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Women in Banking: The Trouble with Leading a Turnaround

Work-Life Balancing Act: At least one woman on Wall Street still believes women can have it all. Kristin DeClark, Deutsche Bank's head of technology equity capital markets — who has worked on the IPOs of Fitbit, NetSuite, Square and GoDaddy — says it takes preternatural organization skills and a lot of dedication, but "there are ways to do it, and there are plenty of examples of women that are doing it." A word of advice from the mother of two (with a third on the way) and competitive runner: "Don't opt out of the career you really like because you're worried about being able to manage a family and other things." Women on Wall Street should invest more in building relationships with their managers and senior women in their organizations to help them promote themselves, without being perceived as too aggressive. "I think most young women don't do enough of that… You have to build a relationship with the people that are managing you until they have a vested interest in your career," she said.

Here Comes the API Economy: Banks have looked to mobile, data, automation, partnerships and the cloud as the forces driving the industry's digital transformation, but the connective tissue under it all is the API, or application programming interface, which allows companies to connect and share data more easily. Secil Watson, Wells Fargo's head of wholesale internet solutions, says APIs will be instrumental in how the bank prepares for the rise of the Internet of Things (by 2020 there are expected to be 50 billion connected smart devices in the world). "APIs are a way to open that door for us. … I'm not going to have an app that sits on Nest just so a company can pay their power provider more efficiently, but I will definitely have APIs that they can use to create a product or augment a product." She leads a department that has created an API channel for its customers to set up their enterprise resource planning systems with Wells' online banking. (ICYMI, American Banker named Watson a Digital Banker of the Year finalist earlier this year.)

Customer Experience Payoff: At its launch in 2004, Citi's ThankYou rewards program had its own separate identity, customer base and website from the rest of the bank. The program languished under a coalition model, where a company offers rewards to customers of other businesses so they can all share customer data. But since Mary Hines joined the bank as managing director of benefits, new product development and global rewards, she's turned things around. Under her leadership, ThankYou pivoted away from the coalition strategy and expanded across the U.S. and to nine global markets. Since just last year, the program has grown 24% in number of redemptions and 8.2% in number of new redeemers. "Rewards programs are even more important today than they were five years ago," Hines said. "Customer expectations have certainly increased, and the ability for customers to take advantage of them when you build the right experience really pays off."

Then and Now: Ivon Creagh, Wells Fargo's community banking area president for the northern New Jersey metropolitan area, began working in banking 34 years ago as the only woman on a 23-person team. Today she works at Wells Fargo, whose workforce is made up of 56% women and where mid-level managerial positions are completely gender-balanced. "Not only was it intimidating in the beginning to walk into a room and see a sea of blue, but also the attitude toward women back then was not inviting nor was it an engaging environment… It's totally different now," said Creagh, who is also a senior vice president. "I report to a gentleman who reports to a female who reports to a female. Out of the five district leaders, four are female." She also talked about the impact mentorship has had on her career, characteristics of successful women in banking and how Wells fosters women in business.

Mutual Matters: Susan Ralston, CEO of Bank @lantec and a longtime advocate for mutual institutions, plans to stay with Dollar Bank after the Pittsburgh mutual absorbs her Virginia Beach organization. In June the mutuals agreed to a combination that would give the $7.4 billion-asset Dollar its first operations in Virginia. Ralston said in an interview with American Banker that she plans to keep pushing for reforms designed to preserve the mutual banking model. She talks about her early links to Dollar, her experiences running a small mutual and why she advocates for this rare breed of community bank.

Role Call

Carrie Dolan has resigned as chief financial officer of Lending Club to pursue a new opportunity. She first broached the idea of leaving early this year and was asked to postpone her plans after the hasty exit of former CEO Renaud Laplanche in May. The company announced Dolan's resignation while reporting an $81.4 million quarterly loss due largely to fallout from that scandal.

In Case You Missed It

Lukewarm Review: Sallie Krawcheck says Equity, the women on Wall Street thriller, isn't representative of what it's like to work there. The representation of women in the film is a plus and the way it highlights the likability complex (apparently likability and success are positively correlated in men, but inversely correlated in women) is important, but the movie is soft on the sexual harassment that takes place. At least for Krawcheck, that was more prominent in the earlier part of her career, and as she moved up the ranks, the gender issues became more subtle, she said. In both phases, "I kept putting my head down and working hard," she said. "I also recognized that as hard as I worked, there were some battles I simply couldn't win." A career on Wall Street has its good parts; Krawcheck often encourages young women to pursue it. Whether or not Equity or movies like it will change the culture remains to be seen, but Krawcheck says she "would also tell [women], particularly if the industry doesn't change, to look for opportunities to compete with it."

Pushing the Dialogue Forward: The Community Reinvestment Act has been noticeably absent from both parties' rhetoric this campaign season, despite income inequality and the banking industry being so high up among their priorities. This is perplexing to the many observers see the CRA as a powerful weapon against racial and socioeconomic redlining. Building on the CRA would be a logical place to start to address income inequality, says Nikitra Bailey, who oversees coalition building and constituent services at the Center for Responsible Lending, but many believe the law is outdated. Nevertheless, community advocates intend to push the issue as much as possible so long as the dialogue on income inequality continues — whether or not a fight to modernize the CRA ever gets off the ground. "It's clear that if CRA got some teeth, it could be a useful instrument for driving people into the mainstream financial services sector," Bailey said. "What we see is a lot of people who should be in the mainstream financial services sector aren't, and that is problematic because … it's a strain for families when they have to pay more for basic financial services."

Beyond Banking

Unfair Scrutiny: What will Marissa Mayer do next, after the merger between Yahoo, where she is CEO, and Verizon, is completed? Women "are getting harsher treatment than men leading difficult turnarounds," said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean at Yale School of Management. "We are just learning how to understand women as leaders." Mayer has been severely criticized over the course of her time at the Internet giant for everything from her management style, to taking very short maternity leaves after the birth of her first child and then later of her twins, to appearing in Vogue magazine. Data shows women tend to be picked for top roles when a company is in turmoil; men tend to be picked to head a company performing well. And when a female CEO can't revive the fortunes of a company heading downhill, observers can quickly forget the circumstances under which she accepted the job. "She will be more likely to fail and we don't see it as due to the conditions she was entering the position under," said Nyla Branscombe, a psychology professor at University of Kansas. "Rather we'll see it as, 'Well, women just can't do it.'"

Need for Speed: The U.S.'s first all-women's Ferrari rally took place last weekend. Six women — pharmaceutical reps, amateur car racers, artists, executives, and interior designers — took four Ferraris and two Lamborghinis on a ride from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. It cost $5,000 to enter a car and $3,500 for each nondriving guest. Proceeds are going to the Prancing Ponies Foundation, an organization that funds international trips for girls who have recently graduated from high school and come from low economic and underserved backgrounds.

Bad Sports: Some media outlets have been discrediting female Olympic medalists this week by implicitly attributing their victories to men. One publication referred to three-time Olympian trapshooter Corey Cogdell, who just won her second bronze medal, as the wife of Chicago Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, without using her name. When Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won the gold medal and broke the world record in the 400-meter individual medley, why was the camera focused on her husband and coach in the stands, with commentators calling him "the man responsible"? Imagine if we talked about male Olympians the way we talk about female athletes.

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