Women of the House: Where are the Republican women on the House Financial Services Committee? Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., recently met with committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, to raise the issue. "Putting a face and a family on real kitchen-table issues out there on the financial service sector is something I think women do best," Wagner said. She is one of two Republicans on the committee, though she hinted she has at least one recruit in mind for the job. The other is Mia Love of Utah. The panel has six female Democrats. "A lot of my male colleagues, and I love them to pieces, but they'll speak in graphs and charts and numbers and instead we need to talk about low- and middle-income investors and put a face on it," she said. "I want to see more women."
Women in Islamic Finance: Banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council are starting to realize that if they want to capture more female customers then they need to recruit more female bankers. Samina Akram is helping empower women in Islamic Finance, running a London-based consulting firm based on Shariah-compliant finance after years running Merrill Lynch's Islamic finance wealth management business. She said that while it's difficult for women in the Gulf nations to break into banking due to religious restrictions on mixed-gender work environments, male bankers can't ignore the fact that women in the region are a growing economic force. According to asset manager and investment bank Kuwait Financial Centre, the net worth of women in the GCC could grow 15%, to $258 billion, by 2023. "The GCC is only now waking up to the fact women have a powerful economic voice," Akram said.
Tech Collaboration: At Bank of the West, collaboration between the tech team and the digital channels group is key to its digital success, says Chief Information Officer Kirsten Garen. Garen joined the $76 billion-asset unit of French banking giant BNP Paribas three years ago, and on her watch Bank of the West has revamped its mobile app, online account opening processes, website and online banking services. In an interview for American Banker's C-Suite Series, Garen said that Bank of the West embeds technologists into all of its major business lines to help business heads create "multi-year road maps" of the bank's technology needs. As a result of collaboration, the bank is better able to attack tougher challenges. "We have one representative for that whole line of business to help us prioritize and respond in a more effective way," she said.
Payments and financial services company Square has named Ruth Simmons to its board of directors. The former Brown University and Smith College president becomes the second woman on the company's board, joining Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker. Square is expected to go public later this year.
Plaza Bank in Irvine, Calif., has hired Kathy Gonzales for the newly created role of director of branch banking, where she manages branch "client experience" by leading initiatives to improve customer service and branch revenue. Previously, she managed retail and sales strategies for 23 branches of Farmers and Merchants Bank of Long Beach.
Webster Bank in Waterbury, Conn., has named Oona Robinson senior vice president, deputy chief financial officer and head of financial planning and analysis. Previously she was treasurer of OneMain Financial, Citigroup's consumer lending subsidiary.
BankUnited in Miami Lakes, Fla., has added two women, A. Gail Prudenti and Lynne Wines, to its board of directors. Prudenti, executive director of the Hofstra Law School's Center for Children, Families and the Law and former chief administrative judge of the Courts of New York, will join the nominating and corporate governance committee. Wines, former president and CEO of First Southern Bank in Boca Raton, Fla., will join the audit and risk committee.
In Case You Missed It
The wheels are turning a little faster for women in the boardroom, according to leadership consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles. Its recent Board Monitor report showed that of 339 new directors appointed to Fortune 500 boardrooms in 2014, 99 were women. At 29.2% of the total, the data represents the second consecutive year that the figure increased by more than three percentage points. Heidrick projects women will account for half of board directors in U.S. Fortune 500 companies by 2024. "One of the biggest obstacles to diversifying the boardroom has been the notion that the ideal director must have CEO experience," Bonnie Gwin, vice chairman and managing partner of the firm's North American board practice, said in a statement. Among Fortune 1000 companies, just over 5% of CEOs are women.
Bank of America's Cathy Bessant says hiring and retaining cybersecurity professionals is the bank's top priority when monitoring security metrics. Turnover in this area is a concern at other companies, the chief technology and operations officer said. "We look at our hiring power against the rest of the industry regarding all-stars. There's a war for talent every day." CEO Brian Moynihan says Bessant "doesn't have a budget constraint" for cybersecurity. B of A spends about $3 billion a year on IT development.
More than a dozen major companies announced new women-focused initiatives at the first White House Demo Day, a showcase of more than 90 startups. This demo day, hosted by U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and President Obama, was particularly focused on women and minority founders. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, among others, used the event as a platform to introduce new recruitment and hiring actions for women at all levels.
New-mom executives in New York have been quietly tapping executive moms around them for knowledge on nannies, daycare, recipes and general family management tricks to help them stay balanced as they continue their corporate climbs. Marisa Thalberg, chief brand engagement officer at Taco Bell, sees them as "an underserved community" and has created a networking group called New York City's Executive Moms. The number of women that work 50 hours a week or more is higher in the U.S. than any other country right now. High-ranking women often have inflexible schedules, or worry that using flexible options colors others' perception of them. So what are these women learning from other executive moms? "The most important thing I learned from the secret society is to not offer my direct report too much information," one member said. "When I start to explain why I'm leaving early or not available that allows others to offer their judgment. Now, I simply say, I have a conflict or I'm not available. End of story."