1. Irene Dorner


Irene Dorner's edge lies in her authenticity.

When the CEO of HSBC USA speaks, it feels real, not only because of the honesty and confidence she conveys, but because of the actions backing up the words. "If I am committed, then you'll get 200 percent, total energy; it will happen," Dorner says. "This is what I do."

Her current commitment: changing the culture at HSBC, where the 17,000 people who work for her are on notice that Dorner is demanding more from them.

HSBC has made some big missteps in the United States, from its 2003 purchase of subprime lender Household International to more recent problems in compliance with anti-money laundering rules. Dorner, an Oxford-trained lawyer who has spent most of her 33-year career with HSBC, was dispatched to New York in 2010 to help the company's U.S. business regroup.

Testifying on Capitol Hill this summer, she showed why it was smart to entrust her with the task. She struck just the right notes of respectfulness, resoluteness and reconciliation with the Senate panel probing the bank's AML problems. She promised to fix things, and left no room for doubt that she would.

"Irene connects on a personal level with employees, customers, industry colleagues and government officials," says her boss, Stuart Gulliver, Group CEO for London-based HSBC Holdings Plc. "Her words, like her actions, convey integrity and empathy. This combined with her keen business judgment makes Irene one of our most effective senior leaders."

Rebuilding the brand has meant more than just words.

"I have clawed back. I have sacked people. I have reduced people's bonuses," an unapologetic Dorner says. Her motivation for cleanings things up go beyond her concerns for HSBC.

"These crises ... just seem to keep coming down the pike," Dorner says of the industry's string of scandals this year. "I don't distinguish between our reputation and my competitors' reputations. Anything that happens now in the industry pulls us all down a notch."

Bringing things back to her $190 billion-asset slice of HSBC, she says, "One of the things that I am trying to get through to our entire bank is I would rather you walked away from a piece of business that has a question mark next to it than do it in order to boost your bottom line. I am looking for sustainability."

Dorner's career has been on fire the last few years, as she moved from CEO of HSBC Malaysia to CEO of HSBC Bank USA to her current role. A serious health scare didn't slow her down. Last fall, Dorner learned she had ovarian cancer. She underwent six months of chemotherapy and had surgery in May.

"It was an enormous shock," Dorner, 56, says of the diagnosis. "It was not in my game plan at all. But I was the luckiest person in the world" to have a surgeon discover the cancer while treating an unrelated problem.

Her overall fitness level and positive attitude (she says it never really occurred to her she might die) helped her cope. Now cancer-free, she says, "It has made me hugely grateful for everything that I've got. I am much more appreciative of home, husband, holidays, work, everything."

2. Beth Mooney

Chairman And CEO, Keycorp

* Doubled net income attributable to common shareholders from the prior year, to $857 million, and reduced nonperforming assets 36%, to $859 million-results so strong that the number of financial analysts with buy ratings on the company tripled by yearend, from four to 12

* Won regulatory approval of a capital plan that included a dividend increase and a $344 million share repurchase program

* Joined Key in 2006 as the top executive of the 14-state community banking unit and led it through the financial crisis, making acquisitions as competitors retreated

* Took over as chairman and CEO in the spring of 2011, becoming the first female to lead a top 20 independent U.S. bank

3. Karen Peetz

Vice Chairman And CEO For Financial Markets And Treasury Services, BNY Mellon

* Responsible for business units that contributed 40% of the company's total revenue and 64% of its pretax income in 2011

* Developed and launched a formal program to drive innovation, an initiative that generated $101 million for her business units last year and that is being adopted across the company, with Peetz as executive sponsor

* Selected as chair of the Board of Trustees at Pennsylvania State University this year, to help one of the nation's largest universities navigate an especially challenging time in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal involving a former football coach

4. Ellen Alemany

Chairman And CEO, RBS Citizens Financial Group, And Head Of RBS Americas

* Delivered net income of $506 million last year, up substantially from $11 million in 2010, after a net loss of $740 million in 2009; Standard & Poor's recognized this positive momentum by upgrading the credit ratings of the group's two banking units, RBS Citizens and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, by one notch to A/A1 in December

* Deepened customer relationships in 2011, with online banking use increasing to 47% of checking customers, from 42% the prior year, and deposit households with a consumer loan rising to 29%, from 25% the prior year

* Added capital markets team that started small in 2010, but expanded to quickly become a top 10 middle market lead arranger in the United States for 2011

* On the board and executive committee of the Financial Services Roundtable, where she also serves as treasurer; and newly appointed to the board of Automated Data Processing, a Fortune 500 company

5. Pamela Joseph

Vice Chairman, Payment Services, U.S. Bancorp

* Implemented a plan to mitigate the $300 million in revenue lost annually due to the Durbin Amendment, without imposing major price changes on consumer cardholders

* Posted a 40% increase in credit card sign-ups at branches in 2011, through a strategy that included employee incentives and the hiring of dedicated support people to work daily with clusters of branches

* Rolled out a contactless EMV card in 2011, giving U.S. Bancorp bragging rights as the first U.S. bank to do so

* Was first in the market with an instant credit application both on a mobile phone (Apple and Android) and on the iPad, allowing co-branded card partners to provide immediate credit card approval for store purchases

6. Carrie Tolstedt

Senior EVP, Community Banking, Wells Fargo & Co.

* Oversees retail, small business and business operations, serving 22 million households and more than 2.5 million businesses

* Equipped all teller windows with touch-screen devices that speed up customer authentication and enable paperless withdrawals, reducing transaction time by a third

* Boosted insurance referrals from branches last year by more than 250% from 2010

* Improved credit card penetration to 29.9% in the first quarter, from 27.2% a year earlier

7. Ellen Costello

CEO, BMO Financial Corp., and U.S. Country Head, BMO Financial Group

* Led turnaround of underperforming U.S. banking unit for Toronto parent company from August 2006 through July 2011, posting a compound annual growth rate of 8% for loans and 10% for deposits in that time

* Conducted five acquisitions, including a transformative one with M&I that boosted assets to $189 billion

* Became CEO of the holding company in July 2011, with responsibility for navigating the regulatory gauntlet that comes with being designated a significantly important financial institution

* Became chair of United Way of Metro Chicago in December and led its CEO selection process this spring; also on the board and executive committee of the Financial Services Roundtable, and vice chair of its nominating committee

8. Cathy Bessant

Global Technology And Operations Executive, Bank Of America

* Completed the largest technology conversion at the company to date in May 2012, making the California operation consistent with the rest of the country and resulting in a single core banking platform nationwide

* Drove technology improvements that helped increase customer use of electronic platforms significantly

* Leads multiple initiatives related to reducing risk, including an annual boot camp to refresh training for up to 4,000 people in her business unit and to help them proactively identify and manage operational risks-a program cited by regulators as an industry best practice

* On the board for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, and currently lead director; also on the advisory committee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame

9. Anne Finucane

Global Strategy And Marketing Officer, Bank Of America

* Leads the company's $2 billion marketing, advertising, research and communications effort, and the 2,400 people who are part of that effort

* Designed a strategy in 2011-amid negative press on big banks-to highlight Bank of America's impact on local economic development; went beyond advertising, tapping market presidents for outreach to civic leaders; achieved statistically significant uptick in favorability with customers and prospects

* Chairs the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and oversees $200 million in annual giving

10. Julie Monaco

North America Region Head And Global Head Of Banks, Public Sector And Marketing For CITI Transaction Services, Citigroup

* Chosen to lead multiyear transformation of Transaction Services business globally from a product-centric to a client-centric view

* Expanded her management duties beyond North America in the summer of 2011, adding global oversight of marketing and of two market segments, banks and the public sector

* Increased revenue from investment managers sharply last year and continued the positive momentum this year with major client wins, such as a February mandate from Credit Suisse Asset Management for middle office and hedge fund administration services

11. Jane Fraser

Global CEO Of CITI Private Bank, Citigroup

* Restructured compensation to stress the team approach to serving clients and to tie rewards to how well clients do in the long run-"eliminating the me-first attitude that can damage relationship-building," she says.

* Stepped up the pace of innovation, one example being the use of a sophisticated voice recognition system, originally developed for the military, to eliminate security concerns affecting client phone conversations

* Increased assets under management by $28 billion last year, a rare uptick among private banks

12. Colleen Johnston

Group Head, Finance, And CFO, Td Bank Group

* Oversees the finance team for the sixth largest banking company in North America and the second largest in Canada

* Leads enterprise-wide expense management and project governance initiatives

* Chairs TD's Women in Leadership initiative

* Recognized as Canada's CFO of the Year in 2012 by Financial Executives International Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Robert Half International

* Past chair of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and continues to serve on both its national and Ontario boards

13. Patricia Callahan

Chief Administrative Officer, Wells Fargo

* Leads a team of 2,300 people responsible for human resources, corporate communications, social responsibility, marketing and government relations (the last two added with her new title in January 2011)

* Is working to change approach to reputation management, in part by having the major reputation drivers-the five business areas she now oversees-increasingly work as a team, share research and step up media and government outreach

* Ensured the massive Wachovia merger got done on time and under budget, having led the Office of Transition from October 2008 through the end of the integration in February 2012

* Instrumental in creating company's social responsibility group, which includes philanthropy, community development, supplier diversity, stakeholder engagement, environmental affairs, diversity and inclusion, and presented the business case for it to Chairman and CEO John Stumpf prior to the Wachovia merger; also instrumental in working with the board to create its new corporate responsibility committee

14. Mary Walworth Navarro

Senior EVP And Director Of Retail And Business Banking, Huntington Bancshares

* Accelerated growth in the number of consumer checking households, from a 3% annual increase in 2009 to more than an 11% increase in 2011, by launching Asterisk Free Checking

* Increased cross-sell for eight consecutive quarters: 76% of retail customers and 31% of business customers have four or more products

* Contributed to the decision to continue free debit card usage and worked with MasterCard to offer all customers platinum cards, making Huntington the first in the country to do so

* Board member of the Consumer Bankers Association for 10 years and immediate past chair

15. Cathleen Nash

President And CEO, Citizens Republic Bancorp

* Overcame the economically depressed climate in Michigan's industrial towns and returned Flint-based Citizens to profitability in the second quarter of last year, a quarter ahead of stated expectations, after 12 quarterly losses

* Executed plan to move $926 million of stressed assets off its balance sheet in just six months

* Led a risky, but successful, reverse stock split in July 2011 to improve Citizens' share price and avoid being delisted; saw stock jump 85% in 2011 compared with a 25% drop in the KBW Bank Index

* Achieved major milestone with Citizens' April release from a regulatory order that had been in effect since July 2010; now exploring the possibility of a sale for the newly revitalized Citizens

16. Leslie Godridge

EVP, Head Of National Corporate And Institutional Banking, U.S. Bank

* Responsible for a business unit that generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, up more than double, from $400 million, since she joined in 2007

* Grew team to more than 200 as of April 30, from 83 employees in January 2007

* Invested in training program unique to wholesale banking that so far has helped more than 300 bankers improve their ability to develop strategic dialogue with CFOs and CEOs

* Selected to lead an internal committee to analyze grant requests and provide funding recommendations in the New York area for the U.S. Bancorp Foundation

17. JoAnn Bourne

Senior EVP, Global Treasury Management, Union Bank And Unionbancal

* Led turnaround of Global Trust Services unit, spearheading an 18-month restructuring project that included the divestiture of three business lines (sold this year to U.S. Bank)

* Oversees the nonbank acquisition strategy for her business unit and over the past year struck two important deals: one for Kilk Technologies, which generates fee income by providing outsourced receivables solution to financial institutions, and another for SmartStreet, which provides banking to homeowners associations

* Responsible for online and mobile strategy across all segments of the enterprise, including consumer, small business, wealth management, and corporate and institutional businesses

* Appointed to the newly established U.S. Management Committee by parent company Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi; also on Union Bank's 14member executive committee for many years and the only female on the committee until this year

18. Deborah McWhinney

COO, Global Enterprise Payments, Citigroup

* Responsible for developing and implementing new mobile and online services globally, in many cases working with first-of-its-kind technology

* Helped bring Google Wallet to market in mid-2011

* Oversees the very promising Consumer Integrated Payments, a business line that enables large merchants to collect money from consumers worldwide by combining classic merchant acquiring and local clearing capabilities

* Co-chair of Citi Women, an internal program to improve training and sponsorship; in this role, speaks to women's groups internally and externally about career choices, reaching 2,000 women in 14 countries over 12 months

19. Dorothy Savarese

Chairman, President, CEO, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank

* Increased Small Business Administration lending sharply, leapfrogging more than 30 notches in the rankings, to No. 13 in the state for 7(a) loans and No. 9 for 504 loans, during the federal agency's 2011 fiscal year

* Boosted the thrift's already leading deposit market share in Barnstable County to 28.3% at June 2011, up 29 basis points from the prior year

* Chairs the Massachusetts Bankers Association, and serves on the 14-member Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Advisory Committee on Community Banking

* First female president at the 157-year-old thrift

20. Linda Verba

EVP, U.S. Personal And Commercial Bank, Td Bank, And SVP, TD Banking Group

* Oversees a budget of $650 million and leads four strategic areas: store operations, service programs, operational risk and retail integration

* Took on additional role of leading North American regulatory project last year and had significant input on response plan adopted for privacy breaches (when a customer's information is inadvertently provided to someone else)

* Cultivated EARN model-short for: engage, assess, respond, nurture-which took hold in 2011 and helped improve account acquisition and enhance wallet share

* Chairs the Women in Leadership and Customer Experience committees for TD Bank

21. LeeAnne Linderman

EVP, Retail Banking, Zions Bank

* Spearheaded a months-long effort to revamp checking lineup and rolled out changes in December, reducing the number of types of accounts from 12 to three and making fees more transparent

* Grew net checking balances 7% in the four months from the launch of the new lineup through the end of the first quarter, and doubled new credit card openings during the period, as a monthly fee could be waived on one account with a Zions Bancard

* Introduced a training program and incentives to support a wealth management initiative last year, which increased referrals for Executive Banking and Private Banking 77% over the prior year

* Drove a strategic change to better compete with credit unions in consumer lending last year and helped increase auto loans 114.8%, home refinancings 121.7% and home equity lines of credit 38.9% for 2011, compared with the previous year

22. Alberta Cefis

EVP And Head Of Global Transaction Banking, Scotiabank

* Expanded her business last year in both geography and function by consolidating all transaction banking products and sales activities in every country where Scotiabank operates

* Secured multimillion-dollar commitment from Scotiabank to improve its cash management technology over the next three to five years, and created roadmap to consolidate cash management worldwide under her business unit

* Executive champion of Scotiabank Pride, which promotes inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workforce and community

* Has been the chair of a nonprofit baroque opera company called Opera Atelier since 2003, helping it achieve financial stability; won the National Opera Directors Recognition Award in 2010, from Opera.ca, Canada's nationwide opera association, for exemplary leadership

23. Michelle Van Dyke

Regional President, Fifth Third Bank

* Oversees a region that spans parts of five states with $25 billion in assets and $34 billion in deposits

* Increased her responsibility in January to nine of Fifth Third's 18 geographic affiliates, adding four new ones in Pennsylvania and Ohio

* Served as one of key architects for "One Bank" initiative to collaborate across business lines, under which 2011 referrals per branch, which measures retail referrals to other lines of business, increased 50% from 2010

* Played instrumental role in starting the charter school Grand Rapids University Prep, which aims to graduate 90% of every class and ensure 90% of graduates go on to college

24. Jean Hale

Chairman, President And CEO, Community Trust Bancorp

* Runs $3.7 billion-asset firm in Pikeville, Ky., with 80 branches in three states

* Improved efficiency ratio to 54.6% at the bank unit as of midyear, from 59.6% a year ealier, partly through renegotiating contracts with technology providers and controlling expenses such as legal fees

* Increased net income 31.9% in the first half, to $24.1 million, from $18.3 million in the same period a year earlier, and reduced nonperforming loans to 1.39% of total loans, well below the average for bank holding companies with assets of $3 billion to $10 billion

* Board chair of the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority; also serves on the board of the state Economic Development Partnership and Commonwealth Seed Capital

25. Diane D'Erasmo

EVP And Regional President, Commercial Banking, HSBC Bank USA

* Manages commercial banking in the Northeast, overseeing relationships with about 1,600 businesses that have $50 million or more in annual revenue

* Credits her team with adding 150 new-to-the-bank clients last year

* Contributed to a decision to make strategic changes in asset-based lending-such as switching it to a product line from a profit center and hiring a business development officer for each region-which in 2011 helped the bank increase that book of business 30% from 2010

* On the boards of multiple industry and community organizations, including the Financial Women's Association, Junior Achievement of New York City and Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City
This article originally appeared in American Banker.