Caryl Athanasiu
EVP, Chief Operational Risk Officer, Wells Fargo

Caryl Athanasiu might not contribute directly to profit at Wells Fargo, but at a time when operational risk is a key concern for regulators, keeping the bank out of trouble ultimately can have an earnings impact.

Unlike its big-bank peers, San Francisco-based Wells has so far avoided major fines and consent orders in all areas outside of home lending. Athanasiu says she sees this as evidence Wells is doing the right thing for customers-"which boosts our reputation and inevitably translates to improving our bottom line."

But her team is doing a lot more than just avoiding trouble. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency lauded a Financial Crimes risk management program that Wells finished implementing last year, after merging its anti-money laundering and fraud groups. The new approach gives Wells a holistic view of customers, whether for due diligence, surveillance, monitoring or investigations, and makes it easier to rate a customer's risk and recognize unusual activity.

In a sign of Athanasiu's rising profile outside of Wells, the U.S. Treasury Department tapped her last year to serve on its Financial Research Advisory Committee. The committee provides oversight and advice to the Office of Financial Research, which is tasked with helping prevent the next systemic financial crisis. Athanasiu also is a fellow this year at On the Board, a joint initiative of George Washington University's School of Business and the International Women's Forum to prepare more women to serve on corporate boards.

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