The Women to Watch: No. 9, Citizens Bank's Beth Johnson

Register now

Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Virtual Channels, Citizens Bank

Stay flexible.

That's the core of career advice from Beth Johnson, who has risen over three decades to become chief marketing officer and head of virtual channels at Citizens Bank. Looking back, she said she advanced by looking for opportunities rather than maintaining a fixed idea of where to go.

"I'm not a planner," she said. "It's more about what opportunities exist, and how you think about the people there, and how you take advantage of it."

In August 2017, Johnson's role expanded from leading the digital team and handling customer experience to also include overseeing the $159 billion-asset bank's contact centers and aligning virtual channels with marketing, data and analytics. As one of the most senior leaders at the bank, Johnson serves on the Citizens Financial Group CEO Executive Committee, an 11-member group of senior employees focusing on the bank's strategy.

See the most recent rankings:
Most Powerful Women in Banking
Women to Watch
Most Powerful Women in Finance

One of the most important lessons she learned at a young age was how to speak with confidence — even when she felt unsure.

After graduate school, Johnson took a job working as an associate focused on interest rate derivatives at JPMorgan Chase. The New York firm required its associates to spend a week learning how to deliver an effective presentation.

Johnson said she had a loud voice and a habit of talking with her hands. In critiquing her performance, though, JPMorgan executives said she was "really good" when she spoke on topics that she knew a lot about, but "really bad" the moment she was asked to veer outside her comfort zone.

So they gave her a trick.

"I just want you in the back of your mind to say, 'I am the expert, I am the expert, I am the expert,'" Johnson said, recalling the advice. It helped her convey a sense of authority at business meetings early on in her career.

"I probably used that trick for five years when I was presented with the feeling of not knowing, and it just worked," Johnson said.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Marketing Regional banks Beth Johnson Citizens Bank Women in Banking
MORE FROM AMERICAN BANKER