Women in Banking

Mary Meeker's audacious goal, Wells Fargo's gender drama and Goldman's new partners

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‘Safer to suffer in silence’: Women who work at banks in the Cleveland area say the culture is not entirely free of sexism, though they would not consider going to human resources for help. "Women can't take the risk it won't backfire,” one female loan officer said of the reluctance to involve HR. “It's just safer to suffer in silence.” The loan officer said she knows of a male manager who made questionable comments to one of his subordinates, including telling her to “clean up the kitchen before you go” and relaying the particulars of a dream in which she played an uncomfortable part. "I'll just leave it here — every underwriter I work with is female; every manager, male,” the loan officer said. (Don’t miss the reader comments on this article.)

Not starting small: The late-stage investing firm Mary Meeker is forming intends to raise up to $1.25 billion for its first fund. If Meeker hits that target, hers would be one of the largest women-owned firms in the venture capital sector based on assets under management. Meeker, who successfully bet on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Snap while at Kleiner Perkins, plans to focus on mature technology startups in her as-yet-unnamed new firm. Meeker is a Morgan Stanley veteran who earned a reputation for her savvy analysis of Internet stocks as the head of its global technology research practice before she joined Kleiner about eight years ago. Kleiner is without any senior women following her recent departure — which is not a good look for the firm that Ellen Pao famously sued for gender discrimination.

You don’t say: “There is unequivocally no gender bias.” That’s what Jon Weiss, the top executive in Wells Fargo’s wealth management division, told some managers on a call, following a monthslong investigation into complaints from female senior executives. The executives had alleged that women in the wealth management division are belittled and blocked from promotions. The investigation took longer than the typical six weeks, as four different human resources executives took the lead at different points, starting over each time, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. (Wonder if the women who expressed their frustration feel reassured now.)

Exit this way: Part of that Wells Fargo investigation focused on at least one formal human-resources complaint against Jay Welker, the president of the wealth management division and the private bank. Supposedly Welker often called women “girls” or told them to put their “big girl panties on.” Wells announced in an internal memo last week that Welker will retire in March.

Wall Street’s new elite: Goldman Sachs named 69 new partners last week, and women and minorities were better represented than ever before. Women made up 26% of the group, though the share of female partners overall barely budged, at just 17%. Axios had an interesting take on the announcement, with comparisons to the incoming class in the House of Representatives (40% women). Goldman “doesn’t seem to be in any particular rush” to fix its diversity problem, Axios’ Felix Salmon wrote. Among the new partners is Margaret Chinwe Anadu, head of the urban investment group. Anadu, a Nigerian-American who joined Goldman after graduating from Harvard in 2003, said she considers the promotion a vote of confidence in the impact investing her team is doing. Another is Rana Yared, who works in the strategic investment division and is credited with setting up Goldman’s bitcoin trading operation (as regular readers may recall seeing here). At 34, Yared is one of the youngest to achieve the coveted status. This is the first group of partners to be announced under new Chief Executive David Solomon, and the smallest group in 20 years. Notably, Solomon added four women to the committee that selects the partners earlier this year. (Goldman’s previous class of new partners was 23% female, which was the highest proportion of women up to that point. The company appointed 19 women as partners that year, compared with 18 this year.)

Experience vs. gender (right?): Italy’s Andrea Enria edged out Ireland’s Sharon Donnery for the nomination to become the euro zone’s top bank supervisor, but the choice is not without controversy. An influential committee of lawmakers from the European Parliament met behind closed doors to interview candidates to succeed France’s Daniele Nouy in her job at the European Central Bank. A letter summarizing their views went to the governing council ahead of the vote, identifying Enria and Donnery as the front-runners. But the letter said committee members favoring Enria stressed his experience, while those favoring Donnery talked about the importance of gender balance in top jobs at the male-heavy ECB. The implication is clear. But the two candidates have comparable experience. Donnery is deputy governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, with decades of experience in monetary policy and banking supervision. She has chaired the ECB’s budget committee and led its task force on nonperforming loans. Enria, chairman of the European Banking Authority, also has decades of experience, having previously held senior roles at the Bank of Italy and the ECB. Donnery had been the favorite early on. As for the reactions in their home countries, Ireland is disappointed, but so is Italy.

Firebrand in charge: Bankers are bracing for the likelihood that Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., will become the chair of the House Financial Services committee, in the wake of the midterm elections. Her priorities are widely expected to be thwarting President Trump (in part through a deep dive into his ties to Deutsche Bank), strengthening consumer protections and tackling a shortage of affordable housing. One big worry is the subpoena power she would have over bank executives and the reputation risk of heated hearings and rebukes from Waters. “I do think it’s legitimate for the CEOs to come in and testify about what’s going on in their bank,” Waters told Reuters. A showdown Waters had with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a committee hearing last year went viral, and “Auntie Maxine” gained national attention as a leading figure of the resistance. Should the industry be afraid of a Waters-led banking committee? Check out American Banker’s analysis.

Role Call

SunTrust Banks is promoting Ellen Koebler to the role of chief risk officer, effective Jan. 1. She will report directly to Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Rogers, once she succeeds the retiring Jerome Lienhard. Koebler rejoined the $211 billion-asset SunTrust last year as its executive vice president of consumer lending and deposit products, after serving as chief risk officer at E-Trade.

Muneera Carr, Comerica's chief accounting officer, will become its chief financial officer, when David Duprey retires at the end of February. Carr joined Comerica in February 2010 following a short stint as head of accounting policy at SunTrust Banks.

Wells Fargo has hired Courtney Smith Goodrich as the chief operating officer for its enterprise information technology team. She had worked for JPMorgan Chase for 25 years, most recently serving as its chief technology strategy and programs officer. At Wells, Goodrich reports to Chief Technology Officer Scott Dillon. She succeeds Theresa Wilson, who will help her transition into the role before retiring at yearend. Wilson announced her retirement in June after 40 years at the company.

Beyond Banking

Congress' new look: The midterm elections put more women in Congress than ever before (they will have 23% of the seats, up from about 20%), so there was bound to be a story about how they dress. In case you are wondering, the pantsuits and pearls are conspicuously absent. In New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, celebrated her win in a white shirt and beige skirt, and in Kansas, Sharice Davids, a former mixed martial arts fighter, showed off her muscles in a sleeveless red dress paired with dangling earrings.

Meanwhile in Arizona: The outcome of the race for retiring Republican Jeff Flake’s seat had been too close to call for nearly a week. But between the two House members vying to become the first female senator from Arizona, the historic win went to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema over Republican Martha McSally. Sinema, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, has enjoyed banking industry support for her backing of regulatory relief legislation. She also embraced solidly centrist positions in her campaign. Here’s a quick overview of the races bankers cared about most in the midterm elections. (And if you care about what Sinema wore for her acceptance speech, it was a sleeveless dress.)

Arbitration now optional: Google said it would end the practice of using forced arbitration for claims of sexual misconduct, after a walkout by more than 20,000 employees protesting how the company allegedly protects perpetrators. But the Internet giant did not address some other employee demands, including that it make its internal report on harassment public. The walkout is remarkable for many reasons, but one of the most surprising aspects of it might be the echoes of unionization. “From the moment we start at Google we’re told that we aren’t just employees; we’re owners,” the organizers said when publishing their demands. “Every person who walked out today is an owner, and the owners say: Time’s up.”

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