Women in Banking

Wall Street women march; UBS' new female-friendlier strategy

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Wall Street women march on Washington: Women working on male-dominated Wall Street often feel that it is better to draw as little attention to their sex as possible, and public demonstrations of any kind are not the norm for them. Yet dozens of them made the trek to Washington to participate in the Women's March this past Saturday. "I never have done anything like this in my life before, and I just feel like it's a time when everybody has to stand up for what they believe in," said Lebenthal & Company President and Chief Executive Alexandra Lebenthal, who identified herself as a Hillary Clinton supporter. As is to be expected, some Wall Street women said they avoided the march, fearing backlash from colleagues, superiors or clients who were either Trump supporters or critics of public activism (and of course, many financial companies' share prices surged since the election, a potentially positive sign for compensation at those firms for women and men alike). "I have friends that voted for Trump," Lebenthal said. "I have a major issue with that, but it's their right. And I wouldn't stop doing business with that person if they voted for Trump." Likewise, she isn't concerned about the possibility that clients could reconsider doing business with her over her involvement with the march. "If that happens, it happens," she said.

The future (of UBS) is female: The wealth management arm of UBS is "retraining" its advisers to deliver a more female-friendly customer experience. Specifically, women will be "served with a different dialogue that places greater focus on their aspirations as opposed to pure investment outcomes," the bank said this week. Women's global wealth is expected to grow from $13 trillion to $18 trillion by 2021, according to UBS research. The bank also predicted the amount of private wealth controlled by women will grow 1.6% faster year-over-year than that controlled by men. The new training for advisers recognizes that women have "very distinct" needs, said Olga Miller, managing director at UBS Wealth Management. The bank also has committed to increasing the ratio of women in management roles from one quarter to one third.

On the sidelines: While some regional bank CEOs have said they are open to pursuing deals, others are focused on making the most of acquisitions they have already done. Take Beth Mooney, KeyCorp's chairman and CEO. She said there are opportunities for her bank to capitalize on new business lines it entered through its purchase of First Niagara last year. For example, First Niagara's $3 billion indirect auto portfolio can help Key deepen existing customer relationships and stimulate growth, she said.

What's the five year plan?: Major U.K. banks may not get a female CEO for at least five years, according to Megan Butler, the Financial Conduct Authority's head of supervision. She's losing patience with the country's white male bank culture. "It's extremely rare that in my professional life I have a conversation with a head of desk at an investment bank or a global head of business that is anything other than a white male," she said at the Women in Finance Summit in London. "I've increasingly come to find that a little bit difficult to take." Butler began her career in finance in the 1980s, when she was usually the token woman. Today she supervises most major U.K. financial firms and it looks almost the same, she said. "For 20 years I was completely resistant to the idea of having targets on gender. I found it patronizing and insulting and I didn't want there to be any taint on any achievement I ever had. But I look back and there hasn't been significant change quickly enough."

Dress codes for women only: The U.K. parliament published a report this week revealing that legislation meant to ban sexist dress codes in the workplace hasn't been enforced and suggesting firms be fined for noncompliance with the law. The report, "High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes," also found that workplace dress codes were more strictly enforced with women than with their male counterparts. In addition, women reported being asked to wear shorter skirts and unbutton blouses. Now the two parliamentary committees that jointly issued the report - the committees for Petitions and for Women and Equalities - are calling for a review of current equality legislation. Incidentally, this week's report runs counter to previous reassurances from now U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May that the country's existing equality laws are adequate. In 2011, when she was women's minister, she dismissed concerns about traditional gender-based dress codes, saying they "encourage a sense of professionalism in the workplace." (The report got underway after the infamous incident with Nicola Thorp. You may recall that the former temp receptionist at PwC was dismissed without pay after she arrived at work wearing flat shoes and refused to go out and buy a pair of two- to four-inch heels to wear instead.)

Role call

Blue Gate Bank in Costa Mesa, Calif., has opened, with Molly Gallaher Flater as its chairman. Flater, whose family is the principal shareholder group for First Community Bank in Santa Rosa, Calif., began taking steps to form Blue Gate in 2015, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. approved the bank's charter application in October. That's no small feat - de novos have been a rarity since the financial crisis.

The online-only First Internet Bank has promoted Nicole Lorch to chief operating officer. Lorch, who has been with the bank since it opened in 1999, was most recently senior vice president of retail banking.

In case you missed it

Tilting point: The collateralized loan obligation funds operated by Lynn Tilton's private equity firm, Patriarch Partners, are suing her for siphoning more than $1 billion in fees and assets from investors and the troubled companies she manages. She has denied the allegations against her and called the lawsuit "frivolous, baseless and vexatious." According to the lawsuit, Tilton has been running a racket, not a turnaround empire. "The Patriarch Enterprise's repeated, continuous, and flagrant violations of law constitute a pattern of racketeering activity," it says. Tilton has been dealing with a lot of legal trouble lately, including fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission and a lawsuit from the German bank Norddeutsche Landesbank.

Beyond banking

Am I dateable?: It appears that women's progress in the job market is at odds with their success in the marriage market. A new study shows single women have a tendency to downplay their success and their career goals - including salary expectations - around men, whether consciously or subconsciously. One theory is that this behavior is a response to the unconscious bias against women who come across as ambitious. Despite efforts to advance women's equality, men are still rewarded for being assertive and successful -- in their professional and personal lives - while women are not. Actions that may help women advance at work like speaking up in meetings or asking for a raise signal ambition or assertiveness, "and those things are penalized for women in the marriage market," said Amanda Pallais, an economist at Harvard University and co-author of the study. In the study MBA students were asked to state their career goals. When women thought only the evaluator would view their statements, they set a higher bar for themselves. But when they believed their peers would also see, the salary requests were significantly smaller and the career goals were less ambitious for the unmarried women compared with the men and the married women.

A seat, and voice, at the table: Tomorrow, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May meets with Donald Trump, becoming the first European leader to do so since he became president. Following the women's marches in cities around the world last weekend, May promised to speak up whenever necessary about women's issues, as she tries to secure the U.K.'s "special relationship" with the new U.S. administration. "When I sit down (with Trump) I think the biggest statement that will be made about the role of women is the fact that I will be there as a female prime minister," she said. "Whenever there is something that I find unacceptable I won't be afraid to say that to Donald Trump."

Put this on today's to-do list: Closing the gender pay gap is not a one-and-done type of project. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff acknowledged in Davos that, although it was only 14 months ago that it managed to close its gender pay gap, it also just bought "a bunch of companies," thereby inheriting their cultures and pay practices. Now, Salesforce is looking forward to making some more employee compensation tweaks. "Every CEO needs to look at if they're paying men and woman the same," he said. "That is something that every single CEO can do today."

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