Most Powerful Women to Watch: Marla Willner, TD Bank

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Head of Corporate and Specialty Banking

As Marla Willner surveyed the consolidation underway in health care, she saw a path for TD Bank to become a major player in the field.

She developed a long-term strategy and positioned her team in corporate and specialty banking for success. Key steps included creating a new head of business development for the health care unit and assuaging risk-management concerns about her team’s ability to handle the underwriting needs associated with expanding the health care portfolio.

“It paid unexpected dividends in the pandemic as we were dressed to play and ready to help our customers,” said Willner, who is on her second stint at TD. She left the bank in 2015 to work at Brightwood Capital Advisors before returning in 2018 as head of corporate and specialty banking. “We expanded our portfolio and added $4 billion of new business by providing critical liquidity lines at a time when the industry really needed increased financing. We are really proud that we were able to be there for this crucial sector through the crisis.”

She has since taken on a stickier task: executive sponsor of the $320 billion-asset bank’s transition from Libor to alternative reference rates. The transition got started in 2017, but because of a lack of resources it stalled before reaching the finish line.

“This was distressing as the transition date was fixed, and we were working under a compressed time frame with little tangible successes at that point,” said Willner, who brings experience from a large-scale platform transition for TD’s corporate banking.

Despite other pressing, pandemic-related needs, Willner marshaled necessary resources to put the Libor project back on track. “We are a large lender and so the sheer volume of loans and customers impacted makes this a mammoth task, but we have an incredible team,” she said.

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