Fed Talent Refurb: The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, like most places, has a gender gap among other diversity gaps that it has worked hard to close in the last four years. Mary C. Daly, senior vice president and associate director of research at the San Francisco Fed, recently took to Medium to tell the story of how it did that, emphasizing that where there were stark gender imbalances (80% male research associates versus 20% female RAs, for example), they held the power to erase the habits perpetuating the problem. "As a gay woman working in a male-dominated profession, I'm acutely aware of the need for diversity and the importance of being included. And yet, I've made excuses," she says. "The biggest change was in our mindset. We acknowledged that we were not victims of a backwards world but rather causalities of our own excuses." She says they also learned that committing to diversity goes beyond hiring Ph.D.s to growing the pipeline of future graduates. "We are as responsible as anyone for building the bench of new Ph.D. economists, and we can begin by committing to diversity among RAs."
Mentorship Management: Wendy Papworth, director for global diversity and inclusion at Barclays UK and Barclaycard, gave an interview recently following a report that a third of British businesses have no female senior managers (surprise, surprise). Change doesn't happen overnight, which means that so-called commitments to long-term gender balance have to be sustainable at all levels. That means organizations need interventions at every stage, she said; "ensuring diverse hiring panels and slates, running programs that encourage women who have put their careers on hold back into the workplace at all levels and fostering strong employee diversity networks that provide support, networking and opportunities for development." She also discussed the importance of mentorship, but warned, "make sure you manage and own the relationship. They are giving you the gift of their time and experience, use it wisely."
Online Lending Is Blind: For women small-business owners, the online lending movement appears to be opening doors. Female entrepreneurs who apply for loans online and are evaluated by an automated system get a bigger share of online credits than they do traditional in-person bank loans. It could be a sign that automated credit decisions are fairer. About 30% of loans made through SmartBiz Loans go to women-owned businesses; at Fundera, one in four applicants are women and 25% of loan recipients are women. Just 18% of Small Business Administration 504 and 7(a) loans were made to women-owned businesses in fiscal year 2016, the SBA said. "Everyone has bias. It's not intentional a lot of times," said Erin Andrew, associate administrator for the SBA's Office of Capital Access, who until recently ran the agency's women-owned business program. With online lending, "You're looking at the numbers, you're not looking at me. When lending is blind, you see the borrower based on what they have to bring to the table, what the business looks like — you don't see them based on gender."
Millennial Means: Centric Bank in Harrisburg, Penn., has formed a Millennial Advisory Board, partnering with the 1,500-member Harrisburg Young Professionals, to help it tap into the needs and preferences of "the largest population in the U.S. workforce" when it comes to "what type of relationship [they] want to have with their bank, what financial services they need, and how we can connect with them more authentically," said the bank's CEO Patti Husic. Each member of the 16-person board will serve a two-year commitment representing either the Harrisburg Young Professionals or Centric Bank, and will meet quarterly. "We want the customer to dictate what the banking relationship should look like, and we'll respond by meeting those needs," she said. "Excellent customer service invites a two-way conversation with your audiences. We are not relying on statistics alone or third-party market studies. We want our primary source to be the potential customers who represent our demographic."
Time Is Money: When the financial services industry started paying attention to blockchain technology, many companies, seemingly as a reflex, sought patent protection for their ideas. Simply pursuing them, however, can be a drag on innovation, since time and money are spent on an effort that, at best, just slows down other firms. Caitlin Long, president of blockchain technology vendor Symbiont, can attest to that from her experience filing patents when she worked at Morgan Stanley. She says patents aren't that valuable and may not even be relevant by the time the patent office gets through the process. She also warned against investing money in trying to shut out potential rivals. "In these complex systems all you have to do is change one important term and then the patent doesn't apply, so there's an awful lot of money being spent by players in this industry," she said. "If you raise too much money, you spend it too fast. If you spend all your money filing patents you slow yourself down. At this point the race is on to build production-ready software. That's what we're focusing on as a company."
Wall Street's Next Top Cop? Ex-U.S. attorney Debra Wong Yang is a top contender to replace Mary Jo Whiteas head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The appointment would make her the second consecutive former federal prosecutor to lead Wall Street's top regulator, emphasizing the agency's role in investigating corporate wrongdoing rather than policy-making. According to the Bloomberg article, Yang, a partner at law firm Gibson Dunn, lacks experience in securities regulation, which could present challenges when it comes to rolling back rules stemming from Dodd-Frank, a priority of many Republican lawmakers.
Year in Review: It's Mary Mack, Kathie Andrade and Nandita Bakhshi to watch going into 2017. In case you missed it, Mack became head of community banking for Wells Fargo after Carrie Tolstedt's retirement, which was conveniently scheduled around the time she was asked to resign following the bank's phony-accounts scandal, which erupted in her department. Andrade is CEO of retail financial services at TIAA, which agreed this year to buy EverBank in Jacksonville, Fla., in this year's biggest all-cash deal. And Bakhshi became CEO of Bank of the West, which is counting on her to reverse some of its metrics, like lagging returns on assets and equity. Check 'em out in our end of year slideshows: 10 Who Had a Rough Year, 10 to Watch in 2017 and Top M&A Deals of 2016.
U.S. Bancorp has hired Karen Wimbish, a former Wells Fargo executive, to oversee the bank's wealth management products. Wimbish replaces Ann Senne, who left the bank last month for another firm.
Carver Bancorp's chairman and former CEO, Deborah Wright, will leave to join Citigroup's board of directors on Jan. 1.
U.S. Bancorp has promoted Beth McDonnell to chief marketing officer. She was previously head of brand strategy and reputations.
Susan Black, former CEO of Pinnacle Bank in Gilroy, Calif., has been appointed executive vice chairman. Black, who had been CEO since 2008, will remain a director for the bank.
Gender Revolution: National Geographic is featuring its first transgender person ever, an eight-year-old transgender girl named Avery Jackson, on the cover of the 128-year-old magazine's January issue, a special edition devoted to the gender revolution. "The story of gender plays out all around us," said Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of the magazine. "More and more, celebrities are shining a spotlight on the subject. But more quietly, our children, parents, teachers, medical professionals, and officials every day confront an array of issues with gender at the center. Everywhere we looked, in the U.S. and around the globe, individuals and organizations are fighting to redefine traditional gender roles… and find their true identity elsewhere on a gender spectrum."
Serious Journalism: Teen Vogue has provided sharp, praiseworthy political coverage throughout this year that many have found surprising and baffling. But "women's" publications have long offered substantive, worthwhile political pieces often overlooked or underappreciated — a measure of how "women's issues" have been segregated from business and politics. Check out Quartz's brief history of "women's" news and the rise of the feminist blogosphere. "It's crucial that we banish the idea that there is a boundary between 'women's journalism' and 'serious journalism' once and for all… The feminist-blog movement, and the women's media revolution that followed, has trained the exact press corps we need for this moment in history. Now we need to stop feigning shock at the women and girls who are running circles around mainstream publications' political coverage, and start listening to what they have to tell us."
RIP Carrie Fisher: Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the earliest films in the Star Wars franchise and later General Organa, died this week. In her role as Leia, Fisher showed her audiences that a woman can lead a rebellion on her own, that they aren't damsels in distress. As the daughter of Hollywood royalty and one of the most iconic characters in film, Fisher made certain she used her influence to help women own their flaws and find their voices and became an important advocate off screen for people with bipolar disorder. "Stay afraid, but do it anyway," she once advised, telling people suffering mental illness that it shouldn't hold them back. "What's important is the action. You don't have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow." She also opened up about ageism in Hollywood when she was asked to lose weight for the 2015 Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. "I'm in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up," she said. "They might as well say get younger, because that's how easy it is." Fisher died Tuesday by drowning in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.