Wendy Breuder
Co-General Manager, Head of Midwest General Industries, U.S. Corporate Banking Division, MUFG Union Bank

MUFG Union Bank did an exhaustive review of its operations last year, and Wendy Breuder was one of just 22 business heads at the Japanese-owned bank selected to lead the effort.

Breuder also had perhaps the most complex assignment of all: identifying cost savings across six business lines spanning eight countries.

Though cultural differences complicated her work, Breuder — whose primary job is overseeing a division that banks large multinational clients — more than delivered. She found $12.5 million of cost savings, reducing annual expenses by 20% and winning her effusive praise from Masahi Oka, MUFG Union's executive chairman.

Most of the businesses Breuder had to evaluate were headed by Japanese executives, and she says, it can be career-ending in Japan for a younger person to question someone more experienced. But her careful strategy proved successful.

"She managed an artful orchestration of harmony between senior and grassroots constituencies and delivered a disproportionately positive result," Oka wrote in a letter.

Breuder is used to getting results. In 2013, the unit she runs increased revenue by 40% over the prior year — handily beating projections — and its return on equity was among the highest of any business line in the company. The unit had another banner year in 2014, posting a 50% increase in funded loans and a 40% gain in net income.

As one of the highest-ranking women at MUFG Union, Breuder takes a special interest in cultivating the careers of other women. She is a founding member of the Women's Initiative Network, an employee resource group, and serves on the internal Diversity and Inclusion Council. She also has demonstrated a strong commitment to gender balance in the business she oversees. Nearly 50% of its employees are women, an unusually high figure for the corporate banking sector.

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