How to stay relevant: Ally Bank is using a strategy called “customer journey mapping” as it undergoes what Diane Morais said is nothing less than a transformation. The mapping effort ties together longtime industry trends like breaking down silos, eliminating friction from the banking experience and mining data for actionable insight. On the data front, Morais, president of consumer and commercial bank products for the online-only bank, said one of the goals is to have more relevant conversations with customers when they call in. Using advanced analysis of the customer data it already has, Ally created a set of archetypal "personas," which are useful for guiding employees in how to interact with a particular type of customer. Ally also created multidisciplinary teams — groups of business leaders, marketing experts, technologists and other specialists from various departments at the bank — to manage different aspects of the customer journey. They are tasked with making sure onboarding, navigating the mobile app, applying for a loan and other interactions are frictionless for customers. "We are going through an important transformation from what we consider the old way of delivering technology and solutions to using an agile framework and creating much more integrated teams,” Morais said.

Diane Morais, president of Ally Bank.
Diane Morais, president of Ally Bank.


Been there, done that?: Some say the banking industry has avoided the #MeToo spotlight because it has mastered the art of mandatory arbitration, but Ellen Alemany, the chairman and chief executive of CIT Group, believes it is really because banks already had their day of reckoning two decades ago, in the wake of the “boom-boom room” scandal. The industry was terrific about “sensitivity training, making sure you have proper codes of conduct, actually having public firings if someone has demonstrated inappropriate behavior,” Alemany said. “I think it’s really positive that people are feeling they can come out and talk about things right now. But I think as an industry, in financial services, we took a lot of steps.”

Not so fast: In recent weeks, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo have become the first banks to publish “adjusted” gender pay gap numbers — meaning they’ve chosen a forgiving way of measuring the disparity between men and women. All used a statistical model that considers factors like job function, geographic location and tenure. Critics say the approach sidesteps the question of whether women are disproportionately stuck at lower-level jobs. "Congratulations to the companies for being concerned about gender equity and attempting to be more transparent," said Mary Blair-Loy, founding director of Center for Research on Gender in the Professions at the University of California San Diego. “However, what they’ve released is so incomplete, there’s no way for objective outsiders to assess the usefulness of these numbers.”

The exceptions vs. the rule: KeyCorp has had Beth Mooney as chairman and CEO since 2011 and Wells Fargo now has Elizabeth Duke as chairman — but these women are rare exceptions in such roles for the banking industry, said Theodora Lau, director of market innovation for AARP. Women occupy less than 2% of bank CEOs positions and less than 20% of board seats worldwide. Tackling the issue is daunting, but financial institutions need to focus on introducing more diversity in the boardroom and in senior leadership, Lau said. As it is, bank do not reflect the communities they serve. “Boosting gender equality is not simply a women’s issue, but rather, it’s one that benefits men and women alike,” she said.

Final act: “We cannot tolerate pervasive and persistent misconduct at any bank and the consumers harmed by Wells Fargo expect that robust and comprehensive reforms will be put in place to make certain that the abuses do not occur again,” Janet Yellen said on her last day as Federal Reserve chair this week. “The enforcement action we are taking today will ensure that Wells Fargo will not expand until it is able to do so safely and with the protections needed to manage all of its risks and protect its customers.” The Fed voted unanimously to levy an unprecedented enforcement action against Wells restricting its future growth, and Wells simultaneously said it would replace four members of its board of directors. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., praised Yellen for removing the directors, though the order does not actually require Wells to do so, and neither Yellen nor the Fed took credit for their ouster.


More please: Kabbage customers have been asking for larger lines of credit, so the online lender is increasing its maximum to $250,000, pushing deeper into territory traditional banks consider their own. Kathryn Petralia, president and co-founder of Kabbage, said it is also considering ways to use the data it has on customers to make their lives easier. For example, the company might start offering advice about, and access to, services needed to run a business, such as insurance, payroll, enterprise resource management programs or customer relationship management software. “That could help businesses focus more on the things they really love to do and the things they’re really good at,” Petralia said. “We want the chefs to be able to cook and we don’t want them to have to worry about the other parts of their business.”

Welcome to the Twittersphere: Santander’s Ana Botin posted her first tweet on Wednesday, saying, in a mix of English and Spanish, that she decided to go on Twitter “to express what’s on my mind and to find out what others are thinking.” Besides banking, Botin, the executive chairman of the Spanish banking giant, said she might tweet about other interests she has, like education, entrepreneurship, technology, yoga and tea.

Role call

Former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen joined the Brookings Institution this week. It is a move that feels very familiar, as her immediate predecessor, Ben Bernanke, and former Fed Vice Chair Don Kohn both did the same when they left the Fed. Nellie Liang, a longtime official in the Fed’s Office of Financial Stability Policy and Research, also joined Brookings last year after retiring from the central bank. Be sure to check out our quick overview of Yellen’s impact on the Fed, banking and the economy.

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Bloomberg News


Beyond banking

Crunch time: Just because a company has a female CEO doesn't mean it does a good job of reaching women as customers. Just ask Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co., the parent company of Doritos. The snack maker sent the Internet into a tizzy this week with its lady-friendly chips concept, which would eliminate the problems of loud crunching and finger-licking, and come in bags small enough to fit in a purse. “Because women love to carry a snack in their purse,” Nooyi said in her regrettable interview on the Freakonomics podcast. Doritos quickly distanced itself from the idea. In a very interesting essay about companies treating women as outliers, Heidi N. Moore is forgiving of Nooyi, but not of the systemic issues that lead to so many similar business missteps. “Nooyi, a millionaire CEO, probably doesn’t have much in common with the average Doritos consumer, male or female,” Moore said. “She probably gets her theories from researchers, who start with their own presumptions. One way to fix this is to hire more women at every level in corporate America and put them in charge of products.”

Uneven playing fields: The Winter Olympic Games are a study of the gender disparities in sports. Female athletes compete on shorter hills in ski jumping and go shorter distances in speed skating (12.5 laps for women versus 25 laps for men). They also use shorter bobsleds (the event is for two women versus four men). The bobsled competition in particular shows how the impact of such disparities can play out for years after they go away. The four-person event has been open to both genders since 2014, and women have yet to participate in it. Gender stereotypes portray women as weaker than men, and research shows that one culprit behind the gender imbalance in specific sports is people’s perception of those activities as male- or female-appropriate. Though those perceptions shift slowly, some sports, like snowboarding, are seen as gender neutral now. What will it take for other sports to get there? Well, it seems, for women to compete on an even playing field with men, they must, just as a very first step, be allowed.

To hit them on the head, hit them in the wallet: The latest issue of the Canadian magazine Maclean’s has a cover asking men to pay 26% more than women to buy a copy (complete with two bar codes to facilitate ringing up the different prices for each gender at the cash register). The magazine explores the gender pay gap in a series of articles, declaring that pay equity, after years of stasis, is having its moment as the next beat in the #MeToo movement.

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