Uma Wilson, UMB Bank | Most Powerful Women: Next

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Director of product management

UMB Bank's commercial cards division was losing clients in 2016, when Uma Wilson set out to turn things around.

Wilson recognized that the bank's card products had fallen behind the times in terms of user experience.

After earning buy-in from top management — "Uma's pitch was one of the most memorable I've experienced," said UMB President and Chief Executive Jim Rine — she launched a program to overhaul the card offerings at the Kansas City, Mo., bank.

She ultimately introduced new options such as virtual cards and Automated Clearing House processing and made other changes that put a premium on simplicity and efficiency.

Her work earned her a spot as one of 15 women selected for our inaugural Next list. (This extension of our Most Powerful Women in Banking program is meant to highlight high-achieving women in the leadership pipeline who are age 40 and under.)

The system Wilson put in place is scalable, making it attractive to both large clients and smaller ones looking to grow their business.

Even without the benefit of a large bank's research and development operation, Wilson was able to look beyond the "off-the-shelf" solutions that other banks UMB's size often rely on.

The result is that the $21.5 billion-asset UMB is now able to tailor its offerings to individual clients, some of which were unable to find the kind of options they wanted at competing banks.

"Uma is a true leader. Her team approach is one of the many reasons the bank product department is so successful." — Jim Rine, president and CEO

UMB recently onboarded an insurance firm, which signed up for just this reason. The bank also recently launched a cobranding deal with the Texas Rangers.

Over the past two years, Wilson's strategy took a program that had been losing customers on a year-over-year basis and transformed it into the fastest-growing issuer of Visa cards in the region.

Nominating executive: Jim Rine, president and CEO of UMB Bank

What he says: Rine very clearly recalls when Wilson pitched her plan to turn around the cards business to him and UMB Financial Corp. Chairman and CEO Mariner Kemper. “She presented well-researched reasons cards have experienced a downturn, was refreshingly open about the resources that would be needed to reverse the downturn, and was clear that she would accept full responsibility if her proposals were unsuccessful. Uma earned our trust,” Rine wrote in nominating her for the Next list. Rine also praised Wilson's management style, calling her graceful and poised. "Uma is a true leader," he said. "Her team approach is one of the many reasons the bank product department is so successful."

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