A Pink Bank?: Banca Kristal, which opened this week with the intent of targeting women in Costa Rica, is coming under fire for reinforcing female stereotypes. It describes the design of its branches as "pink and chic" and it had pink and white cars, featuring the bank's slogan, "No Woman is Complicated," driving around on opening day. Banca Kristal is the brainchild of the state-owned Banco de Costa Rica, which plans to expand the concept from five to 20 branches in the year ahead. Each branch opening would cost about $400,000. Another lightening rod for criticism is the Kristal credit card, which carries an interest rate of 36% APR. Bank management has said "health and education" purchases would receive carry a "discount" interest rate of 26%. Yikes.
Thanks, But No Thanks: Barclays CEO Jes Staley has approached Blythe Masters about running the company's investment bank beginning next year, but the former JPMorgan credit and commodities star turned fintech entrepreneur wants to see her venture through. "I can't think of a better person than Jes Staley, nor a more venerable institution than Barclays, but I am in mid-flight at Digital Asset and fully committed to what we are doing," Masters tells Reuters. Masters is CEO of blockchain technology startup Digital Asset Holdings, which aims to improve inefficiencies around post-trade settlement latency. The news solidifies the notion that tech companies are more attractive than ever to financiers, according to Bloomberg Gadfly's take — even more than the opportunity to run a Barclays. The biggest opportunity for bankers is outside the banks, and the people and money will follow it.
Still, Entrepreneurship Isn't Easy: Sallie Krawcheck says her jobs at Citigroup (as CFO) and Bank of America (as the president of the wealth management) were a breeze compared to what she does now. These days she runs a small handful of startups dedicated to the empowerment and advancement of professional women. It's easier to run a company with the luxury of billions of dollars in capital, and entrepreneurialism isn't for everyone, she cautions. "If everybody doesn't show up for work, fully show up for work every day, the business doesn't get done," she says, adding "When you're running Merrill Lynch, there are people who are all over this. When you've got a small company, there's a guy."
Not Her Father's Bank: Santander's executive chairman, Ana Botin, is running the bank in a much different environment than her late father did. He grew Santander through mergers and acquisitions of smaller institutions. She's looking to customers to drive growth by focusing on retail banking services and products — remodeling branches, investing in mobile and digital platforms like Apple Pay and looking out for inspired-by-Wells Fargo cross-selling opportunities of financial offerings. "This is what will allow us to compete in a world where banking customers have more and more choice," she tells Bloomberg. "If we don't do this, then we won't grow in the next decade." Botin says she wants to add 6 million customers by 2018, a goal that comes as financial services are being challenged by tech giants like Apple and Google and customer frustration with sales pressure is a growing concern.
Keane on Life and Leadership: Be respectful, be decisive, be comfortable working with people smarter than you and trust them enough to step back sometimes and let them take charge. So says Synchrony Financial CEO Margaret Keane as she talks about the lessons in leadership she's learned in her career, in an interview with the New York Times. Keane says because her family struggled financially when she was young, she juggled two jobs through college and added a third in her senior year, as a part-time debt collector for Citibank, where she entered the management trainee program upon graduating. "That work defined me in some ways, too, because of what happened in my family," she said. "Believe me, we got collection calls, too. So I have a very high sensitivity to people who run into trouble." Keane has been on American Banker's Most Powerful Women in Finance list since 2007.
In Christine's Corner: IMF managing director Christine Lagarde's five-year term comes to an end in July, but she says she's open to serving another term. Speculation suggests she might be better positioned for reappointment with a move this week that could win her the support of China. Lagarde announced that the yuan will be added to the fund's group of reserve currencies (which currently include the dollar, euro, pound and yen). Lagarde's reappointment depends on the votes of the IMF's 24 executive directors, which represent 188 countries. Ex-board members say it would be difficult to unseat her.
Lloyds Banking Group in the U.K. has made Deborah McWhinney its third nonexecutive director. She joined the board at Lloyds Monday and also serves on its audit and risk committees.
SunTrust Banks in Atlanta has hired Corinne Cuthbertson as a brand, advertising and digital marketing executive.
Fighting Off Takeovers: Activist investors have been targeting some companies with female CEOs this year. Nelson DuPont tried to break up DuPont, leading CEO Ellen Kullman to resign in October; a threatened a proxy battle prompted PepsiCo, led by CEO Indra Nooyi, to add an advisor from the alternative investment management firm Trian to its board; and Bill Ackman took a stake in Mondelez International, whose CEO is Irene Rosenfeld. More recently, Carl Icahn began agitating at Xerox Corp., whose CEO is Ursula Burns. Analysts say the gender of the CEO has nothing to do with activists' targets. Many female CEOs are running firms going through transformations, which is attractive to activists.
Clinton and Warren: This week 13 female Democratic senators endorsed presidential frontrunner Hilary Clinton at a fundraising event in Washington. Noticeably absent from the list of supporters: Elizabeth Warren. Warren has yet to endorse any candidate and Democratic circles see this as an effort to maintain her influence on candidates' agendas rather than as an outright snub of Clinton. Clinton has the support of 75% of Senate Democrats, including 93% of the 14 Democratic women. But Warren's absence underscores the challenge Clinton has with engendering enthusiasm among the most influential and most liberal members of her party.