Her American Dream: Where there's a will, there's a way. That's the greatest lesson Julissa Arce taught herself, she says in an op-ed dishing on her rise through the ranks at Goldman Sachs. The tale of Arce's career journey made international headlines when it first surfaced last year — that of an undocumented Mexican immigrant who climbed up from her Goldman internship to become a vice president before the age of 27. Arce says she got ahead by having a plan, being flexible, putting in the hard work and pushing setbacks out of her mind. Tactical steps included checking in with bosses periodically on her progress, setting and receiving expectations for compensation, being intentional about promotions, self-promoting and building a network. "The odds were not in my favor," she says. "I was a woman, I was Hispanic, I had no connections and no legal papers for employment. Wall Street was a boys' club, and I didn't have a membership. Regardless, I had my eyes set on Wall Street and I put all my efforts into getting there."
A Great Way to Boost Your Bottom Line: HarborOne Bank has gone all in on financial literacy programs for the predominantly low- and moderate-income communities it serves. And the bank has earned far more than CRA credit for its efforts: the initiative has brought in new business and boosted its bottom line by $2.5 million annually, says Maureen Wilkinson, HarborOne's vice president of community education. Seeing the impact of the financial crisis locally served as "a call to action" for the bank, Wilkinson says. Its hometown of Brockton, Mass., earned the distinction of having the most foreclosures of any city in the Bay State, and minority members of the community suffered disproportionately. Many had taken out expensive subprime loans because they weren't financially savvy enough to know that they were being scammed. Now HarborOne operates two "campuses" offering free classes in English as a second language, computer literacy, the basics of personal finance, citizenship test preparation and more. The annual budget for "HarborOne U" is $500,000. Wilkinson offers some helpful advice for other banks interested in getting a return on investment from this type of initiative. (Don't miss our special report, "Financial Inclusion: New Ways to Expand Access to Banking.")
Hollywood Calls Out Wall Street: The gender gap in leadership is "a fundamental crisis for Wall Street," argues the show-business daily Variety. This long-form feature story focuses on entertainment analysts — among those quoted are Jessica Reif Cohen from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Alexia Quadrani from J.P. Morgan — as it draws parallels between the lack of women in leadership on Wall Street and in Hollywood. "I would always hear, 'We don't get the resumes' and 'We have a pipeline problem' when I'd ask about women moving to senior-level jobs," says Seema Hingorani, a Wall Street veteran who last year founded the nonprofit organization Girls Who Invest. "This is not about judging and blaming, but fixing. We need to partner together with the men in our business to transform our industry for the better."
Under Pressure: One of the tasks given to Bank of America's new chief administrative officer, Andrea Smith, was overseeing its stress-test submission to the Fed, a process the bank has fumbled three of the past five years. Now B of A's credibility with regulators is at stake, prompting the Wall Street Journal to call Smith "The Woman with the Most Stressful Job in Banking." The former human resources executive was widely seen as a curious choice to lead the project (as we have noted). But B of A's chief operating officer, Thomas Montag, likens her position to that of a conductor: "I have no idea if the orchestra leader can play any of the instruments, but if you don't have somebody at the front providing the timing and the direction and the focus, it sounds kind of lousy." Smith says her job requires changing a mindset, not just some processes. "This is about how we do our job every day," she says. B of A's stress test was due Tuesday, but the Fed won't be releasing its verdict until June.
A Big Deal: This week Ally Financial announced plans to acquire online brokerage and wealth management firm TradeKing Group for $275 million. In this interview, Diane Morais, the president and chief executive of its bank unit, touts the advantages of the deal, saying many of Ally's depositors are affluent and would like help with their "other financial needs" beyond just savings. The market reaction — Sandler O'Neill says the price tag is about 3% of Ally's market cap — has been lukewarm at best. But Morais argues the investment will pay off. "Ally is generating about $250 million in net income per quarter, so we're taking a quarter's worth of net income to meaningfully change our franchise," she says.
Fed FUD: As the eighth anniversary of the financial crisis approaches, Kansas City Fed president Esther George says she is still waiting for the Fed and FDIC to deem the big banks' so-called "living wills" credible. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, banks have been working on plans of action that would spare taxpayers from having to bail them out should they start to fail. "That's an essential step, to know that at least those that will be involved in that resolution process have seen plans that look like they're workable," George says. "We haven't seen those." George cast the only vote in favor of raising interest rates at the latest committee meeting. It was the eighth time she has opposed consensus, out of a total 10 votes she has cast on policy. In this New York Times interview, she talks about why she dissented, the case for raising rates now and the danger of another recession.
Former FDIC chair Sheila Bair is joining the board of the online lender Avant. In this interview, Bair says she believes online lenders' use of technology will lower costs in consumer lending and result in better underwriting decisions.
Regina Meredith-Carpeni, Bank of New York Mellon's chief operating officer for its markets business, will retire in June, after four decades with the company. She is a founder and co-chair of its Women's Initiatives Network.
Bancorp of New Jersey in Fort Lee has hired Nancy Graves as its president and CEO. Graves once served as assistant division director at the state's Department of Banking and Insurance.
Banc of California in Irvine has promoted Thedora Nickel to chief administrative officer. In her new role, Nickel, who was previously a back-office executive at the bank, will oversee human resources and treasury management services, among other duties. Nickel joined Banc of California in 2013 from Bank of America.
In Case You Missed It
Demystifying Money, Not Pinkifying It: The majority of women who participated in a recent survey (91%) said they feel financial companies care more about selling them products than educating them. Amanda Steinberg and Michelle Smith, cofounders of the soon-to-launch WorthFM, a "robo" investing platform for women, say their new venture in meant to address this and other shortcomings highlighted by the survey they conducted with 1,501 women. Steinberg and Smith also insist WorthFM will engage and educate women, without "pinkifying" money. "To say that we're 'pinking up' money is like saying Title IX 'pinked up' sports," Steinberg says. "We're addressing the historic gender inequality that is part of our financial system."
Relationship Building in a Mobile World: Wells Fargo aims to strengthen its customer relationships with a digital overhaul. The company has been remodeling the home page of its mobile browser and app in recent months, focusing on personalization and incorporating informative articles and videos. Nyja Bush Stringer, Wells Fargo's vice president of product management for virtual channels, likens the mobile updates to the Golden Gate Bridge getting refreshed with new paint every few years. "We have to keep up with latest tech and customer expectations," she says.
Let There Be More Robust Boardroom Conversations: Why does appointing women to boards and senior leadership boost a company's bottom line? This study, authored by Lehigh University professor Corinne Post and Georgia State professor Kris Byron, attributes the improved performance to the fresh perspective women bring. "Women tend to be more holistic, think more broadly, be more attuned to environmental and social concerns," Post says. Because of this, women prompt more robust boardroom discussions, going beyond the issues a group of men would typically consider. Women also tend to come to meetings better prepared than their male counterparts, which, funnily enough, has a noticeable effect on the men. "There might be some type of contagion effect where if women come better prepared, then everybody starts preparing better," Post says. "That can help in making better decisions overall." However, the study found that diversity by itself does not lead to better company performance. Other conditions need to be in place. For women to have an impact, the dynamics of the board need to be such that members actively seek input and consider different perspectives.
What Would Amelia Earhart Say?: Women comprise about 5% of pilots globally, and just a "tiny" fraction of them are captains, according to Liz Jennings Clark, chairwoman of the International Society of Women Airline Pilots. Now, with a surge in air travel in and out of Asia, Boeing projects the continent will require 226,000 more pilots over the next 20 years to keep up with demand. That number rises to 558,000 pilots on a global scale by 2034. Sherry Carbary, vice president of flight services for Boeing, expects to see more female pilots as a result. "There is such an enormous demand to meet the growth that the gender bias will have to be pushed aside," Carbary says.