Slideshow Bankers to Watch in 2015

  • December 14 2014, 7:00am EST
11 Images Total

In new roles or old ones, facing fresh challenges or opportunities, these are 10 bankers to keep an eye on in the new year.

Patrick Burke, President and CEO, HSBC USA

HSBC veteran Patrick Burke has spent the last four years extricating the bank from the consumer lending business and his reward for a job well done was replacing Irene Dorner as head of HSBC's U.S. operations. Dorner's tenure was marked by a series of setbacks — including a failed stress test and a massive fine for Bank Secrecy Act violations — and it's on Burke now to avoid any more missteps and find a way to boost the bank's lackluster returns.

Related Article: HSBC's New Leaders Taking over at a Crucial Moment

Content Continues Below

Gary Crosby, President and CEO, First Niagara Financial Group

These are tough times for the once-high-flying First Niagara. With its stock price languishing, the Buffalo bank was forced to take a massive goodwill impairment charge in the third quarter, tied mostly to its badly timed acquisition of more than 100 HSBC branches in 2012. That resulted in a $931 million loss for the quarter — and another sharp drop in its share price. Winning back the faith of investors will be CEO Gary Crosby's No. 1 priority in 2015.

Related Article: Ill-Fated 2012 Branch Deal Still Haunts First Niagara

Richard Fairbank, Chairman and CEO, Capital One Financial

Capital One consistently ranks among the country's most profitable and valuable banks, but it could be in for a bumpy 2015 as it contends with rising loan delinquencies. CEO Richard Fairbank said in October that credit card chargeoffs had been at "unsustainable lows" in recent years and are expected to increase in the coming year. Meanwhile, subprime auto lending is starting to cause some headaches. Chargeoffs have ticked up of late and Capital One is among several lenders under scrutiny from law enforcement officials investigating how car loans are marketed to subprime borrowers.

Related Article: Auto Lenders Navigate Hard Road of Probes, Projected Losses

Joseph Ficalora, President and CEO, New York Community Bancorp

New York Community is nearing $50 billion of assets, meaning it could soon be designated as a "systemically important financial institution." CEO Joseph Ficalora has said that the bank would remain under the $50 billion mark unless it can find a deal that would be sizable enough to justify the added compliance costs. Will this be the year he pursues that big deal?

Related Article: New York Community Could Stunt Growth to Delay SIFI Status

Content Continues Below

Margaret Keane, President and CEO, Synchrony Financial

The former G.E. Capital Retail Bank, Synchrony Financial, had its IPO in July 2014. Known primarily for being the bank behind retailers' credit cards, Synchrony, headed by Margaret Keane, is looking to add more traditional bank products, like checking accounts, and a new line of credit cards not linked to specific retailers. Without G.E., "we'll have more independence on where we invest," Keane says.

Related Article: Most Powerful Women in Finance: No. 10, Margaret Keane

Frank Mastrangelo, CEO, The Bancorp

It's now up to Frank Mastrangelo to fix what ails The Bancorp in Wilmington, Del. Mastrangelo will take over as CEO Jan. 1, replacing Betsy Cohen, who is stepping down after a year in which Bank Secrecy Act violations forced the company to curtail its growth in prepaid cards. The Bancorp also suffered a big third-quarter loss after it decided to exit commercial lending to focus on specialty lending. Navigating this new market while coping with the loss of prepaid revenue will be Mastrangelo's big test in 2015.

Related Article: The Bancorp's Chief Betsy Cohen Retiring at the End of Tough Year

John Poelker, President and CEO, CertusBank

The veteran turnaround expert was hired in April to right the ship at CertusBank, a South Carolina company that ousted top its executives amid allegations of mismanagement and excessive spending. It's a huge challenge; despite Poelker's aggressive cost-cutting, the bank still lost $39 million in the first nine months of the year. The big question for 2015 is whether Poelker can reduce overhead and grow revenue enough to make the bank profitable — or at least attractive to a potential buyer.

Related Article: New Certus CEO Faces a Tightrope Act

Content Continues Below

Jimmy Tallent, President and CEO, United Community Banks

United Community Banks in Georgia was once a prolific acquirer, but took an extended break from dealmaking in recent years to focus on cleaning up its real estate loan portfolio and bolstering its capital levels. Now that the company is past those challenges, Jimmy Tallent, its longtime president and CEO, is eager to start buying again, particularly in Tennessee and the Carolinas.

Related Article: How Jimmy Tallent Led Community Banks Back from the Brink

John Thain, Chairman and CEO, CIT Group

Specialty lender CIT had widely been perceived as a seller until it announced in July that it was buying the $23 billion-asset OneWest Bank. The deal is potentially game-changing because it will sharply reduce CIT's funding costs, but it will also thrust the lender above the $50 billion-asset mark, substantially raising its compliance costs. All eyes will be on CEO John Thain as he aims to transform CIT into a more traditional bank while contending with increased regulatory scrutiny.

Related Article: CIT's Thain Tackles Banking's Tough Questions in OneWest Deal

(Image: Bloomberg News)

Bruce Van Saun, Chairman and CEO, Citizens Financial Group

Citizens was a chronic underperformer as part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, but now it's an independent company — it was spun off from RBS in September — and it's up to CEO Bruce Van Saun to raise its game. Van Saun has set a goal of doubling the bank's returns on assets and equity over the next two years and he plans to do so by controlling back-office and vendor costs, while hiring hundreds of more bankers to sell mortgages, car loans, private student loans and other bank staples. "We will not have sexy new products, just more people out there," Van Saun says.

Related Article: Citizens Plans to Hire 350 Mortgage Officers, Names Treasury Head