Most Powerful Women to Watch: Deborah Guild, PNC Financial Services Group

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Chief Security Officer

Like Michael Oher, the offensive tackle portrayed in the book and movie “The Blind Side,” Deborah Guild has a keen instinct to protect her company’s most valuable assets.

It’s a lot to protect: As chief security officer at PNC Financial Services Group, Guild oversees all efforts to detect and deter fraud, cybersecurity attacks and physical crime.

Having one person lead all these areas has a distinct advantage — Guild’s team can observe patterns of bad behavior across all channels. After all, criminals don’t stick to just fraud or just phishing attacks or just ATM theft or just branch robbery. They want to steal money however they can.

Guild is one of the few women in financial services with the title of chief security officer. The security and technology fields are underrepresented by women, and in both of those areas there’s a natural “fallout rate” over time, she pointed out.

Guild started coding when she was 15 and was hooked. “I was probably just too bullish to let anything dissuade me,” she said. “I love applying technology to business problems.”

She rose through the technology ranks at Bank of America, then became chief technology officer at PNC in 2013. She was promoted to her current role in 2017.

One initiative Guild has undertaken recently is an upgrade of authentication technology and procedures across the bank that helps spot malware and other threats.

Such efforts have become even more important during the pandemic, when cyberattacks, ransomware, branch vandalism, ATM theft, and unemployment check fraud have spiked, and phishing attempts are nonstop.

“I always think that there’s some Nigerian prince over there going, ‘Why does nobody respond to my emails?’ ” Guild said.

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