The Booming Business of Feminism: Women's empowerment has become a multibillion-dollar industry with the explosion of conferences, summits and other live events where women talk about women's success. Whether it's a reflection of the strides women are making in the workplace or of an overall frustration that there's a long way to go, there is a rush to monetize this interest. (Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit is one example.) Barclays vice chair of investment banking, Barbara Byrne, said on Bloomberg Go Thursday morning that she celebrates that some media outlets are making money with women's events and that the impact of these events is increasingly apparent, not just among high-level female execs, but women in general who work full time. She added that most of the discussion happens outside, not at the conference room table, maybe not even at the conference.
Fed Seeks New Payments Head: The head of the Federal Reserve's payment systems division, Louise Roseman, announced plans to retire this year. She joined the Fed in 1985 as a program leader in payments systems and has led that division as well as reserve bank operations for the past 17 years. "Louise's vision and energy during a time of rapid technological innovation have contributed enormously to the Federal Reserve's important mission of fostering a safe and efficient payment system," Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a news release. The Fed did not indicate exactly when her move would take effect. It is currently searching for her successor.
Still Unequal: New York women on Wall Street are only making 60.2% of what their male colleagues do, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Personal financial advisers make 61.3% that of their male counterparts. The BLS says that since 2010, women in New York State have closed the gender pay gap more consistently than in the rest of the country. And the only occupation nationwide in which women make more than men is "stock clerk and order fillers."
Blockchain Boundaries: B of A's technology and operations chief, Cathy Bessant, recently discussed the company's patent strategy for its work on blockchain technology at Davos. B of A is seeking 20 blockchain-related patents in addition to the 15 it previously filed in 2014. The move raises questions about the legality of patenting software whose original code is open source: free for anyone to access, use or modify. "For us it's a balance between not wanting to be Neanderthal but not wanting to put something out in a commercial application" before the use case is clear, Bessant told CNBC. Blockchain technology has been touted as a potential game-changing technology for the banking industry. But as the once obscure technology inches closer to the mainstream, bankers are still trying to figure out exactly how the game is going to change.
Special Treatment: The wealth management industry now sees that it should do more to target female clients, says one FT columnist, but instead of giving women "special treatment" maybe prospective female investors could do their part by getting educated. Studies show that women's tendency to be more risk-averse come from a lack of confidence, not capability, and even those with financial savvy can feel intimidated by industry jargon. Women become more confident in their decisions when they get face-time with an advisor. Further, at least one online investment platform claims to have more female clients than its offline competitors "because computers don't patronize women."
Friend and Foe: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) says that Hillary Clinton's Wall Street speaking fees (which reportedly totaled $3 million between 2013-2015) don't bother her and that Clinton "didn't do anything that other presidents and other secretaries of state don't do." In fact, she said, speaking from experience, that Clinton's Wall Street ties are natural for a former New York State senator — "just like I'm a United States Senator from California and San Francisco Bay Area, where I have Silicon Valley, and Hollywood, where I have the movie industry, and I fight for them," she said. "You have to recognize that Wall Street was part of who Hillary represented." What really matters are Clinton's policies, and Boxer said she's confident the presidential candidate will be tough on banks.
MidWestOne Financial has named Katie Lorenson its new chief financial officer, effective Aug. 31. She'll replace CFO Gary Ortale, who is retiring. Lorenson joined the company in May through its acquisition of Central Bancshares, where she was also CFO.
First Choice Bank in Cerritos, Calif., has promoted Nicole Swain to the newly created position of chief banking officer. Swain was previously a business development officer.
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The Social Credit Score: A new class of fintech startups is using loan applicants' social networks to determine creditworthiness as the banking industry debates the merits of alternate underwriting methods. Melanie Stern, director of consumer lending at Spring Bank in the Bronx, N.Y., says models that do this are particularly effective for assessing borrowers who may not have built a traditional credit history. "We were looking to offer a series of loan products to lower-income consumers, and wanted to use a way to evaluate them for a loan without using traditional credit scores," she said. The firm working with Spring Bank, called Happy Mango, has an added personal financial management element to its offering too. "So even if they don't get a loan, it still provides them with a sense of where they are financially," Stern said.
Female Secretaries ... General: Both of the leading candidates poised to become the next U.N. Secretary-General are Bulgarian women. Irina Bokova is the head of UNESCO and Kristalina Georgieva is the European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources. There has never before been a female at the head of the U.N., and last month U.N. leaders urged member states to nominate female candidates for the job. Ban Ki-Moon is set to step down next year, but the race to replace him is revving up early, considering official discussions on his successor aren't scheduled to begin until July.
The Key to the Clubhouse Is Coding: American computer programmer and author Ellen Ullman was one of the first women to enter the technology industry — and stay a while. She has since retired professionally from that world but continues to be motivated to change the boys' club environment that has prevailed. She is a feminist — not "anti-geek-culture... not anti-technology... not anti-men," as a New Republic interviewer describes her. But she also knows that to ask and re-ask men to change is moot. There's no real incentive for them to do so, she holds. Her pixie dust for change: education. More specifically: self-education. "The way to do it, I think very strongly, is for the general public to learn to code." The way code is written is highly influenced by the different backgrounds and values of those writing it. "It's coding as populism: Self-education as a way to shift power in an industry that is increasingly responsible for the infrastructure of everyday life," she said.