Taking It to the Street: Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are among the many banks being targeted by a trio of activist investors — Arjuna, Pax, and Trillium — demanding the companies disclose compensation data for men and women and publish statistics about the race and gender of their employees. "Given the financial benefits of diverse leadership teams, the female talent gap is simply bad for business," said Natasha Lamb, Arjuna's director of equity research and shareholder engagement. "Moving women up the ladder is critical, and companies can start by addressing structural barriers, including the gender pay gap." Lamb began the movement earlier this year looking at tech giants such as Intel (which reported it reached 100% gender pay parity), Apple (which says its female employees earn 99.6 cents to every male employee's dollar) and Facebook. Following the success in Silicon Valley, the activist trio began speaking publicly about taking the same measures in financial services. Bank of New York Mellon, PNC and First Republic also have also been targeted, and Arjuna says it plans to file a proposal to JPMorgan Chase.

A Lighter Regulatory Burden?: Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester says the banking system is better off now than it was in the days leading up to the financial crisis, but assures those concerned about the compliance burden that regulators are already making adjustments. "Some of the changes that have come most recently are about calibrating the regulation" to address the level of risk, she says, citing as an example tweaks made to community banks' stress tests. She also says fintech is not so much of "a banking thing" as it is a portal to modernize the payments system. Rather than the technology making banks irrelevant, "I think banking is going to adapt to the technology that's available, so they'll be able to do their jobs better as well." In her interview with American Banker, Mester also shares her views on efforts to reform the Fed, ending "too big to fail," the future of Basel and the impact of a Trump administration on financial services.

The Fed on Fintech: Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard has urged fintech firms to provide affordable access to credit for those who are underserved instead of pushing high-cost loans. It's still unclear where the Fed stands on fintech, however. Speaking at a Fed conference on the topic, Brainard said the central bank is reviewing its guidance for how banks interact with fintech firms. Citing some major concerns around consumer protection, she encouraged a do-no-harm approach. "It is important that regulators and supervisors not impose undue burdens on financial innovations that would provide broad social benefits responsibly." (Separately, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry made similar comments about the ability of fintech firms to promote financial inclusion, when he announced that the OCC plans to develop a special-purpose fintech charter. The OCC is taking comments on the issue through Jan. 15.)

A Perfect Blend All in One App: Mobile could become the one-stop shop that banking companies never quite achieved, blending basic banking, wealth management, and other services, says Carey Kolaja, global chief product officer for Citigroup's fintech unit. This week, Citi FinTech revealed its first consumer product: a mobile-first bank for Citigold clients. It does not try to be everything to everybody, but it does do more than one single function. "Our goal was to start decomposing what's out there today," Kolaja says. "The intent isn't to force everything into this app, but rather to curate it so it fits customers' needs." Nodding to the single-use-case fintech apps that have emerged in the last few years, she said they indicate "the ability for a consumer to make a decision about what to do with that money goes beyond wanting to save it to wanting to invest it — maybe pay off a debt or save for a college fund or treat yourself."

We Hear You: Digital Asset Holdings' Blythe Masters acknowledges that banks' concern about privacy issues seem to be overlooked in the midst of all the blockchain hype. "Distributed ledger technology is fashionable. In fact, if you could wear it, you'd put Ralph Lauren out of business, at least in my case," she says. "The reality of actually industrializing distributed ledger technology is quite another matter. It's a real undertaking."

Role Call

Deutsche Bank hired Elly Hardwick as head of innovation, a role in which she oversees Deutsche Bank Labs. She was previously CEO of Credit Benchmark, a provider of consensus credit risk information, and before that she was global head of strategy, investment and advisory at Thomson Reuters.

Santander Consumer USA in Dallas has appointed Edith Holiday to its board. Holiday served in various roles at the Treasury Department during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. She was the first woman to serve as general counsel of the Treasury, from 1989 to 1990.

Bank of New York Mellon has named two female executives from the energy and technology sectors to its board: Linda Cook of EIG Global Energy Partners and Jennifer Morgan of SAP.

Beyond Banking

The Real Cost of Baby Breaks: It's no surprise that women are hit with a financial penalty when they have children (generally, they lose 4% of their income with each baby), but new research shows that figure is closer to 10% the more skilled and higher paid the new mother is. In the fast track, wages rise more quickly and the cost of taking a break to focus on family is more impactful for women in the long run than it is for men. Men get a fatherhood bonus, because they are perceived as showing "stability" and "commitment" when they have a family. Earnings tend to increase 6% for men with every child they have.

Meanwhile, in India: A six-month-old company in India has hired half a dozen people to make deliveries so far — all women. The startup, which offers delivery services for e-commerce companies, was founded to help bring women into typically male dominated professions. Delivery might seem a modest choice in terms of breaking gender barriers, but in India delivery jobs pay well for people without a college degree. Requiring women to venture out and reclaim their "share of public space" is essential to the company's founder, Yogesh Kumar. "This feeling of insecurity or putting yourself in danger has to go away," he said. "We're taking all the precautions we can, of course, but we want to change the mindset of how people see women in public spaces. We can't always think of women as a species in danger. …That is maintaining the status quo, and we need to change that thinking."

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