Women in Banking: Could Silicon Valley Foster Wall St. Diversity?

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Valley of Diversity: Wall Street could benefit from a diversity push in Silicon Valley of all places. Tech firms are looking to work with women- and minority-owned underwriting firms when issuing bonds – though whether this is meaningful or just a cosmetic change depends on who you ask. The underwriters Intel used when it issued $7 billion in bonds this past summer included the more typical Wells Fargo and Bank of America, along with the minority-owned Williams Capital Group and Lebenthal & Co., a wealth management firm run by co-CEOs Alexandra Lebenthal and Barbara Yastine. Apple also tapped women- and minority-owned underwriters last year. (Some may be dismissive, but I can't help but think the late Muriel Siebert would be pleased about this. I can hear her saying: "I'll tell you one thing: it may make it possible for me to get in some more deals.")

One Way to Find Compelling Leaders: Barclays vice chairman of banking Barbara Byrne spoke about its LGBT-friendly policies at the Clinton Global Initiative's Winter Meeting earlier this month. Inclusiveness improves employee performance and workplace culture, she said. "I've seen time and time again, often the most compelling leadership comes from people who have been marginalized in one culture, and through a different opportunity, they are given access to another culture where they can flourish." Byrne also mentioned that Barclays is the largest employer in Singapore, where homosexuality is illegal. It has an employee network there to facilitate advocacy and ensure employee safety.

Champs in a Crisis: A recently published study supports that notion that U.S. banks led by female CEOs were less likely to fail in the financial crisis than those run by men. The researchers examined 7,000 U.S. commercial banks and found those with female CEOs and chairmen held 5%-6% more equity capital and had lower default risk than those with male leaders. Sami Vähämaa, a co-author of the study, said these findings could be persuasive for European Union policymakers looking into gender quotas that would require 40% of companies' board seats to be filled by women. He added that the findings also could be viewed as evidence that women help avoid excessive risk-taking and potential biases. The trend is especially apparent with smaller banks – which already tend to be more conservative and less risky. Some comments on the article question whether the analysis might be flawed, given that women are more likely to lead small banks.

Lagarde Again: The International Monetary Fund has re-appointed managing director Christine Lagarde for her second term. The former French finance minister (who, incidentally, once said, "Female leadership is more inclusive and probably more risk-averse. What would have happened if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters?") has been praised for supporting emerging markets and their demands for more representation on the IMF board, as well as rebuilding the organization's image following a scandal around her predecessor. Her new term will begin July 5.

Role Call

UBS executive Rosemary Berkery has returned to the Swiss company's U.S. operations after a medical leave. Two of her key titles — chairman of UBS Bank USA and vice chairman of its wealth management group in the Americas — remain the same, but her duties will take on more of a policy and strategy bent.

Nancy Shanik, chief risk officer of Citizens Financial Group in Providence, R.I., will retire on May 31. Malcolm Griggs, Citizens' chief credit officer, will succeed her. Shanik has been the CRO since 2010.

Univest Bank and Trust in Souderton, Pa., has hired Megan Duryea Santana as general counsel, a newly created position. Univest added the position to help strengthen its risk management.

First Busey in Champaign, Ill., has appointed Susan Miller as chief accounting officer. She was previously its deputy chief financial officer.

Texas Capital Bancshares in Dallas has named Patricia Watson, a technology executive from payments processor Total System Services, to its board. Among her previous roles, Watson has worked for Bank of America as a senior technology executive in its treasury, payments and credit area.

Beyond Banking

Gender Bias in Your Dictionary? (Words Matter I): Michael Oman-Reagan, a doctoral student in anthropology at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, recently came upon some less-than-flattering attitudes toward women when looking up examples of how to use certain words, beginning with "rabid," as in, "a rabid feminist." (Oman-Reagan was confirming its meaning, intending to use it to modify "sports fan.") A tweet at Oxford Dictionaries was met by the retort: "If only there were a word to describe how strongly you felt about feminism." Oman-Reagan found many other words whose examples enlist female subjects, like "shrill" and "psyche," sparking a new conversation about whether it's possible for the dictionary to truly reflect proper use of language, as it's used in the real world, without endorsing its ugly side.

If You Want Courageous Girls (Words Matter II): It's obvious that generally speaking boys play harder, rougher and riskier than girls, on and off the field. But why are girls so often raised as delicate flowers? A New York Times columnist says girls are conditioned early to stay inside their comfort zones. They're given more verbal cushioning by parents (Watch out!) when it comes to athletics and that soon transfers to their emotional tendencies. When they become women in the workplace, "this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making," writes Caroline Paul. "We must chuck the insidious language of fear (Be careful! That's too scary!) and instead use the same terms we offer boys, of bravery and resilience. We need to embolden girls to master skills that at first appear difficult, even dangerous."

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