The Women to Watch: No. 15, Synovus' Liz Wolverton
EVP, Chief Strategy and Customer Experience Officer, Synovus Financial
As Synovus Financial’s chief strategy officer, a job that includes responsibility for deciding how bank resources are allocated, Liz Wolverton often has to play the role of referee.
Wolverton meets weekly with department heads who often have competing priorities, and it is her job, she says, to “guide them to a shared outcome” that is best for the $31 billion-asset bank and its customers. But it’s not easy. In one example from earlier this year, two leaders who urgently needed to agree were so unwilling to cede turf that they began questioning Wolverton’s authority to make the call in the first place.
“We ultimately arrived where we needed to, but the process was fatiguing,” Wolverton said. “I have been surprised to realize [that] … the basic task of aligning business leaders on organizational priorities takes a level of determination and endurance that sometimes feels superhuman.”
This ability to broker solutions is one of her greatest strengths and is a big reason CEO Kessel Stelling views Wolverton as one of his most trusted advisers, said Kevin Blair, the company’s chief financial officer.
“There is a lot of work she does behind the scenes to break through issues and drive consensus,” Blair said. “Kessel relies heavily on Liz to know all the moving pieces, identify what needs attention and how to best address it.”
Named to the newly created position in early 2014, Wolverton has advised Stelling and the board of directors on virtually all of the company’s major decisions — from its hefty investments in consumer lending to its corporate rebranding to its recently announced deal to acquire the $11 billion-asset FCB Holdings in Weston, Fla. That deal, expected to close early next year, is Synovus’ first whole-bank acquisition since 2006 and the biggest in the company’s history.
Wolverton has also been the driving force behind a 2-year-old diversity and inclusion initiative aimed at improving ethnic representation across the company and elevating more women to leadership positions.
Meanwhile, Wolverton’s responsibilities keep expanding. In January, she was named head of marketing and customer experience, responsible for brand development and deployment and ensuring that customers receive a consistent experience across all channels.