Women in Banking

Better representation on corporate boards, less diversity in central banking

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One year later: In the year since State Street introduced us to the Fearless Girl, more than 150 companies it targeted for not having a female director have added at least one. For companies that haven't made any changes, "the bar is going to be much higher this year," said Rakhi Kumar, head of ESG investment strategy (that's short for environmental, social and governance). State Street focused on 787 U.S., U.K. and Australian companies without any female directors. It’s adding boards in Japan and Canada to the target list this proxy season and will seek improved disclosure on diversity at every level to boost the pipeline of senior female executives. "We still have a long way to go but we're happy to see the impact we've had so far," Kumar said. "This is about diversity of thought and backgrounds. Women could be 50% of your customer base, and 30% of your employees. How are you representing the views of half of society?”

Wall Street to Wyoming: Caitlin Long, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley, is a key figure in an effort to introduce a clutch of bills to turn one of the least friendly states for digital-asset businesses, Wyoming, into an ideal environment for them. She and her partners have introduced five bills so far, the latest of which would ensure cryptocurrency holdings remain exempt from state property taxes. “There's such a void for regulatory clarity,” Long said. “Just having a state where you know you're not going to have issues on the state level is very helpful to the industry. [The regulations in] New York, frankly, may be worse than the federal laws; same thing with California … the last thing [businesses] want to do is pick a state where they're worse off than they are with the federal regulations.” Check out the rest of her interview, in which she discusses concerns about greater institutional involvement in crypto, why Wall Street is so excited about bitcoin and how her efforts in Wyoming could shape the industry’s future.

Today’s leaders: There’s a greater acceptance of women in senior levels and in the board room than there was a decade ago, according to Diane Morais, president of consumer and commercial banking products at Ally Bank. She and her colleagues, Chief Financial Officer Jenn LaClair and general auditor Stephanie Richard, went on Cheddar to discuss unconscious bias, being clear about expectations, mentorship and sponsorship, and the importance of company culture and how firms show support for women. Ally “puts women up in front of the organization and supports them along the way to do that,” which gives them the confidence to take certain career steps, LaClair said. Support and flexibility are also key, Morais added. Women tend to “over explain” things in a way men don’t, and a company should make them feel comfortable and confident enough about what they need without feeling the need to apologize. “You might have to leave early to take a kid to daycare or a doctor — we don’t need to give the 20-minute soliloquy of all those things. [You can just say] ‘I need to leave at 4 today, I’ll be back online and I’m available via the cell phone.’” In a separate interview, JPMorgan Chase's chief marketing officer, Kristin Lemkau, spoke about the diversity gap among women. “We all have to own this as part of the sisterhood,” she said. “The benefits of much of the diversity effort have gone to white women” (who make up 18% of women in the C-suite versus women of color who comprise 3%) “and people of color are being left behind. It’s not until anyone in the C-suite says ‘this is my problem’ not just the person of color’s problem, in the same way we saw more representation of women as our problem that this will get fixed.”

Social experiment: Add Natalie Bartholomew, chief marketing officer at Grand Savings Bank in Grove, Okla., to the growing list of bankers — particularly women in banking — developing her social media skills as a branding exercise. Bartholomew is the founder of The Girl Banker, a blog dedicated to touting the accomplishments of women in her industry. “I realized I had a voice,” she said. “A fun, random idea has blossomed into something that is taking off.” Jill Castilla, the chief executive of Citizens Bank of Edmond, who has one of the largest Twitter followings of any bank executive, was an inspiration for the blog. Bartholomew’s vision is to build a brand that sparks important conversations about women in the historically male-dominated banking industry, give a voice to professional women navigating their careers and inspire the next generation of female bankers.

Compliance vs. customers: The reform bill awaiting a vote in the Senate will allow community banks to focus more on their customers and less on compliance, says Kathryn Underwood, president and CEO of Ledyard National Bank. For “far too long” community banks have been sidetracked by escalating compliance costs due to increasing regulations, leading to decreased availability of credit for consumers. Once there is some reform of the overly complex regulations for community banks, "my staff can focus on the needs of our borrowers rather than the mounds of regulatory paperwork meant to rein in Wall Street’s excesses,” Underwood says.

Trending down: The world of central banking is becoming less gender-diverse, according to the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum. One gender balance index fell to 19% in 2018 from 31% reflecting a decline in senior leadership positions filled by women. With the departure of Janet Yellen from the U.S. Federal Reserve last month, the score for North America fell to 24% from 68%. Minouche Shafik and Kristin Forbes also left the Bank of England last year, bringing the U.K.’s score down to 20% from 29%. The top 20 most gender-balanced countries are mostly small ones that make up just 6.6% of the world economy, including four in the Caribbean, two in the Asia-Pacific region, one in Africa, and others in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union.

Women and wealth: More and more women are rising through the Asia private banking ranks. Seven of Hong Kong's Private Wealth Management Association's nine-member executive committee are women and at the top private bank by assets under management in Asia, UBS, the ratio of female to male private bankers in the region is now 60:40. Many female private bankers attribute the shift in leadership to “soft” factors, such as the fact that women tend to be more sensitive, empathetic and better at building rapport than men and tend to be better at multi-tasking. Women in Singapore and Hong Kong may also find it easier to put in more hours at the office because live-in helpers are commonplace there. The world’s banking landscape is changing. Women hold 30% of global private wealth and the wealthiest investors are pushing for positive social impact beyond just financial returns. “Wealth management is a crucial part of any bank's offering,” Bloomberg’s Nisha Gopalan writes. “It ties up less capital at a time when risk is expensive; for several financial institutions, it's the future. So are the many women holding the purse strings.”

Deal or no deal?: Wondering how Maria Contreras-Sweet navigated her complex, off-again, on-again deal to take over the Weinstein Co.? Read all about the unwinding of the original deal in this deep dive by the New York Times. The community banker-turned-entertainment mogul ultimately succeeded in getting a deal done, as we previously noted here. She plans to transform the film studio into a female-led entertainment venture.

Beyond banking

#IWD2018: Happy International Women’s Day. To mark the occasion the New York Times is highlighting the stories of 15 “overlooked” women whose deaths went unremarked in its obituaries over the centuries — including Ida B. Jones, Sylvia Plath and Ada Lovelace — and plans to add more women as a regular feature of the section. Check out the first 15 here. NBC has a photo feature highlighting female pioneers thriving in once-male domains — firefighters, prison guards, butchers, weightlifters — all around the world, which you can check out here. And the LA Times has a "By the Numbers" feature for the day, which includes 12,000, the average pay in dollars for women worldwide, and 830, the number of women who die each day from pregnancy complications. Check it out here.

Satire: For the cynics out there, here are some other ways women are breaking glass ceilings: in paper towels, fried chicken mascots, whiskey and now, McDonalds — or WcDonalds. The company has flipped its golden arches online and in one physical location in California to honor women everywhere, yay!

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Diversity and equality Corporate governance Compliance Marketing Diane Morais Women in Banking