No. 2: Maria Tedesco, Santander Bank

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Maria Tedesco
Managing Director of Retail Banking and Customer Experience, Santander Bank

When Maria Tedesco joined Santander Bank as its head of retail banking in April 2014, customer attrition was high and the bank was losing deposit share in such cities as Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Tedesco, a 30-year banking veteran, was hired away from rival Citizens Financial Group to reverse these trends and position the $83 billion-asset Santander as the regional bank of choice in all of its key markets. It's not there yet — it ranks No. 4 in deposit share in Boston, No. 12 in Philadelphia and No. 16 in New York — but under Tedesco, it's making headway.

Last year core deposits increased by 7%, checking production by 10%, and consumer and small-business lending by 8% and 19%, respectively. Santander's customer base also increased for the first time in five years.

Tedesco has been driving retail growth by investing heavily in technology — particularly mobile banking and ATMs — and hiring like crazy. Over the last 16 months, she has overhauled much of Santander's retail banking operations, hiring seasoned executives from BMO Harris, Webster Financial, JPMorgan Chase and her former employer, Citizens, to oversee areas such as consumer banking, customer experience, mortgages and small-business lending.

She also turbocharged the bank's pursuit of the mass affluent, increasing the number of branches offering its so-called "Santander Select" services from three to 14 over the past year. With mass affluent customers now accounting for roughly 40% of the revenue for its retail operations, the bank plans to expand these services to more branches.

Tedesco says her job overseeing 700 branches, 2,100 ATMs and all of the digital channels is not nearly as important as the jobs of those who deal directly with customers. Her philosophy is that she works for the retail bank's 6,000 employees — not the other way around — and her biggest responsibility is simply to provide them with the tools to do their jobs better.

So far it's working.

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