Final five: Who will President Trump nominate as Federal Reserve chair? Janet Yellen, whose four-year term as chair ends in February, is one of the five finalists.

AI in the wild: Bank of America’s Michelle Moore and Ally Bank’s Diane Morais spoke at the BankAI conference this week about how artificial intelligence-based digital assistants are evolving. Ally was one of the first to launch an AI-based virtual assistant two years ago, and its Ally Assist gives customers the ability to speak or text questions and customizes content to each customer based on their previous interactions. "If you're always checking your balances, always asking to see what your last five debit card transactions were, that content will be served up for you,” said Morais, Ally’s president of consumer and commercial banking products and a repeat honoree on our Most Powerful Women list. Moore talked about the gender identity of B of A’s digital assistant erica. After a year of the bank insisting erica isn’t necessarily female (her name is derived from the last five letters of the bank’s), turns out the digital assistant just doesn’t seem like an “it.” “It’s kind of hard not to refer to her as a ‘her’ versus an ‘it’ because there is some personality to it,” said Moore, B of A’s head of digital banking and American Banker’s Digital Banker of the Year. “As you saw, when I said ‘thank you,’ she said, 'my pleasure.' I prefer to refer to her as ‘her.’” (Recall that Stessa Cohen wrote a BankThink about casting AI as female, in which she argues that, after decades of people assuming women in the room are in assistant roles when, in fact, they're the experts, the sexism of yesteryear is bleeding into the frontier of bank innovation.)

Board broad: JPMorgan Chase’s Karen Simon leads its director advisory services group (a team that helps the bank’s clients find new board members). The group gave its first referral in September 2016 and has since made more than 700 recommendations — 65% of which were women — to more than 70 companies. Simon, a 30-year veteran of JPMorgan, said the majority of requests her group fields are for female directors. Among her current assignments is helping Kraton Corp., a specialty chemical company, get its board to 50% women.

Karen Simon, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking at JPMorgan Chase.
Karen Simon, vice chairman of investment banking at JPMorgan Chase, is helping put more women on boards as part of her job.

After the fire: Napa’s local community banks need to band together and seek regulatory approval to make more construction loans, said Debbie Meekins, chief executive of First Community Bank in Santa Rosa. A fast-moving wildfire began spreading across Northern California’s wine country last week, and it is still going. It scorched more than 245,000 acres and resulted in at least 41 deaths across the region. In Santa Rosa alone, nearly 3,000 buildings were lost, including Meekins’ home. Meekins — who has deep roots in Santa Rosa, having served as the CEO of Sonoma National Bank from 1985 to 2007, when it was sold to Umpqua Bank – is already thinking about the role that First Community can play in rebuilding the fire-ravaged community. “Everybody’s got to step up here to get this place rebuilt,” she said.

Getting to know you: The next wave of digital banking will be “dynamic,” according to Alice Milligan, the chief customer and digital experience officer for Citi’s global cards unit. In other words, “we know who you are and are serving up things that add value to you personally versus you having to navigate all the different functions on our mobile app,” Milligan said. “That means your mobile experience might be very different from someone else’s because of the different relationships you have with us and how you use products.” Citi is experimenting with a variety of features, aiming to come across as helpful, but not intrusive. For example, it sends personalized videos to customers who have received a new card product to explain benefits and rewards programs, and it’s using the geolocation capabilities of smartphones to ask customers at the point of purchase if they want to initiate a Citi Price Rewind search (part of a discount program). To facilitate this personalization, Citi ramped up its data and analytics capabilities and partnered with software vendor Appboy, a provider of customized digital marketing solutions, “to understand how customers interact with us, and what their digital journeys are,” Milligan said. She was one of the finalists for 2017 Digital Banker of the Year.

From our women with vision series

Credit where it is due: Regions Bank is changing the way it manages loan risk, in a transformation led by Barb Godin, the chief credit officer. Godin moved a majority of her back-office underwriting staff into the front-line business units, to work side by side with lenders. The intent is to make the bankers who interact with Regions customers more accountable for the quality of the loans they make. "In the past, there was a lot of, 'Let's throw this against the wall and see if credit risk will approve it, and if they approve it, then I'm off the hook,'" said Godin, who is on our list of the Most Powerful Women in Banking. "Not anymore."

The voice of reason, rules, reform: From chairing a panel charged with replacing Libor to advising the president and Congress on regulatory reform, JPMorgan Chase's chief regulatory affairs officer, Sandie O’Connor, has emerged as a leading voice on fine-tuning crisis-era rules. "Collectively, governments, policymakers and financial institutions have a right to have that conversation now," O'Connor said. "They did not have a right to have that conversation six years ago.” She is neither an attorney nor a seasoned political operative, like most policy wonks. But after decades of managing financial risk and helping oversee JPMorgan’s now $2.5 trillion balance sheet, she knows firsthand how new regulations affect the business. "When I see a policy come out, I can translate it into how money will flow and how clients will be impacted," she said. "That perspective from end to end really enhances and improves the conversation.” O’Connor is also on our Most Powerful Women list.


Useful tactics for a change agent: On our podcast, Yolande Piazza, the CEO of Citi FinTech, talked about how she wins over executives who are resistant to change and how her unit meshes with its very different Wall Street and Silicon Valley personalities working together. She also discussed Citi’s unique method of gathering customer feedback on its apps: it watches while customers use the technology at home — sometimes in their pajamas. Piazza ranks as No. 4 on our 2017 Women to Watch list. Listen to the full conversation here.

Role call

TD Bank has named Ellen Glaessner as general counsel. She had been managing counsel for retail businesses. Glaessner succeeds Ellen Patterson, who previously had been promoted to the position of general counsel for the bank’s Canadian parent company, TD Bank Group. (Patterson is on our list of Women to Watch.)

Lake City Bank has promoted Kristin Pruitt to chief administrative officer and general counsel, Lisa Fulton to banking operations executive, and Angie Ritchey to chief technology officer. One of Pruitt’s tasks in her new role is creating a diversity and inclusion program. Lake City is the fourth largest bank in Indiana, with $4.4 billion in assets.

Valley National Bank has hired Yvonne Surowiec as its chief human resources officer. She has 30 years of HR experience at CDK Global, a technology solutions company, and will oversee everything from talent management to business transformation as part of an effort to build a culture that encourages innovation at the New Jersey bank.

Valley National’s new chief human resources officer, Yvonne Surowiec, joined the bank from CDK Global.
Valley National’s new chief human resources officer, Yvonne Surowiec, joined the bank from CDK Global.

Dorothy Savarese wrapped up her one-year term as chairman of the American Bankers Association this week, with Ken Burgess, of FirstCapital Bank of Texas, succeeding her in the role. Other bankers taking on new leadership positions with the industry trade group include Jeffrey Szyperski of Chesapeake Bank, as chairman-elect, and Laurie Stewart of Sound Community Bank, as vice chairman. At the ABA convention in Chicago where the leadership transition took place, Savarese interviewed actress Geena Davis on stage, after Davis gave a speech about her research on women in banking. Savarese, of Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, will continue to serve on the ABA board. Both Savarese and Stewart are part of our Most Powerful Women rankings, as are fellow board members Jill Castilla, Patricia Husic, Andrea Smith and Julieann Thurlow. Overall there are nine women on the 27-member board. The others are: Stacey Bentley of Community Bank in Waterloo, Iowa; Deborah Cole of Citizens Savings Bank in Nashville, Tenn.; and Louise Walker of First Northern Community Bancorp in Dixon, Calif.

Northern Trust, which named Jana Schreuder as its chief operating officer a few years ago, sparked speculation at the time that its next CEO might be a woman. That is the role Frederick Waddell had just before he became CEO. But then Northern Trust appointed Michael O’Grady president in January, casting doubt on the idea. O’Grady officially got the nod for the top job this week, as Northern Trust announced he will succeed a retiring Waddell at the end of this year.

Signature Bank in New York has added a five-person private client banking team and named Indira Thomas-Maharaj as the group director. She recently served as director of middle market and business banking at Popular Community Bank.

Beyond banking

Help wanted (men, please apply): Why did decades of Harvey Weinstein’s predatory sexual exploits — such a huge Hollywood nonsecret that it was even played for laughs with a joke at the Oscars — only get serious attention much later? Why have equal pay, parental leave, and equitable hiring and promotion stalled in many companies? It’s because women lack genuine male allies in the workplace. Privately, lots of men are allies for gender equity, but why not publicly? Male allies need three traits in order to create institutional changes to support gender diversity: as majority stakeholders, they would have insider knowledge of the organization; they show genuine understanding of the cost of inequality for everyone; and they demonstrate an honest commitment to what is right and just. Harvard Business Review breaks down why there aren’t more of these men at work, citing the social psychological, often implicit and unconscious, processes that keep them from speaking up and thus, unconsciously perhaps, perpetuating the imbalance.

Protective measures: Did you hear about the time Carrie Fisher personally delivered a gift-wrapped Tiffany box containing a cow tongue to an unnamed Oscar-winning producer who got sexually aggressive with her friend, Heather Ross? The note read: “If you ever touch my darling Heather or any other woman again, the next delivery will be something of yours in a much smaller box!”

If you missed last week’s women in banking newsletter, you can find it here.

Bonnie McGeer and Tina Snieder contributed to this report.

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