Blythe is Back: The October cover story of Bloomberg Markets has been making its way around the financial sector since its online publication Monday. In a feature on blockchain technology, the code that powers bitcoin, Blythe Masters tells the world why she takes this new technology so seriously, and why the rest of the banking industry should too. She's betting it will rewire the financial system and potentially save banks up to $20 billion annually in settlement, regulatory, and cross-border payment costs. The ex-JPMorgan credit and commodities star (who Warren Buffet once said built the financial weapons of mass destruction faulted for the 2008 financial crisis) has quickly been getting back on the finance sector's radar after leaving JPM last year. She's now the chief executive of blockchain tech startup Digital Asset Holdings, which acquired two similar startups this year; an advisor to Bitcoin trade group Chamber of Digital Commerce; and chairman of Santander Consumer USA Holdings.
Annie, Get Your Camera: UBS has commissioned famed photographer Annie Leibovitz to help its image, which has been tarnished by a slew of unflattering headlines this year. The Swiss bank commissioned Leibovitz to shoot portraits of "notable" women, which will continue her 1999 series, Women. The subjects haven't been announced yet but they will document "the ways that women's roles are changing in a society where feminism has recently come to the forefront." Leibovitz also will shoot entrepreneurs asking the big life questions: "Is my business growing fast enough?" "Am I a good father?" "Can I truly make a difference?" The campaign is meant to express "the successful strategic transformation UBS has undergone over the past four years," group chief executive officer Sergio Ermotti said in a statement. Whether it will help people get past headlines about manipulating foreign exchange rates and rigging Libor is an open question.
Fewer Loans for Small Businesses and Fewer Women in Alt Finance: Traditional U.K. banks have reduced their exposure to small- and medium-sized enterprises thanks to mounting regulatory pressure requiring they hold more capital, according to Louise Beaumont, head of public affairs and marketing at GLI Finance, an investor in the SME alternative finance sector. They're also less equipped to deal with small businesses than some alternative finance and lending platforms, and this problem has brought core bank business lending down 5% year-over-year and 17% from four years ago. "Banks clearly have areas that they do well" and won't stop small-business lending, she said, but younger, tech-enabled companies are key to improving loan rates. In the same interview she said gender diversity is "really thriving" in sales and marketing, credit assessment and risk management, and finance and operations, but that more innovative alt-finance companies are largely "founded by individuals with a tech background, which means lots of guys."
Paying to Play on Wall Street: On Monday Hillary Clinton backed a bill introduced in July by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. that would reduce Wall Street's revolving door of workers moving between the public and private sectors. The Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act would ban government workers from accepting bonuses from former corporate employers and require a two-year hiatus when moving between private- and public-sector jobs. In a Huffington Post piece they co-authored, Clinton and Baldwin write that Americans should "be able to trust that every single person in Washington … is putting the interests of the people first." "If you're working for the government, you're working for the people – not for an oil company, drug company, or Wall Street bank or money manager."
Calling all millennial bankers: American Banker Magazine is looking for interesting millennial bankers to profile in an upcoming issue. If you know of a man or woman in banking (born between the early 80s and the early 00s) who initiated a project with great results, somehow managed to get people thinking out of the box, or otherwise is having an outsize impact, please let us know here! We'd be particularly excited to find some millennials who are excelling in a leadership role, but we are just as interested to hear about those who are leading from where they are.
Regions Financial in Birmingham, Ala., has named Kate Randall Danella wealth strategy and effectiveness executive for its wealth management division, a newly created position.
First Banks in St. Louis has promoted Shelley J. Seifert to chief operating officer, a newly created position. She was previously chief administrative officer.
Four Oaks Fincorp in Four Oaks, N.C., has named Deanna Hart acting chief financial officer after longtime CFO Nancy Wise resigned. Hart has been Four Oaks' controller since January 2014.
Carolina Trust Bank in Lincolnton, N.C., has added Jennifer Marion Mills to its board. Mills is an auto dealership executive at Randy Marion Automotive Group, a General Motors dealership in Mooresville.
28 Years Is Too Long: At the going rate, it'll take 28 years to achieve gender parity in the corporate boardroom. In a Forbes opinion piece, Sabina Nawaz suggests companies aren't walking the walk and instead are all talk. "So what does a real solution to fixing gender imbalance look like? Like a fitness program, it starts and ends with honesty," Nawaz writes. Companies need to be honest about their number of women in leadership roles, disclose the results publicly and use that information to create and execute plans that result in change. "Put a program in place to meet quantifiable metrics by a certain date. Promise to have 50% women in board director and C-level positions within four years. And then publish your results online for everyone to see. Anything less than this level of commitment is not going to produce real results."
The Sporting Life: This fun roundup of banking executives with sports ties includes Katherine Blackburn, a Cincinnati Bengals executive who was named to the board of Fifth Third Bancorp in December. Banking's relationship with sports goes back more than a century. The "father of baseball," Alexander Cartwright, worked at Union Bank of New York before he established the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club.