Amazon's good luck, blockchain dangers and French dissing
Regulators shrug off Amazonophobia too: Bankers once fought off Walmart’s attempts to get a banking charter like their lives depended on it. But they don’t have the same fear about Amazon’s interest in offering bank products, partly because the plan is to do so through a partnership with a large bank rather than to apply for a charter of its own. As it turns out, banking regulators also feel friendlier toward tech companies than they have in the past. “Three or four years ago, we would have been thought of as the regulator who is like the angry dad on the porch with a shotgun” when it comes to partnerships, said Donna Murphy, deputy comptroller for compliance risk policy at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “I’d like to think that at the OCC, what we’ve been working towards is looking at ourselves more like a marriage counselor.” (But is the Amazon threat being underestimated? This slideshow gives an overview of the ways Amazon already has made inroads into financial services.)
Great expectations: People who know Rebeca Romero Rainey expect greatness from her as the leader of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Rainey is less of a firebrand than Cam Fine, who is retiring as the ICBA’s president and chief executive in May, but she is just as effective at winning people over, her supporters said. Cynthia Blankenship, vice chairman and chief operating officer at Bank of the West in Grapevine, Texas, described Rainey as a “velvet hammer.” Rainey, a third generation community banker and former CEO of Centinel Bank in Taos, N.M., said that pushing for regulatory relief is one of her priorities, as is spurring small banks to be more innovative.
Retail tale: Synchrony Financial is dropping the word “financial” from its name and rolling out a content marketing campaign to announce the change. Synchrony plans to create a television program called “State of Pay” through a partnership with CNBC Brand Studio. The program will explore how people shop and pay for things and recognize innovative companies in retail and ecommerce. “Humanizing a brand is a tough thing,” said Elspeth Dixon, Synchrony’s senior vice president of corporate brand. “State of Pay is the perfect platform to help facilitate more positive, optimistic conversations.” The program, which consists of interviews with executives and academics, will be distributed on CNBC channels, Facebook Live, Twitter and Apple News, and will be promoted at live events like the Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas this week. Synchrony, a store-branded credit card issuer, is targeting retailers with its campaign.
Galloping gap: HSBC Holdings has reported a 59% gender pay gap, the widest among the major U.K. banks that have disclosed data so far. The gap between what men and women receive for bonuses is 86%. HSBC also said that although women account for 54% of its workforce, they occupy just 23% of its senior leadership positions.
Bonus round: The gender disparity for Goldman Sachs’ U.K. employees is narrower than at HSBC, with a difference of 56% for pay and 72% for year-end discretionary bonuses. After announcing the data last week, Goldman said in a memo to staff that it intends to have women make up half its workforce in the future, starting with an even split in new college grads hired by 2021. Goldman also said it signed the U.K. Women in Finance Charter, committing the firm to have women in 30% of the positions at vice president level and above by 2023. Goldman is particularly lopsided in its senior ranks – nine out of 10 partners at the firm are men.
Ornamental occupation: Ana Botin, executive chairman of Santander, has pledged to eliminate the gender pay gap for all of its employees by 2025. That includes the staff it hires for events, such as those who help out at its annual shareholder meeting. For years Spanish banks like Santander have hired attractive younger women as hostesses to add elegance and glamour to their public events. Expectations of appearance and gender are changing though. “When I began I only worked with girls and now it’s boys and girls,” said Aira Merayo, a hostess who has worked at events for several Spanish banks, including Santander, over the past few years. Women made up 60% of the staff welcoming investors to Santander’s shareholder meeting this week, which is down from 85% a decade ago, according to the bank.
Hmmm: Douglas Haynes has resigned as president of Point72 Asset Management, a month after a lawsuit accused the firm of discriminating against female employees and creating a hostile work environment. Point72 confirmed his departure in an internal memo that CEO Steven Cohen sent to employees Friday. Cohen thanked Haynes for his work, but did not address the lawsuit or the allegations in it, according to two people who saw the memo and said Haynes’ departure is unrelated to the litigation. Point72 has said it “emphatically denies” the allegations.
Synchrony has hired Trish Mosconi as executive vice president for business strategy and development. She previously worked at BlackRock, where she was a managing director for the financial markets advisory group and leader of the strategic consulting practice.
Rosemary Berkery, vice chairman of UBS Wealth Management Americas and chairman of UBS Bank USA, is retiring at the end of April. Before joining UBS, Berkery had worked at Merrill Lynch for 25 years and served as its general counsel during the financial crisis. She has been in our rankings of the Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance.
JPMorgan Chase has appointed Mellody Hobson, president of the Chicago investment firm Ariel Investments, to its board of directors. Crandall Bowles, a JPMorgan director since 2006, plans to retire from the board in May. Bowles, 70, is chairman emeritus of Springs Co. Hobson, who, like Berkery, has been one of our Most Powerful Women, was profiled in this 2015 Vanity Fair article, titled “Why Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Bradley and Oprah love Mellody Hobson.”
In case you missed it
Beware of Big Brother: JPMorgan Chase’s Amber Baldet gave a master class on blockchains – and Quorum in particular – to a tightly packed lecture hall at an ethereum conference in Paris last week. In detailing some of the challenges with public and private blockchains, she emphasized the need to balance privacy with data transmission. “We could do a lot to reverse the aggregation and centralization and creation of data lakes, which over time, especially in a transparent public blockchain, are going to at some point become surveillance lakes,” said Baldet, who leads the team developing Quorum, JPMorgan’s blockchain project. (By the way, Quorum might get spun off into an independent company, the thinking being that this could help it achieve widespread adoption faster.)
For those questioning cryptocurrency: Many bankers are highly skeptical of crypto, but in this podcast, Grainne McNamara, U.S. blockchain leader at PwC, shares some ideas about how banks could participate safely in digital currencies. She's also come up with a framework bankers could use as they weigh their options.
A fine idea: France is planning new legislation against sexual violence that would ensure “women are not afraid to be outside,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. Police officers would be able to issue on-the-spot fines ranging from €90 to €750 for sexual harassment in public places. Offenses would include “degrading or humiliating comments” as well as hostile and offensive “sexual or sexist” behavior towards a person in a public space. The legislation, which also would increase the time limit for filing rape complaints, is backed by 90% of the country, according to a poll published this week.
Sound of silence: The Weinstein Co. has canceled all the nondisclosure agreements that Harvey Weinstein had used as a “secret weapon to silence his accusers.” The film studio called it "an important step toward justice” for those victimized by Weinstein. More than 70 women have claimed that he sexually assaulted them. “The company thanks the courageous individuals who have already come forward,” it said in a statement. “Your voices have inspired a movement for change across the country and around the world.”
Reciprocate, not rescue: Men can learn a lot from mentoring women, if they listen as much as they talk. Trying to be the “all-knowing guru, dispensing knowledge” tends to imply a “hierarchical, one-way relationship that can frame men who mentor women as champions, heroes, even rescuers,” reinforcing the gendered status quo, professors W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith wrote in the Harvard Business Review this week. Instead, Johnson and Smith suggest “reciprocal mentoring,” which involves more equal partnerships between men and women through mutual listening, affirmation and shared power. “By entering mentoring connections with real humility and curiosity, male mentors may find that they learn more about the experiences of women in their organization, diversify their networks and enhance their interpersonal skills,” the professors wrote, adding that many male mentors reported in their interviews that they benefitted more from the experience than their female mentees did.
Ms. Big: The latest stories on women running for office include one about Cynthia Nixon, of “Sex and the City” fame, who is looking to become the next governor of New York, and another about the dozens of Native American women entering races across the country, including three aiming to be state governors. There has never been a Native American Congresswoman, but that could change this year, with four candidates vying for seats.
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