Sorry, not sorry: While some policymakers are open to accommodating fintech companies with looser oversight than is applied to banks, New York State Superintendent Maria Vullo is unapologetic about her tough approach: technology-driven financial providers must be regulated just like everyone else. “We’re regulating the institutions; we’re not regulating the technology,” Vullo said in an interview with American Banker. “What these entities want to do is they want to say, ‘We don’t have to comply with New York law; we can charge whatever interest rate we want.’ Well, do it in a state that allows it. New York doesn’t allow that.” The Italian-American Brooklyn native rose from a lower middle-class background through the ranks of the New York white-collar elite, thanks to her outspokenness and ability to quickly absorb complex topics. She recalled running for class president in sixth grade and losing by one vote — to a boy, a memory that stings her to this day, she said. She credits her mother with helping spark her courage. “My mother, in particular, encouraged her daughters to stand up for themselves,” said Vullo, a parent to two adopted children. “It probably helped me in my profession and in the business world, where stereotypes of what leaders should be are male models.”

Maria Vullo is the superintendent of New York's Department of Financial Services.
Maria T. Vullo, the superintendent of banks for New York.

Engagement begets engagement: PNC’s head of retail banking and chief customer officer, Karen Larrimer, is leading the effort to grow its consumer banking business, cultivate customer loyalty and ultimately gain more wallet share. Larrimer is focused on Net Promoter Scores as her gold standard for gauging customer loyalty and is now turning to an employee Net Promoter Score to better gauge employees’ enthusiasm. “We’re still learning from it. But the strong belief that we’ve held as a company over the years is that strong employee engagement yields strong customer engagement,” she said. Read Larrimer’s full interview with American Banker for more about the restructuring of PNC’s retail bank, moving small businesses with revenue of more than $5 million into PNC’s corporate bank and eliminating a financial specialist role from the branch network. (Larrimer appeared on our list of the Most Powerful Women in Banking for 2016 and 2015.)

A piece of the loan diversity puzzle: NBT Bancorp in Norwich, N.Y, is working with the fintech startup Sungage Financial to diversify its consumer loan portfolio. Sungage has a speedy approval process that allows contractors installing solar panels in homes to give customers financing on the spot. In some cases, people can significantly reduce their traditional electric utility bill by installing solar panels on their homes, said Dawn Gillette, NBT’s senior vice president for specialty lending. But solar panels cost $30,000 on average, which most consumers can’t come up with out of pocket. “Financing that purchase gives the consumer the opportunity to achieve the savings made possible by solar and do something good for the environment, as well. For us, that made the solar panel lending opportunity incredibly attractive,” Gillette said. NBT also looks at its partnership with the Boston-based startup as a learning experience. The arrangement is part of a larger trend with community banks, which are seeking a way to compete in what has become a crowded digital lending marketplace.

Not your average bot: Despite the popularity of robo-advisers, clients still want a human being to help them navigate complex life questions, according to Morgan Stanley’s chief digital officer for wealth management, Naureen Hassan. Rather than “replace our advisers with some cyborg bot,” predictive analytics and machine learning will help them serve clients in a “faster and smarter” way, she said. “Imagine giving an adviser a team of smart research analysts and client service staff who can sort through advisers’ paperwork, hand them the most relevant insights exactly when they need it, predraft personal responses for their approval and send it out,” Hassan said. “That’s the promise.” She emphasized that Morgan Stanley is not sending its insights to clients through its email bot. “At the end of the day, the financial adviser knows their client the best, and is in the best place to make that judgment as to whether or not we’ve gotten it right and that it’s relevant for that client,” she said.

Back to front: Automation in financial services is nothing new, but for the most part it’s been relegated to the back office, said Beatriz Martín Jiménez, the chief operating officer for UBS’ investment bank and the U.K. region. “The belief has always been that the front office has less repetitive tasks than the back office. I think that is true. But that number is not zero. We really would like our front office people to be more effective and productive.” UBS has developed a machine-learning investment strategy that reads massive amounts of data before making recommendations on investment strategies. None of its clients have chosen to use it so far, but Jiménez is confident one soon will. “All these things, the power of digesting and analyzing data, is what we believe is the future and will help us be more productive in doing the jobs we do,” she said. “The day is only so long and you need to make calls. If you can target those calls, in terms of not of who you call but also what you talk about, that is so much more powerful.”

Here’s where you can achieve your goals: Crowdfunding helps to level the playing field for women who are raising money for an entrepreneurial project, according to a new study. When using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, women meet their funding targets more often than men do, a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Crowdfunding Center shows. Globally, females were 32 percent more successful than males in getting the full amount they sought; in Asia, women achieved twice as much success as men. Most crowdfunding investors, regardless of gender, found the use of emotional and inclusive language in the pitches from women more appealing than the business language commonly adopted by men, according to the study, which analyzed more than 450,000 seed crowdfunding campaigns. With traditional sources of financing like venture capital and banking, “there is definitely bias” in favor of men, Shinjini Kumar, head of Citigroup’s consumer banking in India, said in the report. “We see that all the time.”

Dead men on dollar bills: The Bank of England unveiled the new £10 banknote featuring Jane Austen this week, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of her death. The bills will enter circulation in September. On that note, check out this analysis of the history of men on banknotes. “Our global study of faces on banknotes makes one thing clear,” it says, “the patriarchy is alive and kicking in wallets and purses worldwide.”

In case you missed it

Growth hacking: Thirty years ago, Bank of the West’s chief executive officer, Nandita Bakhshi, got her start in banking as a part-time teller in Albany, N.Y. Among the things that have influenced her career and her leadership style is the rule of thirds: “You have to have one-third of your job feel comfortable, one-third feel a stretch and the last third should feel white-knuckle stress. That’s what will allow you to grow,” she said. She also gives credit to the people around her that have challenged her to grow. “I’m also a big proponent of hiring the right team. You should surround yourself with people who are better than you.”

Beyond banking

Still a boys’ club: Half of the 75 largest IPOs of the last three years were for companies that had all-male boards, according to an advocacy group called 2020 Women on Boards. Three-fourths of the companies went public with one or no women on their boards; within two years of going public, representation remained unchanged for two-thirds of them. The analysis was of U.S. companies with the largest market capitalization on the day their shares began trading between 2014 and 2016. It’s the first research about the gender makeup of newly public U.S. businesses, according to Malli Gero, the president of 2020 Women on Boards, a group that, as its name implies, aims to increase women’s board representation by 2020.

The fanboys are not happy: The BBC has revealed the identity of the 13th incarnation of the title character from the cult sci-fi series “Doctor Who:” Jodie Whittaker. Chris Chibnall, the show’s incoming head writer, said he “always knew he wanted the 13th doctor to be a woman.” This is the first time a female will play the role, and the decision prompted inevitable complaining (some of it crude). “The internet can bluster all it wants – arguments against diversified representation are inherently self-defeating,” Lindy West wrote in the New York Times. “If representation doesn’t matter, then why would men be unhappy with less? What’s 92 percent of doctors instead of 100 percent? … No one has even proposed that the next two doctors be women, let alone the next 12, let alone actual parity. We are not even asking for equality, and it’s too much. That’s because inequality isn’t a bug; it’s a feature.” Meanwhile, the decision also brought joy and a sense of empowerment to young girls and their parents, whose reactions you can check out here. The BBC issued a response to the many complaints; its message was, effectively, “Deal with it.”

What’s in a name?: In 1932, Amelia Earhart wrote the New York Times publisher asking if the paper could stop calling her by her husband’s name — and it worked. See the letter here.

Sarah Wynn contributed to this report.

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