The Women to Watch: No. 4, First Republic's Hafize Gaye Erkan

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President and Board Member, First Republic Bank

First Republic Bank has been understandably mum about who might replace founder and Chief Executive James Herbert when he retires in two years, but Hafize Gaye Erkan, its 39-year-old president, is considered a leading candidate.

Erkan, a native of Turkey who received a Ph.D. in operations research and financial engineering from Princeton University, joined First Republic as its chief investment officer in 2014, added the title of chief deposit officer in 2016 and a year later was promoted to president of the bank — Herbert's second-in-command.

Her meteoric rise continued earlier this year, when she was appointed to the San Francisco bank's board of directors — a move some analysts have speculated positions Erkan as Herbert's heir apparent.

In announcing the appointment, even the San Francisco bank described it as "an important step" in its leadership succession plan, though it declined to comment further.

Erkan is in the CEO conversation because she has been such a valuable contributor to First Republic's success.

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In the five years she has been with First Republic, assets have more than doubled to $100 billion, and wealth management assets under management have nearly tripled to $138 billion. Deposits have increased 138% to $83.4 billion.

In her role as president, Erkan oversees the bank's investment portfolio and deposit franchise, and she manages operations and activities in the New York and Boston regions.

She has also been a driver of innovation, spearheading a range of technology and educational initiatives aimed at empowering employees to make decisions that improve service to the entrepreneurs and high-net-worth households that account for the majority of First Republic's customers.

This effort to drive continuous improvement is among the reasons why First Republic's net promoter score, a well-regarded measure of client satisfaction and loyalty, was more than double the average for U.S. banks in 2018.

Erkan also sits on the board of Gradifi, a technology company First Republic acquired in 2016 that provides employers with tools to offer student debt reduction as an employee benefit.

First Republic offers the benefit to its own employees, and roughly 25% are using it. With student debt now at roughly $1.5 trillion nationally, Erkan believes that employers need to do more to help.

"The private sector needs to step forward and play a leadership role in solving this problem," Erkan said. "After all, our employees are only obtaining the education that we, as employers, require them to have."

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