Eyes on Ellen: CIT Group's chairman and chief executive Ellen Alemany hasn't shared her vision for this underperforming SIFI since she took over earlier this year, but a likely sale of its aircraft unit would leave it just above the $50 billion asset mark, the threshold for being designated as a systemically important financial institution. Investors looked forward to some kind of outline from her during a call in March, but she did not say whether she intended for CIT to keep its SIFI status in the long term. Right now, she's busy tackling other issues: the pressure to boost CIT's profitability, the qualitative objection it received from the Federal Reserve on its capital plan, the need to get approval to buy back shares and the ongoing integration of OneWest.
The Golden Rule: "Good service starts with how we treat each other," says Amy Randolph, the chief branding officer at First Busey Corp. in Champaign, Ill. Randolph leads the company's "associate experience" team, formed in 2014 to create a more nurturing workplace. In response to an employee poll taken back then, First Busey created formal training programs and launched several wellness initiatives that include health, fitness and nutrition counseling and increased contributions to employee health savings accounts. The improvements brought First Busey's employee engagement scores from 3.88 out of five to 4.15 (the industry average is 4.05) and helped it land a spot in American Banker's ranking of Best Banks to Work For.
More Than Numbers: Data is like the fuel that helps banks operate and innovate, but it requires some element of human intelligence to extract the right insights. As more banks realize that, the role of the data chief appears to be less and less of an oddity. Sandra Nudelman, head of customer and marketing analytics for Chase Bank; Cara Dailey, chief data officer at Bank of the West; and Theresa McLaughlin, global chief marketing officer for TD Bank Group are among those emerging as the industry's leaders in big data. "Analysts are scarce resources," said Nudelman. "You hear constantly that it is hard to find data scientists. We are not going to find thousands, so we must make sure they are deployed to the biggest opportunities."
Did Someone Say Chief Data Officer?: Data scientist and former Wall Street banker Cathy O'Neil says big data isn't always better data and can be profoundly biased against women and the poor. "If you Google for high-paying jobs, the web just doesn't think of women as successful, and that translates into every machine learning algorithm that has to do with résumés," O'Neil says. "An engineering firm wants to hire an engineer, but in order to build an algorithm to help it, it needs to define success. It defines success with historical data as someone who has been there for two years and has been promoted at least once. The historical data says no woman has ever been here for two years and been promoted, so then the algorithm learns that women will never succeed." But she also says data is not inherently bad; humans just shouldn't hand over their decision-making capabilities to computers relying on historical data. O'Neil was a math professor at Barnard College and quit in 2007 to join hedge fund D.E. Shaw, once part-owned by Lehman Brothers. Now she runs a blog, mathbabe.org, about how biased math models hurt the poorest of the poor.
TIAA will name Kathie Andrade as chair of its expanded bank after it buys Jacksonville, Fla.-based EverBank Financial. Andrade is currently CEO of TIAA's retail financial services business. She will keep that title after the bank deal closes. (Andrade was on our list of the Most Powerful Women in Finance last year for the first time.)
Wells Fargo named Laura Oberst head of business banking. Oberst is a longtime Wells executive, who most recently led middle-market banking for the North region. She joined Norwest, which was later bought by Wells, in 1985. Oberst will succeed Hugh Long, who became its first head of business banking in 2012 and plans to retire at the end of the year.
Meta Financial Group in Sioux Falls, S.D., has promoted Cynthia Smith to chief operating officer. Smith, currently head of technology and operations, will succeed Ira Frericks, who will resign Sept. 9.
New Bancorp in New Buffalo, Mich., hired Shawna Zawada as controller and principal financial officer, after Russell Dahl resigned as chief financial officer. Zawada previously worked at IU Health La Porte Hospital in Indiana.
Family Leave Innovator: Deloitte announced new rules that allow employees to take up to 16 fully paid weeks off to care for a family member (whether that is a child or an ailing parent). The policy applies to all employees, not just women and not just new parents. Birth mothers will now be eligible for up to six months of paid time off when factoring in short-term disability. Among PwC, KPMG, IBM, and Accenture, birth mothers' paid leave eligibility ranges between 12 and 18 weeks. "This is about being more inclusive," said CEO Cathy Engelbert. "As we think about innovation in talent, we think about well-being."
Write a Love Letter (to Yourself): Victoria Beckham's letter to her 18-year-old self is a fun read and makes us think maybe we should all try it. Just shut off that inner critic and look back on how far you've come, and what you've overcome, with love.