What Does It Take to Make It? Sweat, People Skills, Leadership

When asked what personal traits helped get them to the top of their banks, chief executives most often cited hard work, people skills, and leadership ability. Close behind came communication skills and intelligence.

A good relationship with their predecessors played no small role in their ascension to the top job.

Nearly half of the CEOs responding to the American Banker/Heidrick & Struggles poll said the prior CEO was crucial to their rise to the top. Board support was the main factor for another 20.3% of them.

Close to half of the chief executives who responded to the survey are new to their jobs, with fewer than two years in the top spot.

Most of them are homegrown talent. An overwhelming majority - 81.1% - were promoted from within. Only 14.9% were hired guns from other banks, and 4.1% came from nonbank companies.

Yet the current batch of CEOs predict that the tendency to promote from within is due for a change this decade. More than half of them agree that, as banking becomes less insular, more and more CEO slots will be filled by outsiders in the next 10 years.

The main proving ground for today's CEO was corporate banking (44.6%), with retail trailing behind (21.6%). About 12% of those surveyed came up through the finance or control areas.

Although there have been predictions that stars will rise through the technology ranks, only 4.1% of the CEOs responding said they came from operations.

Indeed, while nearly 30% agree that banks' reliance on automation is easing the way for technology managers to become CEOs, nearly 55% disagree.

"The majority of CEOs may feel that technology professionals do not relate well to people, that they are faithful to their specialty and not the total business, and that they speak a private language," said Emanuel N. Monogenis, who heads the New York-based financial institutions arm of Heidrick & Struggles Inc.

Hence, they are not thought to have the right stuff to run the bank, he said.

PHOTO : CEOs' Primary Background

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