The Women to Watch: No. 16, Wells Fargo's Avid Modjtabai

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Sr. EVP, Head of Payment, Virtual Solutions and Innovation Group, Wells Fargo

Avid Modjtabai is drawing on a quarter-century of experience leading a broad range of business lines to accelerate innovation at Wells Fargo.

Modjtabai led divisions as varied as human resources, information technology, consumer lending and internet services during her long career at Wells Fargo before transitioning in late 2016 to head of its payment, virtual solutions and innovation group, a newly created post.

The new unit, referred to internally as PVSI, combined Wells Fargo’s payments business with its virtual channels group, its enterprise operations and its innovation team. In the role, Modjtabai oversees all payment activities, digital transactions and a wide range of back-office functions. Perhaps most notably, she heads the innovation unit that tests and invests in emerging technologies aimed at simplifying and improving the customer experience.

Modjtabai said that the new role is her “most exciting” to date and that her experience running internet services, information technology and consumer lending will inform how her unit, which serves all major business lines, can stay on the leading edge.

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“My knowledge of how Wells Fargo’s businesses operate allows me to identify opportunities for improving how we work across Wells Fargo as well as how we serve our customers,” Modjtabai said.

There have been hiccups, to be sure. The consumer lending business, which she ran for five years, consistently ranked among the industry’s leaders in mortgage and auto lending, but those units were also flagged for overcharging customers or selling add-on products they didn’t need.

Still, Modjtabai has been a fixture on the bank’s leadership team for years and she remains a trusted adviser to CEO Tim Sloan. She said that the key to her success and longevity has been a willingness to take risks and accept new roles in areas that were completely new to her.

“I believe that life begins at the end of my comfort zone, and have always advocated saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities,” she said.

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