technology as potentially improving the company's ability to detect fraud, predict customer behavior and provide better service at its call centers. It is also an area where Synchrony can potentially show its value to partners, improving logistics, optimizing store inventory and helping to make smarter recommendations to customers.

"Synchrony needs to be a pioneer in AI, not only for its own business, but also for its partners and their customers," Keane said.

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Having a diverse workforce that can draw from various experiences and backgrounds is a big part of Keane's plan to push Synchrony forward. When Synchrony was formed as a stand-alone company, it established seven diversity networks.

Synchrony's women's network is more than 4,300 strong, with initiatives that offer members a chance to demonstrate their leadership skills and learn from one another.

Last year the network established a job-shadowing program at company headquarters, as a way for employees to learn more about potential career paths. It included a job fair-type event, where executives gave overviews of their departments, then went about their jobs with the employees tagging along.

The company called the initial program a success, and intends to repeat it across the entire enterprise this year.