No. 1
Sallie Krawcheck
Chairman and CEO
Smith Barney, New York NY
Years in banking: 1

Plagued by a conflict-of-interest scandal, Sandy Weill turned to Sallie Krawcheck in one of Citi’s darkest hours. How she goes about rebuilding investor trust has everyone’s attention.

Influence is tricky. Those who wield it can exact change, yet power comes at a price: you live under a microscope. No one knows this more than Sallie Krawcheck.

When CEO Sandy Weill was looking to revive the credibility of Citigroup’s brokerage unit in the wake of last fall’s conflict-of-interest scandals, it was perhaps only natural that he’d turn to the person dubbed by Fortune as “the last honest analyst” on Wall Street. It didn’t hurt that the person, ranked a top financial services analyst by Institutional Investor three years running, had at times been highly critical of Citi’s strategy, once downgrading the company’s shares after it bought investment bank Salomon Bros. Still, when Krawcheck was named chairman and CEO of the new Smith Barney last October, the move raised more questions than answers—many of them directed Krawcheck’s way. Could the 37-year-old, whose only top management position had been one year at the helm of independent-minded boutique Sanford C. Bernstein, really turn around an organization roughly 100 times Bernstein’s size? Was she worth a reported two-year, $30 million deal?

A year later, many, but not all, of those questions have been answered. The new CEO—direct, open and intensely focused—has been a breath of fresh air to an organization struggling to regain its balance after being tainted by scandal, associates say. But it’s not so much her impact on Citi that makes Krawcheck the most powerful woman in banking—Smith Barney accounts for just six percent of the company’s revenues—as the potential reverberation of her imprint on the industry at large. In her role, Krawcheck is more than steering Smith Barney; she’s become the ambassador of corporate governance, with her every move keenly watched by financial players and analysts alike.

Fraud charges against former analyst Jack Grubman and other Citi officials made the old Salomon Smith Barney a poster child for cracks in decades-old firewalls between Wall Street’s brokerage, research and investment banking operations, resulting in a landmark settlement. Krawcheck’s task is to lay a foundation built on the tenets of that settlement, in part by making Smith Barney a financial success as a brokerage and research pureplay. It’s a big job, and some observers privately question whether Krawcheck is qualified. With 12,400 retail brokers, 200 researchers, 7.4 million clients and about $1 trillion in assets under management, Smith Barney is the nation’s second largest retail brokerage. Redirecting the firm—particularly in an age of big corporate money and distrustful investors—is a “huge job, and very important to Citi from a reputational standpoint,” says E. Reilly Tierney, an analyst with Fox-Pitt Kelton.

Tierney and other analysts say it’s too early to pass judgement on Krawcheck’s performance. But those who know her say that Krawcheck, with her “take-no-prisoners” mentality and charisma, has the chops required for the job. Intellectually gifted, and blessed with a great sense of humor, her leadership strength is rooted in a “razor-sharp intuition” and a team-oriented management style that tends to get the best out of people, says Lisa Shalett, Sanford C. Bernstein’s present CEO and a friend since 1994. “She’s able to find the right hook for each person, and make every person feel like she’s managing them individually.”

The daughter of a Charleston, SC, lawyer, and sibling to three others, Krawcheck was a prolific reader and track athlete as a child. She forged her debating skills at home. “It was always very lively around the dinner table, but Sallie could certainly hold her own,” recalls father Leonard Krawcheck.

At the University of North Carolina, Krawcheck was a Morehead Scholar, campus leader and excellent student, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1987 with a journalism degree. She worked briefly for Fortune, but it was a college internship with an investment house that really set the course. “I knew when she returned from that summer job that she would go into the financial world,” Leonard says. “She just loved it.”

After earning an MBA from Columbia University in 1992, Krawcheck did short stints as a research analyst at Salomon Bros. and a corporate finance associate at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (where she met husband Gary Appel), before joining Bernstein in 1994 as a senior equity research analyst.

Five years later she became Bernstein’s director of research. The Internet bubble was about to burst, and Bernstein’s business was in a funk. Krawcheck argued convincingly that the firm should double its investment in research, covering smaller companies to remain attractive to portfolio managers who used its services. “It was very controversial,” Shalett recalls. By 2001, Krawcheck was Bernstein’s CEO. But in truth, she never had time to accomplish much. In October, 2002, Weill invited her to lunch, and offered her the job of running Smith Barney.

Krawcheck declined to comment for this article. But in an interview with a UNC alumni publication earlier this year, she described her career as a “layer cake” of different experiences, and one uninfluenced by gender. “I no more think about being a woman than I do about being a Southerner, being a bottled blonde or having brown eyes,” she said, adding that she “can never tell from one day to another whether it’s to my benefit or to my detriment.” If it’s the latter, then all people should have such troubles.

—John Engen

No. 2
Marjorie Magner
Chairman and CEO, Global Consumer Group
Citigroup, New York NY
Years in banking: 30

Sure, it’s a brand no one can touch, but Marjorie Magner runs Citi’s global consumer group with a hint of guilt, a listening ear and the energy of someone just getting started.

I n a spacious second-floor office above Manhattan’s bustling Park Avenue, Marjorie Magner speaks serenely of overseeing a city’s worth of employees—165,000-plus—as chairman and CEO of Citigroup’s global consumer group. She betrays little of the drive that put her in the high-backed leather chair where she’s sitting.

It’s a paradox of personality. Her warmth and placid disposition belies a consuming energy to tackle projects and get results. “She was in a certain subdued way always very enthusiastic,” says Dr. Juergen Grossmann, a German steel tycoon and former grad school classmate. Christoph Kimmich, president of Brooklyn College—where Magner earned a BS in psychology and now serves on the board of trustees—calls it a “creative impatience” that compels her to get things done. Bob Willumstad, president and COO-designate of Citigroup, describes her as passionate with a “strong yet even-tempered personality.”

Magner stepped up to head the global consumer group on August 6. It operates in 49 countries and generated revenue of $41.2 billion in 2002. In the first six months of 2003, Magner’s group contributed more than half of Citigroup’s total earnings and generated $4.5 billion in profit.

As COO of the global consumer group the past two years, she headed up the global retail bank and North America Consumer Finance; combined profits grew 29 percent annually. In 2002, her businesses earned more than a quarter of Citigroup’s income and more than half of all profits in the overall consumer group.

Those who work with her in and out of Citi say she leads others to greatness, often beyond what they think they’re capable. “I tease about it and say I manage through guilt. And I do, in the sense of nobody wants to disappoint me,” says the single mother from Brooklyn whose son is 25. Magner says she hasn’t raised her voice but a handful of times at work and understands mistakes happen. “People need to know that if there’s a problem, they can raise their hand and tell you.”

Her intelligence and ability to connect with people surely helped Magner, 54, advance quickly. She says being a good listener is important too. It’s a skill she learned from her grandmother. “I spent all of my time as a young person with her. People would take her their concerns and I would see her just sit there and listen. I watched it, and I learned. I think it just became a part of who I am.”

But she also speaks up, colleagues say. That led to what Willumstad, now a close ally, calls a “rocky start” when they met in the operations division of Chemical Bank in 1974. With a master’s in business administration from Purdue University, Magner was the first MBA-level woman in the division. “After only weeks on the job, she came into my office and said she had a number of suggestions about how the place could be run better,” says Willumstad, then Chemical’s youngest vice president. “Of course, me at the ripe old age of about 27, I didn’t think that was a particularly intelligent thing for her to do. And I suppose her being female may have had some bearing on that.”

A great training ground, Chemical posed both business and personal challenges—some simply because of her gender. “Back in the ’70s, there were lots of public statements by more senior men saying, a) ‘You’re taking a job away from a man. Shame on you. He needs to feed his family,’ and b) ‘You’ll never be able to do a good job. Women can’t possibly manage other people, especially men.’”

Male colleagues would “forget” to invite her to meetings, but she would find out, often from someone’s assistant, and walk in unexpectedly. “It was very brazen and I wasn’t a particularly brazen person in those days. But I would show up and say, ‘I know you forgot to tell me about this meeting, but it’s okay. I’m here now, let’s start.’ They didn’t do it much after that.”

In 1987, Magner followed Willumstad and Bob Lipp—head of Chemical’s operations and the man who recruited her from Purdue—to Commercial Credit, which became CitiFinancial. Since then, it’s easy to see why Magner commands respect at Citi and across the industry. Among her biggest fans is Sallie Krawcheck, who considers Magner a “mentor and a friend,” insiders say. Willumstad says that Magner has a “very high profile” in the company, “but she has chosen not to seek out the kind of attention that often comes with these things.”

Magner is exhilarated by the awesome responsibility of her new post. “I mean, it’s like, ‘Whoa!’” she says. Her division has almost twice as many employees as the entire population of New York’s capital, Albany. Still, she keeps it in perspective. “For women it’s easy to keep it from being intoxicating because you go home and the house has to be cleaned, the food’s got to be on the table. I can assure you that all the way through my career, when I went home, I was ‘Mom.’”

—Matthew de Paula

No. 3
Marion Sandler
Co-CEO
Golden West Financial/World Savings and Loan, Oakland CA
Years in banking: 40

It was Marion Sandler’s analysis of the poorly managed thrift industry that led her and her husband to buy Golden West, now one of the most profitable companies in the country

Marion Sandler doesn’t sound like someone who’s richer than Bill Cosby. Or like someone who shepherded the country’s second-largest thrift through the darkest decade in that industry’s history. Or a trailblazer in twilight.

She is all that, but the tone in Sandler’s voice just sounds like someone who knows how to get what she wants. “For somebody to succeed working for me, they have to be a good manager. Managing people, managing things. Doing it in an orderly, logical, analytical way,” she says. “It’s fairly rigorous. If you’re making a recommendation, you have to be prepared to support it.”

Orderly, logical, analytical. Add simple and consistent to that list, and that’s the playbook for the 72-year-old Sandler and the Golden West thrift company she runs with her husband, Herb, out of unlikely Oakland, CA. The firm does one thing and one thing well: real estate.

And yet this one-dimensional platform’s led to so many things where Sandler casts influence. Bankrolling a human rights center in Berkeley which gives Eric Stover, noted for bringing the world’s attention to abuses in the former Yugoslavia, freedom to operate. Sitting for dinner at a political fund-raiser with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening and getting in on the building of the Center for American Progress, a new think tank run by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, which means to take on hard-line conservatism.

Whenever Sandler’s mentioned it’s usually pointed out that she’s one of only two or three woman CEOs running a Fortune 500 company; she’s said many times before that the fastest way to get there is to go out and buy one. But she’s just being glib. For one thing, when she and Herb bought Golden West four decades ago, the firm had $36 million in assets, 25 employees and two branches. Today assets total $70 billion. It’s been grown.

Marion’s the former Street analyst; Herb the former lawyer. It was her analysis of the weakly managed thrift industry that in large part led them to buy Golden West. As co-CEO with Herb she’s had to manage complicated relationships over 40 years. While she speaks fondly of it, spending 24 hours a day with one’s business partner while raising a family to boot isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’d be enough to drive plenty of people over the edge.

Instead the two have forged an executive suite like an improvisational jazz combo. That does not mean a unified mind; it means all the players know each other so well decisions can be made at the snap of a beat, on instinct. There’s not much politics below—the next official down the line from them and heir-apparent has been with the company 25 years. Turnover’s not an issue.

But it’s not exactly the hardware store Sandler’s parents started years ago in Biddeford, ME, either. The firm’s too big to be run like that. Sandler’s got units reporting directly to her, including deposit-gathering, mutual funds, Internet efforts and branch operations. Sandler’s influence there is such that she might well be the only banker ever written up in Architectural Record. She cares about design and long ago showed an eye for the future: in 1979 she hired Frank Gehry—now known for the Bilbao Guggenheim—to build a branch in North Hollywood.

Not bad for someone who started in the early ’60s as a thrift analyst out of Wellseley. Outspoken individuals thrived in its all-women environment; Sandler says those voices may have been muted at an Ivy League co-ed. Her ability to prepare served her well as an analyst when she went to interview CEOs. “You’d see the expression on their faces, ‘She’s going to waste my time,’” Sandler says. “But I was always very careful to be extremely well prepared; far more prepared than any of the male analysts who came in to see them.”

It’s a rigor she still shows, says Nobel laureate Michael Bishop, specialist in cancer genetics at the University of California San Francisco and president of the school foundation. The campus benefits from millions from the Sandlers. That money fills a special till for basic research, and scientists compete for grants. Joe DeRisi’s research at UCSF was fueled by one of these grants—and his work paid off with the first definitive identification of the SARS virus. “Their willingness to support fundamental research, rather than preferring research that is relevant to some particular disease, shows a longer view of things,” Bishop says.

And a business acumen learned at the dinner table—Sandler’s brothers are all accomplished, and her parents went on to buy and run an amusement park and several Main Street Biddeford properties—is well documented in Golden West’s results. It’s one of the most profitable companies in the country. Its market cap is $13 billion, its price-to-earnings is 13.2, it’s trading at more than $85, its profit margin is 29 percent. More tellingly, out of the 20 largest thrifts operating during the start of the S&L crisis, it’s the only one still open. Sandler’s touch is that it’s also one of two Fortune 500 firms with a board more than half of which are women. That’s done orderly, logically, analytically. It took eight years to build that board. As she has said, you’re not looking for figureheads.

—Michael Dumiak

No. 4
Amy Brinkley
Chief Risk Officer
Bank of America, Charlotte NC
Years in banking: 25

Relying on her hard-earned knowledge of the bank’s activities, Amy Brinkley uses a “three lines of defense” approach to manage risk firmwide. It could be her ticket to the top.

When giants NationsBank and Bank of America merged in 1998, the head of the task force charged with forging the firm’s identity was Amy Woods Brinkley, then NationsBank’s chief marketing officer. Few would have faulted her for showing some hometown favoritism. Instead, after months of market research, her group recommended keeping the Bank of America nameplate. “It wasn’t about emotional attachments or simply picking a name, it was about choosing the best foundation for the company’s growth,” recalls Helen Eggers, a member of the task force. “Amy led us to weigh the facts and make the right decision.”

Today, Brinkley, 47, is bringing the same results-oriented approach to her job as chief risk officer for the $770 billion-asset banking company. Under her stewardship, risk management has been transformed from a centralized loss-control operation to one that aims to be part of the firm’s daily decision-making. “What makes it interesting is that risk-management people are imbedded in the lines of business, not just sent in to clean up messes,” says longtime banking analyst Nancy Bush of NAB Research. That has made the Charlotte company’s methods a potential model for other large institutions, and Brinkley a hot commodity. Some whisper that she could be a prime candidate for the CEO position when Kenneth Lewis steps down.

On her watch, a so-called “three lines of defense” governance approach has been put in place. It places primary responsibility for risk management in the hands of front-line managers. There’s backstopping from Brinkley’s team, and, if necessary, corporate auditors. “We’re trying to emphasize the absolute accountability everyone in the enterprise has for managing risk and reward,” Brinkley says. And to make people aware that finding balance between the two is part of their jobs. In the meantime, her team isn’t shy about taking a seat at the table, even for relatively small decisions such as the launch of a new product.

It’s a big change. Few executives in any company are better positioned than Brinkley to pull it off. Eggers, now the consumer risk solutions executive and one of Brinkley’s direct reports, says she does this with a direct management style that helps everyone see the goal, but gives the team latitude to find the best way to achieve it. With 11 direct reports and 4,500 employees in her camp, Brinkley’s made strides in bringing significant cultural changes without really “threatening anybody.”

That’s not to say it’s been easy—or without problems. BofA’s taken its share of flak. The latest round came with September’s revelations that the company helped hedge fund Canary Capital Partners make illegal market-timing bets in exchange for lucrative fees. Brinkley wouldn’t comment on it, but several employees have lost their jobs, and the company pledged to reimburse mutual fund shareholders for any losses caused by the deal. “It calls into question how developed the process is, because this is an operational risk that obviously wasn’t confronted,” Bush says.

A 1978 Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of North Carolina, Brinkley enrolled immediately in the management trainee program for NationsBank’s predecessor, the then-small North Carolina National Bank, because it seemed to her like a great way to learn about business. Instead of leaving, however, she started a climb through the ranks that included stints as a corporate banking officer in the company’s Asia-Pacific business and a commercial banker in Greensboro, NC. In 1987, she was placed in charge of consumer credit policy, attaining the rank of executive vice president three years later. In 1993, she jumped to marketing, a department she headed up until 1999, when she became president of consumer products.

Brinkley says this diversity of jobs has served her well—a point she makes to those seeking career advice. “It’s so easy for people to get caught up in, ‘Is this a vertical move? Does it help me rise in the hierarchy?’” she explains. “Sometimes the best moves can be horizontal, because they broaden your knowledge base, help you grow, and prepare you to be a better candidate for the next bigger role.” She’s been equally egalitarian about her choice of mentors over the years, saying they’ve included superiors, peers and subordinates. “What’s critical about a mentor is that you really respect the person’s opinion, and that they’ll be brutally honest with you.”

With her service on several arts and philanthropic boards, and a desire to do some mentoring of her own, time is Brinkley’s most precious commodity. Indeed, she finds that even undisturbed “family zone” time with her two kids and husband Robert must be scheduled. “If I’m in the family zone, I want to commit myself to that, and not be distracted,” she says. “But I can’t leave it to just, ‘Well, I hope I can fit it into my calendar.’ I need to structure it very deliberately.” Spoken like a true risk manager.

—John Engen

No. 5
Deanna Oppenheimer
President, Banking and Financial Services Group
Washington Mutual, Seattle WA
Years in banking: 18

From “Action Teller” dolls to branches that feature children’s play areas and look like Starbucks, Deanna Oppenheimer is changing the way people think about going to the bank.

It’s a safe bet most top banking executives don’t start their days waterskiing. Deanna Oppenheimer does, rising early many mornings from her Mercer Island, WA, home to take her two kids for a quick spin on a nearby lake. “We’ve got it down. Everyone gets a ride in 45 minutes, and then I take a quick shower and get into the office,” she explains. A similar zest for life and unconventionality permeates Oppenheimer’s work life. As president of Washington Mutual’s banking and financial services group, she’s been the driving force behind an aggressive retail expansion and innovative branching strategy that has energized the Seattle company and put it on the national map.

That Oppenheimer would be overseeing a 1,700-branch, $1 billion consumer business didn’t look to be in the cards. Raised in small-town Idaho, Oppenheimer graduated in political science and urban planning from the University of Puget Sound. She now chairs the university’s board of trustees.

Her first job was in magazine ad sales. From there, she worked for a Washington, D.C., political research firm, where she met her husband, John. When the couple decided to return to the Northwest in 1985, she sought to use her talents in industries targeted for deregulation—airlines and utilities among them. So, too, was banking, much to Wamu’s good fortune. Still, she didn’t see it as a long-term gig, telling former CEO Lou Pepper plainly that she planned to stay for only a few years before starting her own business. “He said, ‘Stick around until it’s not interesting,’” she says.

That never happened. Instead, Oppenheimer’s first job in marketing and government relations with the then-small company led to consistently bigger and better assignments. By the time Kerry Killinger was named CEO in 1990, “I found a way to get her to the executive committee table, even though she was relatively young,” he recalls. In 1995, Killinger made her head of consumer banking, though she’d never worked in a branch. “She had an intuition for what customers want, and employees want to follow her,” he says.

Such faith has been rewarded in spades. In the late-’90s, when most bankers were ditching branches in favor of other ways to interact with customers, Oppenheimer, now 45, began championing the branch as a linchpin—a view the industry has now come back to embracing. To back up that hunch, she called for an in-house study, which showed most people ranked a visit to the bank on par with going to the dentist. Her answer came in the form of “Occasio,” a Starbucks-like branch design featuring concierges, kiosks and kids’ play areas that is being aggressively rolled out around the country. It’s like Apple’s colorful challenge to the long-unchanged beige boxtop personal computer, and equally as groundbreaking.

Occasio has been a hit by most any measure. It’s driving deposit and revenue growth for the $283 billion-asset company. Its introduction also illustrated Oppenheimer’s adroit leadership style. Convinced early on that it was the right strategy, she nonetheless waited six months to build consensus before adopting it. “The best ideas come from the team,” she says. “If I had just dictated it, it wouldn’t have had the foundation of support required for success.” She followed that up with extensive coaching.

Dyan Beito, executive vice president for deposit services and one of Oppenheimer’s direct reports, says Occasio presented her unit with some daunting operational challenges. “Deanna offered suggestions and challenged us to stretch our minds and find different and better ways to get the job done, and we did,” Beito says. Overall, she adds, Oppenheimer “allows you the flexibility to do your job, without hovering over you.”

That doesn’t mean Oppenheimer is shy about offering opinions—and those views are usually on target. One of the most notable examples occurred several years ago, when she pitched the creation of Barbie-like “action teller dolls” to supplement an advertising campaign. Colleagues weren’t exactly wowed. “We all looked at each other and said, ‘Oh, no, this is ridiculous,’” Beito recalls. A marketing manager threw a sample together for laughs nonetheless. Today, “those dolls are the stars of the bank,” Beito says, regularly passed out at branch openings and once making it to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. On a more serious note, she’s led a charge to eliminate charges at cash machines, making Wamu the only major bank nationally to do so.

Outside of work, Oppenheimer finds herself in demand—both at home, where she treats her kids’ loves as her own (daughter Jeni, 15, rides horses; son James, 11, favors sailing), and as a mentor to Wamu women intent on becoming “the next Deanna.” Her advice: go to college, consider a graduate learning experience when the timing’s right (last year she took a year’s sabbatical and attended an executive program at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business), and concentrate on doing well with the task before you. “People worry too much about advancing,” she says. “If you do your first job well, the second will come.” As it has for her time and again.

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