Wait, Why Is She Leaving?: In the pursuit of work-life balance, Eileen Serra is making some radical changes. The chief executive of JPMorgan Chase's credit card unit will step down in January and become an adviser to the company on growth initiatives. The 61-year-old Serra, who is one of our Most Powerful Women in Banking, prompted the job change by asking "to better balance her time between the demands of being CEO … and the many other interests in her life," Gordon Smith, JPMorgan's CEO of consumer and community banking, said in a memo Wednesday. Kevin Watters, the head of mortgage banking, will succeed Serra, who has been CEO of the credit card unit for three years. "When she got the call to run the card business, she was kayaking in a fjord in Norway," according to the memo. "She's hoping her recent decision will give her more time for adventure." Cheers to that.
Moving in Fast: On Tuesday, Ellen Alemany was appointed president and CEO of CIT Bank, amid a major housecleaning. She will retain those titles next year when she becomes CEO of the holding company, CIT Group, upon John Thain's retirement. The $65 billion-asset company said it will pay about $60 million in severance to 14 executives who have been dismissed or left the company. That's "basically what it cost to get rid of people, particularly expensive, senior people," Thain said. Those who were terminated include: Lisa Polsky, chief risk officer at CIT Group, and Joseph Otting, former CEO of OneWest Bank, which the company acquired in August. (If you missed our feature profile on Thain this spring, check it out here.)
A New Start: Well-known industry analyst Meredith Whitney is on to a new venture. Whitney has joined Bermuda-based insurer Arch Capital Group, where she'll supervise an equity portfolio with $800 million under management, including money from the likes of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BlackRock. The new job represents a fresh start following a failed attempt to build her own hedge fund. Her hedge fund endeavor was an attempt to capitalize on the fame she had garnered by being among the first in 2007 to warn that Citigroup would cut its dividend in the lead-up to the financial crisis. Whitney opened Kenbelle Capital in 2013 with the help of a $50 million investment from billionaire Michael Platt, which fell flat following bad bets on what Bloomberg described as "companies based in the U.S. heartland." That wasn't the first time she got it wrong though: In 2010, she told "60 Minutes" that major municipal defaults were coming. The bonds ended up improving in value.
A Warmer Warren?: Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton penned an op-ed in The New York Times this week: "How I'd Rein in Wall Street." This won a lot of favor with Elizabeth Warren. Clinton wants to impose a risk fee on the biggest banks and SIFIs that would discourage hazardous, crisis-inducing behavior; expand her plan beyond banking to the whole financial sector; impose stricter margin requirements on short-term borrowing so as to avoid another crisis; and extend the statute of limitations for major financial crimes from five years to 10 and increase rewards for whistleblowers. She also warned that Republicans are trying to defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Whether it's attacking the CFPB, undermining new rules to rein in unscrupulous retirement advisers, or rolling back any part of the hard-fought progress we've made on financial reform, she and I agree," Warren said.
'Inclusion' Confusion: How can financial services even begin to solve the problems of the financially excluded when there isn't even a consistent understanding of what "inclusion" means. Christine Duhaime, founder and CEO of the Canadian think tank Digital Finance Institute, said by any accepted definition, "financial inclusion" is not inclusive, and the kinds of services they measure aren't even relevant to those off the financial grid. According to the Digital Finance Institute, inclusion should be defined as "sustained access to regulated and affordable essential banking services by competent natural and legal persons." Duhaime's organization is closely studying the financial exclusion of refugees, "the poorest of the poor." Refugee children are denied banking access because they're not old enough legally or lack identification — and Duhaime says 34,000 of them become the heads of their households as teenagers after their parents are killed.
Bank of Lancaster in Kilmarnock, Va. has promoted Susan Pittman to the newly created position of chief lending officer. She will manage all commercial lending for the bank and chair its management loan committee.
Santander Consumer USA Holdings in Dallas has named Ismail "Izzy" Dawood chief financial officer, replacing Jennifer Davis, who has served as interim CFO since a July leadership shake-up. Davis will stay with the company as deputy CFO.
29 Years of Mostly Men: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was named Time magazine's Person of the Year. The selection is a notable one: it's the first time in 29 years that an individual woman has been given the honor. The last time that happened was in 1986 with Philippine President Corazon Aquino. In its defense, the magazine points out that it had bestowed the honor upon groups that included women (such as last year's "Ebola Fighters" or 2005's "Good Samaritans," which included the likes of singer Bono, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melissa Gates, and even the planet Earth itself back in 1988). Still, the first time for a solo woman in 29 years? Merkel won the honor for her perseverance in the face of two crises that threatened to undermine both Germany's stability and the health of the European Union at large: the Greek debt crisis and the Syrian refugee crisis.
Saudi Arabia's Historic Vote: For the first time ever, Saudi Arabia is allowing women to run — and vote — in a nationwide election. Up for grabs in Saturday's historic vote are municipal council seats across the kingdom. It's being heralded as a major advancement for a country where women are not allowed to drive and must receive a male guardian's approval to travel abroad. Across the country more than 900 female candidates are running for election. Still, many people hold reservations about the vote. Some say that the elections merely cover up far-reaching human rights issues. After all, the municipal councils have very little power. Others are worried for an entirely different reason: not very many women registered to vote and there's a chance that none of the women running for office will be elected.