Scandal at SoFi: Allegations of sexism at the online lender SoFi, first revealed about a month ago, blew up this week after a sexual harassment lawsuit accused co-founder and Chief Executive Mike Cagney of “empowering other managers to engage in sexual conduct in the workplace.” Cagney has since announced he will step down as CEO at the end of this year and as chairman immediately. In the past week a load of anecdotal evidence about SoFi’s frat house culture has come to light. The New York Times reports Cagney “was seen holding hands and having intimate conversations with another young female employee” and “at late-night, wine-soaked gatherings with colleagues, he bragged about his sexual conquests and the size of his genitalia.” The problem does extend beyond Cagney; SoFi’s CFO reportedly talked openly about women’s breasts and offered female employees bonuses for losing weight. It’s still unclear what the company’s plans are for replacing its CEO.
Hurricane relief: Mobile devices and apps have made banking more convenient for people, but they’ve been particularly helpful for small businesses in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, according to Kelly Sebesta, senior vice president and electronic division manager at Allegiance Bancshares in Houston. While bank branches were closed, customers were still able to draw on their lines of credit, transmit electronic payments, pay bills, and complete payroll. “Past hurricanes crippled customers,” Sebesta said. Mobile technology made the early stages of recovery from Harvey “significantly different from in the past.”
Not the typical robo-adviser: A former vice president of proprietary trading at Goldman Sachs, Ramya Joseph, left the company to found Pefin, an artificial intelligence financial adviser, in 2011. Now it’s finally set to launch this fall and Joseph claims it is something different from the various robo-advisers in the market. "Robos are trying to execute a transaction, while we are trying to manage your finances. Investing is optional with us, and we'll help you if we think it's the right move for you,” she said. Pefin, the contraction of "personal finance intelligence,” was inspired by Joseph’s helping her father sort out his financial and retirement plans after he lost his job in the 2008 financial crisis. "I was working at Goldman and helping millionaires, and here was my dad, just trying to retire,” she said. “I thought, 'What do people do when they don't have someone like me to help?’"
Goldman Sachs’ head of human resources Edith Cooper is leaving the company after nine years. It’s unclear what her next step will be, but some speculate she’ll move into academia. Cooper will stay until the end of the year and remain a senior director after Jan. 1, according to an internal memo, which indicates she isn’t going to a competitor. Her role will be filled by Dane Holmes, who is currently head of investor relations. Heather Miner, a longtime investor-relations executive, will fill Holmes’ role. Cooper appeared on our Most Powerful Women in Finance list last year.
JPMorgan Chase is promoting Lori Beer to global chief information officer, succeeding Dana Deasy, who is retiring. Beer will become the fifth woman on JPMorgan’s 10-person operating committee of executives. Beer is currently chief information officer for JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank.
Catherine Flax has joined Pefin, an online financial adviser, as its CEO. She comes from BNP Paribas Americas, where she served as head of commodity derivatives. She was also previously the chief marketing officer of JPMorgan Chase.
Jill Woodworth, a retail investment banker at JPMorgan Chase, will co-lead the company’s forthcoming disruptive commerce group, a joint venture between its consumer and retail team and internet team.
Best Banks to Work For
Happy life moments: When Shawnna Campbell, a Bank Secrecy Act analyst at City National Bank in Miami, received a call from her supervisor checking up on her after her newborn daughter arrived five weeks early, the last thing she expected was news that the bank was sending her $1,800. "I was shocked," Campbell said. "City National is a very family-oriented bank. I've worked for other banks in the past, but I've never worked for a bank like this.” The financial help is part of a “life moments” benefit that the bank rolled out earlier this year. Other life moments where City National extends financial assistance to employees include the purchase of a new home, the adoption of a child or the death of a family member. Campbell said the cash eased the financial burden as co-pays and other expenses piled up and that she was able to open a savings account for her baby daughter.
Prioritizing diversity: While Michael Solberg, the chief executive at Bell Bank, champions diversity, Julie Peterson Klein, its chief culture officer, is the one who makes it happen. Given the demographics of Bell's markets — its home state of North Dakota is 89% white — the bank often seeks out diversity rather than just relying on inquiries. It has helped obtain work visas for noncitizens and recruited people with autism. "We don't sit and wait for people to come to us,” Klein said.
A reason for millennials to stay: Ally Financial noticed a pattern — it would hire promising young talent in its auto finance business only to see them stay a year or two before leaving for other opportunities. In an effort to change that, Ally developed a rotational training program in 2014 that allows people to experience different roles and responsibilities. Each rotation lasts one to three years and includes three to five different job assignments. "We are making sure we are not only developing our existing workforce but also making sure we have career paths and keep them engaged," said Kathie Patterson, Ally's chief human resources officer.
What tellers can do next: "The days of having an employee who happily works at the drive-through window for 30 years are over," said Debbie Richards, head of human resources at Bank of Tennessee. "The onus is on us to keep people excited and fresh in their jobs.” To do that, the bank scrapped the “teller” title, replaced it with “customer experience officer” and created a complex training program meant to increase the number of employees moving up through the organization and help them map out a necessary path to reach a career goal. The program consists of a series of modules developed internally at the bank. Employees receive salary boosts as each section is completed that can increase individual wages by 23% in a year.
Open to interpretation: Culture is key at Washington Trust. Having a custom word to describe its community-oriented philosophy — “Watrustology” — helps fuel conversations about it and letting employees personalize the meaning fuels a sense of empowerment and enthusiasm. "We didn't want to create a set of talking points and say, 'This is what you have to say every time,'" said Katy Wagnon, Washington Trust’s public relations and communications manager and the one who made up the word. "We really wanted everyone to have their own experience with it and talk about it in a way that it is impactful to them.”
In case you missed it
Good or bad for small businesses?: The glut of online lenders can be a boon for entrepreneurs by helping them obtain funds quickly, argues Karen Mills, the former head of the Small Business Administration. But the lenders still need to be more transparent about their rates and fees — and she believes more regulation would be helpful. Listen to her full interview on the American Banker podcast.
Another way Wells is changing: As part of a $35.5 million settlement with black financial advisers who sued over alleged racial discrimination, Wells Fargo agreed to take steps to change the workplace for the better. In doing so, Wells is borrowing ideas from Frank Dobbin, a professor at Harvard who has declared that most corporate diversity programs have failed. "In general, the settlements don't lead to changes in the composition of the workforce," Dobbin, who's now advising Wells Fargo, said. "That's why both sides were kind of interested in implementing the things that we have shown to be effective in other firms: targeted recruitment and mentoring."
Ambition mission: Actress Reese Witherspoon wrote an essay in Glamour this week talking about the double bind of ambition for women (an issue we have discussed here before). Witherspoon wants to change the negative connotation the word “ambition” holds when it’s attached to women. “Ambition is simply a drive inside of you — it’s having a curiosity or a new idea and the desire to pursue it,” said Witherspoon, who claims to have been an ambitious person her entire life. In her Glamour essay she discusses systemic inequality of women and the fact that they don't get equal opportunities even if they get equal treatment, personal anecdotes included. If you want to get something done, she says, quoting her mother, you have to do it yourself. She also touches on why it’s important to recognize when you’re not working in the right environment, and what to do when your ambition pays off.
Viking discovery: Stockholm University researcher Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson and her colleagues have provided evidence that women warriors existed in Viking Age Scandinavia. Genetic testing shows the remains of a Viking warrior buried in Birka, Sweden, with two horses and a selection of weapons was a woman. While Middle Ages narratives account for fierce female Vikings fighting alongside men, such women have generally been dismissed as mythological phenomena. There are known Viking women buried with weapons but scholars “have been reluctant to acknowledge the agency of women with weapons,” the researchers reported. Interestingly, before the genetic testing, the skeleton was believed to belong to a man, because of the presence of so many weapons. Even after some preliminary bone analysis suggested it could be a woman, this finding was considered controversial — some dismissed it and others suggested in that case the weapons might be merely signs of family prestige, rather than an indication of battlefield prowess. The DNA testing that was needed for the sex to be conclusive did not occur until decades later. “The identification of a female Viking warrior provides a unique insight into the Viking society, social constructions, and exceptions to the norm in the Viking time-period,” the researchers wrote. “The results call for caution against generalizations regarding social orders in past societies.”
Our rankings of the Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance for 2017 will be online Sept. 25. You’ll find the results on our Women in Banking page when they are posted.
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