Slideshow The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking

  • September 17 2013, 11:00pm EDT

1. Beth Mooney

Chairman and CEO, KeyCorp

Beth Mooney, who began her banking career at Republic Bank of Texas in the 1970s, vividly recalls the days when she was the only woman in managers' meetings. Now, as one of the few women running a major banking company—and the only female CEO at a top 20 U.S.-based bank—she says she feels an obligation to nurture female talent. She's doing just that, announcing key hires and promotions of women, and pressing recruiters who work with the bank to provide more diverse slates of candidates in general.

She's also focused on what may be banks' greatest single challenge these days: growing revenue. She has addressed the issue head on by buying back a credit card portfolio, acquiring roughly three dozen branches in upstate New York and beefing up Key's commercial mortgage servicing portfolio. She's also spearheading an efficiency drive that puts the bank on pace to trim overhead by roughly $200 million a year through branch consolidation and other cost-cutting measures.

Those moves are a big reason by Key's share price is up nearly 40 percent over the past year, outpacing the KBW Bank Index and the Standard & Poor's 500.

(See Mooney's full profile here.)

2. Irene Dorner

Group Managing Director, HSBC Holdings; president and CEO, HSBC USA; director, HSBC North america holdings and hsbc bank USA

Irene Dorner, our No. 1 Most Powerful Woman in Banking in 2012, has seen her stock rise internally at HSBC, having been appointed in February as a group managing director of HSBC Holdings and as a member of the HSBC Group Management Board, which consists of 13 senior leaders who share responsibility for the daily operations of the company globally.

But it's been a tough go for the HSBC USA subsidiary she oversees, which got slammed in December with the harshest deferred prosecution agreement ever for a financial firm: $1.92 billion in penalties for violating anti-money laundering regulations.

Dorner, a Brit charged in 2010 with helping get the U.S. operation running smoothly again, has navigated the regulatory blows with her own credibility intact and positioned the company as one that is aggressively trying to correct its shortcomings. She enacted a risk review of all U.S. customers that resulted in HSBC exiting several hundred correspondent banking relationships. She also is in charge of implementing a more rigorous Know Your Customer program at HSBC USA and co-chairs an initiative to apply similar improvements across all 74 countries where HSBC operates. Mending the company's reputation with regulators and customers could take years, but Dorner appears to be making progress, having already earned praise from the U.S. Justice Department for the cultural changes she's trying to implement.

Content Continues Below

3. Carrie Tolstedt

Senior EVP, Community Banking, Wells Fargo

One of Carrie Tolstedt's many challenges these days is making sure customers who interact with Wells Fargo have a more positive and more personalized experience. It's no small feat considering that her division, which includes 105,000 retail and business banking employees, handles more than 5 billion transactions a year, conducted in person at 6,200 branches and 12,000 ATMs, online, and via call centers and mobile devices.

But so far, so good. Customers rate their experience with Wells higher than ever before, based on first-quarter survey results. And in what might be an even better gauge of their opinion, they are giving Wells more of their business. The company's cross-sell ratio of 6.1 products per household as of February is up from 5.98 a year earlier.

Wells is also getting more of its customers to use digital channels-it had 22.5 million active online customers as of February, up 7 percent from a year earlier. But branches remain important, given that 76 percent of deposit customers still interact with a teller or banker at least once every six months. So this spring Tolstedt's team introduced a new, 1,000-square-foot "neighborhood bank" format, which is roughly a third the size of a typical branch. The thinking is that Wells can improve convenience by making itself available in more locations. Employees walk around with mobile devices to serve customers, and transactions are paperless for faster service, with receipts being sent via email-an option previously available only at ATMs.

4. Pamela Joseph

Vice Chairman, Payment Services, U.S. Bancorp

Pamela Joseph is the highest-ranking woman at U.S. Bancorp and leads business lines that consistently generate about a quarter of the company's revenue and more than a third of its fee income each year, despite headwinds like the Durbin Amendment's $300 million annual hit. Her team also is a primary source of innovation at the company. Initiatives in the works this year include refinements to a virtual-wallet strategy, real-time mobile reward redemptions and a biometrics pilot.

The division is on a dealmaking tear too: over the past five years, it has tallied more acquisitions (both for companies and card portfolios) and joint ventures (in Spain, Brazil and Mexico, all for merchant services) than any other area of the company. Its 2012 acquisition of FSV Payments Systems in Jacksonville, Fla., stands out as a market share coup, as it helped U.S. Bancorp, already a top 10 player in prepaid cards, gain enough scale to move up to the second largest U.S. issuer, in terms of number of cards. Joseph says she views prepaid cards as an important precursor to moving customers to mobile payments.

As much of a heavyweight as she is at her own company, where she is a mentor to many and a leader in the humanitarian projects championed by her division's network for female executives, Joseph is just as well regarded across the industry for her payments expertise. She is on the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's Payments Advisory Council, co-chairs the Card Policy Council for the American Bankers Association, and is involved with mobile payments initiatives at The Clearing House.

5. Avid Modjtabai

Senior EVP, Consumer Lending, Wells Fargo

In her role overseeing the massive consumer lending operations at Wells Fargo, Avid Modjtabai is at the forefront of the flux rippling through the industry.

She is in charge of home lending for the country's biggest originator and servicer of mortgages, responsible for keeping it in sync with new regulations, including the seven new rules-totaling 3,600 pages-that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued within the first few weeks of 2013 alone.

Modjtabai also handles consumer credit cards, auto finance and student loans, all businesses experiencing regulatory turbulence of their own. But Wells' former head of technology and operations is managing the pressure well since her switch to lending in July 2011, when she took on a newly created position combining eight business units under her leadership. Now she often represents the company as it updates regulators and shareholders, with ample positive momentum to share.

Though Modjtabai exceeded performance targets such as total loans-at yearend, her group had $360 billion in loans outstanding, constituting more than 45 percent of Wells' total loans-she says measurements like those are not as critical to her as earning customer trust by providing quality products and services. An enterprise-wide program known as "One Wells Fargo," which aims to have all 80 of Wells' businesses interact with customers as one company, began under Modjtabai's leadership six years ago, when she was head of human resources. The program still reports to her, as senior leaders continue to sharpen their focus on customer service.

Content Continues Below

6. Cathy Bessant

Global Technology and Operations executive, Bank of America

If you carved out the Global Technology and Operations division from Bank of America, it would be one of the largest tech organizations in the world, with roughly the same number of employees as Microsoft and the same expense base as Cisco. Cathy Bessant leads this far-flung force of nearly 100,000 employees and contractors, overseeing all of the technology that BofA uses to serve customers in 35 countries.

That sounds intimidating enough, but even more so when you consider the scope of what has to get done. BofA processes more checks than any other bank, second only to the Federal Reserve. It handles more than $900 billion in wire payments every day. Its U.S. wholesale lockbox business is tops in the industry with a market share of 26 percent. Its more than 13 million mobile banking customers are the most for any bank, and it has 30 million active users of online banking.

Bessant is ultimately charged with making sure all of that functions smoothly, and her team is doing so in innovative ways: it earned 149 U.S. patents last year. Her team also is working on hundreds of ideas, many of them around automation and workflow, to make BofA more efficient. Thwarting increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks is yet another responsibility that falls to Bessant. She oversees BofA's information security strategy and leads the business continuity team. But she still finds time for special causes. She chairs the company's Environmental Council, is executive sponsor of a network for LGBT employees and their allies, and is in charge of a 10-year, $50 billion business initiative to address climate change through activities such as carbon finance for clients worldwide.

7. Cecelia "Cece" Stewart

President, U.S. consumer and commercial banking, Citigroup

The advice Cece Stewart got early in her career from her mentor at the former First Union never gets old. She still practices what she learned from Flo Phillips and shares some of the same advice with her team at Citigroup.

"Flo gave direct, tough feedback. She once told me that if I couldn't be 'on' when out in the field, then I should not be out with field teams," says Stewart. "I tell my team today-you always need to be 'on.'" And it is, judging by the metrics Stewart has amassed since joining Citi in January 2011.

Though the number of branches shrank 4 percent last year, she has presided over growth in average deposits, average loans, investment sales and mortgage originations. It isn't just a healing economy that deserves credit. Citi's research indicates that in many business lines, the growth outpaced that of peer banks.

One of the changes Stewart credits is a new effort to hold all staff accountable for customer satisfaction. The initiative includes coaching employees on key behaviors that promote satisfaction, such as making customers feel appreciated. Branch optimization is another priority.

As Citi shed branches in markets where it lacked scale, Stewart began reinvesting the savings elsewhere, opening 14 locations last year, including a flagship in New York. She also had a portion of the company's roughly 1,000 branches renovated.

Hectic though it is, Stewart still keeps in touch with Phillips, who is retired now. Stewart says she still considers her a mentor. "Flo demonstrated the kind of impact that a caring, engaged person could have on your career. I have always tried to emulate that."

8. Mary Navarro

Senior EVP and Director of Retail and Business Banking, Huntington Bancshares

Many banks are closing more branches than they are opening, but not Huntington. It added more than a branch a week last year. The architect of the expansion, Mary Navarro, helped increase customer households last year by 12 percent, more than three times the industry average and, in terms of the number of newcomers, more than Huntington grew in the three previous years combined.

Chairman and CEO Stephen Steinour says it's Navarro's ability to track and judge industry trends that has kept Huntington ahead of competitors. He credits her with growing the Columbus, Ohio-based regional into the top SBA lender in the Midwest and the third-largest in the nation, and says her customer-centric focus on service has driven cross-selling rates and revenue growth. Much of the new growth Navarro plans to deliver will come from in-store branches. With exclusive, long-term agreements to operate inside Giant Eagle supermarkets in Ohio and Meijer retail stores in Michigan, Huntington plans to have several hundred locations in the two chains within the next few years.

Content Continues Below

9. Barbara Yastine

Chairman, President and CEO, Ally Bank

Ally Bank offers a remarkable case study in what branding can overcome. Its parent company, the former General Motors Acceptance Corp., is a poster child of the financial crisis and could have buckled under the weight of its bad loans without a bailout. But consumers hardly seem to care about this checkered history.

The bank unit of the rechristened Ally Financial has successfully positioned itself as a competitor that is transparent about fees and wants to give people the most bang for their buck through products like the Raise Your Rate certificate of deposit.

The approach is pleasing customers — 93 percent say they would recommend the bank to others, research shows-and it's paying off in other ways too. From the TNS Choice Award for direct banking to Money Magazine ranking it as the best online bank for a second straight year, the accolades continue to pile up.

Barbara Yastine rightfully claims some credit. A former chief financial officer of Credit Suisse First Boston and a Citigroup auditor and finance executive before that, she joined Ally Financial in May 2010 as chief administrative officer, with oversight of risk, compliance, legal and technology functions, and simultaneously began serving as chairman of the banking unit. She stepped in as interim CEO at Ally Bank in July 2011 and dropped the interim part of the title in March 2012. Since Yastine became chairman, the banking unit has notched consistent gains in market share, deposits (up 26 percent in 2012) and assets. CD retention rates hit an all-time high of 93 percent at yearend 2012.

Now Yastine says her priority is to sustain deposit momentum at the online bank, which remains a funding machine for Ally Financial's auto dealer relationships but also is doing a nice job coming into its own.

10. Sandie O'Connor

Treasurer, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Sandie O'Connor ran the prime brokerage business of JPMorgan Chase before being named treasurer in March 2012 — just prior to revelations about the now-infamous multibillion-dollar "London Whale" trading loss. A member of the senior management team, she is responsible for the company's relationships with regulators. The role has taken on new significance, given JPMorgan's involvement in dustups on assorted regulatory fronts, but the drama hasn't prevented O'Connor from addressing more workaday concerns, such as deploying technology to automate daily reporting and management of liquidity risk with improved speed and accuracy.

As treasurer of an institution whose operations are part of the global financial system's backbone, O'Connor needs to be well versed in all the rules being written by regulators around the world. She is especially focused now on Basel III, which will require the company to hold specific types of high-quality assets to meet assumed levels of cash outflows following a stress event. (She says it's on target to meet the requirement by the end of 2013, five years ahead of the mandated compliance date.)

Work done by O'Connor and her team also is key to JPMorgan's market share goals. The office of the corporate treasurer is a clearinghouse for interest-rate and liquidity risk, coordinating with business lines to manage funding, liquidity and capital-the foundation of the company's $2.4 trillion balance sheet.

11. Diane Reyes

Global Head of Payments and Cash Management, HSBC

In the evolving payments landscape, no bank is an island. So Diane Reyes is making deeper engagement with critical business partners a primary focus.

Under her leadership, the HSBC Payments and Cash Management team met extensively with the Bank of England, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and U.S. regulators, sharing its business expertise and market practices.

Reyes says she believes the outreach effort is helping HSBC raise its profile. Earlier this year it resulted in her unit-the third-largest provider of U.S. dollar clearing services-providing the U.S. Treasury with an educational session on offshore U.S. dollar clearing. Reyes also is taking initiative internally, as HSBC works to recover from recent regulatory run-ins. Her team is developing new tools that enhance HSBC's Know Your Customer and anti-money laundering monitoring capabilities. It also has collaborated with other parts of the company to establish evaluation criteria that allow for more readily recognizing the difference between expected and unexpected behavior in payment transactions.

HSBC is deeply focused on controlling costs, and Reyes, who came to HSBC from Citigroup in 2011, has delivered on that front as well. Her efforts to streamline processes and globalize product management directly contributed to the strong 2012 results that her unit posted: a 15 percent increase in revenue and 30 percent increase in net income compared with the previous year.

Content Continues Below

12. Anne Finucane

Global Strategy and Marketing Officer, Bank of America

In her role overseeing marketing, communications, public policy and corporate social responsibility for Bank of America, Anne Finucane leads a massive effort to redefine the company's tarnished image.

Though Finucane says she expects it will take several more years for the multipronged strategy to truly take hold, she is encouraged by the early results. Key metrics for 2012-before the launch of a new branding campaign in April-show BofA is making progress with customers: brand favorability rose 16 percent, trust 31 percent and satisfaction 23 percent, from the end of 2011.

The hard work started with fundamental changes inside the company to shed noncore assets and reduce complexity. It continued with Finucane's efforts to mitigate reputation problems that have dogged BofA since the financial crisis-which include overseeing the long and methodical rebranding process. This entailed a full agency review and extensive interviews with employees, customers and other stakeholders to develop a thorough understanding of BofA's strengths and weaknesses. The result: a corporate-wide commitment to making customer interactions easier and more human, along with a new advertising campaign. Both efforts are expected to amp up the positive momentum as the company pivots into sales mode and pursues earnings growth once again.

13. Patricia Callahan

Senior EVP and Chief Administrative Officer, Wells Fargo

Patricia Callahan works on many fronts to shape how Wells Fargo is viewed both by the public and by its own employees. That's a function of her daily duties — the extent of what she oversees ranges broadly from advertising and media relations to supplier diversity and talent development — but it took on heightened importance for her last year as Wells rolled out new ads focused squarely on reputation.

The meticulously researched campaign achieved what it set out to do, based on Wells' own research. Nearly six in 10 noncustomers who saw the ads said they were more likely to consider Wells. And among customers, more than seven in 10 who saw the ads said they felt more satisfied with Wells as a result.

Legislative outreach also got heightened attention. To help streamline this activity, Callahan last year combined the government relations and social responsibility groups, both of which report to her. She was instrumental in shaping the newly integrated team's response to an array of pressing political issues facing the industry, including too big to fail and the push to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Her combined efforts helped Wells garner more than 12,000 mentions in leading newspapers and magazines in 2012, up 24 percent from the prior year. Of those mentions, 81 percent were positive or neutral, which Wells says leads the industry, as judged by an independent third party.

14. Dorothy Savarese

President and CEO, The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank

Next to industry giants like JPMorgan Chase, the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank is about as tiny as it sounds, with $2.3 billion in assets, 400 employees and 22 locations. Dorothy Savarese, its president and CEO, is likewise petite. But such surface details belie the influence she is bringing to bear not only in her community, but across her home state of Massachusetts and in the nation's capital.

Savarese serves on the FDIC's Community Bank Advisory Committee, and this year winds up a term as chairman of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, which expanded its financial literacy campaign and worked with state legislators on bank modernization issues during her term. Significant changes involving the regulation of state-charted banks are being considered, evolving from a special task force, which Savarese was on, to study reform options.

Savarese also serves on the American Bankers Association's Community Banks Council and hosted its 2012 Women's Leadership Forum, where she moderated a program on-what else?-leadership. It was the ABA's best attended forum in four years.

Cape Cod Five Cents engages in its share of extracurricular activities too. As a mutually owned thrift, one of its key tenets is giving back to the community, and Savarese chairs the charitable foundation it operates. In 2012, the foundation provided $575,000 in grants to 122 local organizations.

Content Continues Below

15. Janice Fukakusa

Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Royal Bank of Canada

Royal Bank of Canada initiated some major strategic moves in the past year, and Janice Fukakusa has been instrumental in bringing them to fruition.

In her role as chief administrative officer and chief financial officer, she led two acquisitions and their complex integration. She also helped shepherd one divestiture-RBC sold its U.S. branch network to PNC Financial Services-and the equally complex move to retain the 170,000 Canadian customers from this sale by creating a new bank for that specific purpose.

Dubbed RBC Bank, the new unit provides direct banking to Canadians working, living or vacationing in the states, and serves customers of RBC U.S. Wealth Management. Fukakusa worked with the finance and technology teams under extremely tight deadlines to get the new bank running.

A $1.1 billion deal to acquire the other half of a joint venture it had, creating RBC Investor Services (formerly RBC Dexia), turned out to be similarly complicated. Fukakusa led a global reorganization of the business, combining it with complimentary services already offered within RBC. The other acquisition she worked on was a $3.7 billion deal for Ally Canada. It is one of the largest acquisitions RBC has made in recent years and positions the company as a leader in Canadian auto finance, both consumer and commercial.

Fukakusa, a champion of many nonprofit groups and RBC's renowned diversity efforts, is a key spokesperson for the firm with regulators, investors and media. She's also on the Canadian Public Accountability Board's steering committee to enhance audit quality.

16. Leslie Godridge

EVP and Head of National Corporate and Institutional Banking, U.S. Bank

Strategic collaboration is one of Leslie Godridge's strong suits. An example of this is a meeting she convened last year of line managers, portfolio managers and senior credit approvers who work with her unit, along with senior managers in the capital markets business.

It was the most in-depth planning session of its kind since the formation of the National Corporate and Institutional Banking unit when she joined U.S. Bank in 2007, and the results of it continue to play out. The group conducted a detailed review of clients and prospects for each of her 13 geographic and specialty business units. It identified opportunities and potential impediments, assigned teams to craft solutions and implemented them. Godridge says the session was particularly useful for breaking down silo thinking and providing a broader view of customer development. She held a similar planning session this year.

Godridge's loan portfolio represents 44 percent of total commitments for the wholesale bank business. She is managing it well, too-in the first quarter, her team had no chargeoffs or nonperforming loans and saw growth in fees from loans and capital markets.

17. Deborah McWhinney

COO, Global Enterprise Payments, Citigroup

Deborah McWhinney is a guiding force in Citigroup's stated intention of becoming the world's leading digital bank.

Her team enables services, some of them still being dreamed up, to facilitate better handling of payments worldwide. It has a pipeline of new products-many addressing critical needs in mobile or health care payments-that have either launched or are in the late stages of development, some with patents pending.

All of this puts McWhinney at the forefront of a business poised for significant growth. Already the emphasis within her unit is shifting in that direction. Last year the team was building out the product line and conducting pilots. This year it received additional corporate funding and increased its speed to market; now it is doing business in 60 countries.

Also this year Citi announced Aetna as the charter company in the development of its new health care payments platform, which enables patients to reconcile bills, make payments and receive alerts when claims are ready to be viewed, all in one place. The service will be offered to U.S. consumers by participating health insurers, with a public launch expected by yearend.

Because the regulatory environment has a major impact on the payments business, McWhinney often speaks with regulators on issues ranging from currency flows to customer privacy. She serves on several boards, among them the Institute for Defense Analysis, a federally funded research laboratory that performs analysis for government agencies.

Content Continues Below

18. Maria Coyne

EVP, Consumer and Small Business Banking, KeyCorp

Like others in the banking industry, KeyCorp had to scramble to make up for revenue lost to regulatory changes, and much of this maneuvering fell to Maria Coyne.

Under her leadership, Key built the capability to run a credit card operation and bought a $725 million card portfolio from U.S. Bancorp in 2012. Notably, Key was not buying the cards of a bunch of strangers. The portfolio consisted of 400,000 former and current Key customers, who, collectively, had $10 billion in loans and $6 billion of deposits there.

Coyne says that by owning the full relationship, Key can learn more about them. It is insight Key plans to use to craft more appealing offers and help grow revenue.

Coyne also led the conversion and nearly flawless integration of 37 former HSBC branches in New York state, a strong boost to the company's Buffalo and Rochester markets. Now Key is in the midst of rationalizing the rest of the branch network, an effort that will continue through the end of 2013. About 70 of its branches, or 5 percent, will be closed or consolidated. Though this is always a tricky proposition for any bank, Coyne says the early results of her paring are promising. For the 19 branches closed last year, client and revenue retention exceeded internal expectations and industry standards.

19. LeeAnne Linderman

EVP, Retail Banking, Zions First National Bank

LeeAnne Linderman has long been in charge of Zions First National Bank's network of 128 branches in Utah and Ohio. Now she also has oversight of 172 ATMs, online and mobile banking, and whatever other emerging technology might come along and change the ways in which customers interact with the bank.

She is expected to coordinate these channels with the customer contact center, which is managed by the bank's parent company. And she is charged with developing an aggressive channel migration strategy bank wide.

As part of this initiative, Linderman created a new Channel Strategy Manager position to help individual branches drive customers, when appropriate, to more convenient options like the Internet or ATMs. But Linderman stresses that her main goal is to ensure the best experience for customers in whatever channel they choose-not to funnel traffic. Her work will center on how best to facilitate a customer shift that got underway on its own. She says the bank's enhanced ATMs, which the company refers to as "express teller" machines, already are handling greater transaction volume and helping decrease more costly branch use. As of 2011, the enhanced ATMs serviced 15 percent of branch transactions-a number Zions aims to improve even more.

20. Alberta Cefis

EVP and Head of Global Transaction Banking, Scotiabank

The outstanding results Alberta Cefis posted last year — improving revenue, deposit balances, expense control, risk management and so on — extend a streak of contributions she has made going back more than 14 years, to when she joined Scotiabank as a senior vice president in retail lending services.

As she moved up, says Brian Porter, the Canadian bank's president and incoming CEO, Cefis helped shape a rapid expansion in consumer and small-business lending, and developed insurance and automotive lending, both important growth areas today. He also says she helped establish global transaction banking as a viable business. When she took charge of it in May 2006, the relatively new unit lacked products, technology and strong leadership, yet had the challenge of operating in more than 50 countries against the largest banks in the world. Porter says Cefis assembled all the necessary components and went on to distinguish Scotiabank in its foreign markets, increasing customer retention and building a solid revenue stream.

Cefis has had an equally powerful impact as a mentor and in her charitable work. For the past two years she has led the bank's 120-member team participating in the Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life, Canada's most important AIDS fundraising event. Monique Doolittle-Romas, CEO of the Canadian AIDS Society, credits Cefis with tripling the number of participants and pledges that came in last year.

Content Continues Below

21. Melanie Dressel

President and CEO, Columbia Banking System

There it grows again.

The big news at Columbia Banking System is its recent acquisition of the $2.4 billion-asset West Coast Bancorp in Lake Oswego, Ore. It is the latest of several deals Melanie Dressel has orchestrated over the past few years to fuel growth, as her community bank steadily progresses toward its goal of being more of a regional player in the Northwest.

With the West Coast deal closing in April, Columbia jumped to $7.3 billion in assets and added 58 branches, about a 60 percent increase. But, Dressel says, while growth is important, so is retaining the character of a true community bank that stresses service and value for customers.

To ensure its culture stays consistent, Columbia uses mystery shops as a yardstick. To Dressel's satisfaction, the overall score for almost 900 shops last year was 4.68 out of a possible 5. Dressel is on the board of the American Bankers Association, the Washington Bankers Association, Puget Sound Energy, the Executive Council for a Greater Tacoma, and the Washington Roundtable. She's also on the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council.

22. Michelle Van Dyke

Regional President, Fifth Third Bank

Michelle Van Dyke's definition of power is not based on how big her territory is (it covers parts of five states and holds $25 billion of Fifth Third's assets) or how many employees she is responsible for (5,500). To her, power comes from being a role model and paving the way for others.

"I want to show other women that being a bank president is a very achievable goal," says Van Dyke, who has made it part of her job to regularly identify, develop and export talent to other parts of Fifth Third.

Of all senior-level placements enterprise-wide in one recent 12-month stretch, 65 were from her region. Her philosophy is that engaged employees are the foundation for engaged customers, and her results bear this thinking out.

In two of Fifth Third's less mature markets, St. Louis and western Pennsylvania, her team posted double-digit revenue growth last year across every line of business. Van Dyke credits the culture she helped cultivate, as reflected in a recent employee engagement survey. Both markets saw improved scores, and the highest score in the company went to St. Louis, where a new Employee Engagement Team has been working on initiatives to help staff feel important to the company and the community. It brainstormed volunteer activities involving a children's medical center, a veterans home and financial literacy outreach.

23. Rilla Delorier

EVP, Chief Marketing and Client Experience Officer, SunTrust Banks

With its new branding effort, Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks is declaring its purpose: Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being.

As much a mission statement for employees as it is a message for customers, it is the basis for SunTrust realigning its approach to all it does, under the premise that purpose drives profit. It is reflected in everything from a new sales process and performance metrics to the 16 hours of paid volunteer time available to employees each year.

Rilla Delorier personally developed and spearheaded the concept, after she came to the conclusion that SunTrust had been focused too much on perspiration rather than inspiration.

She researched the power of purpose and the impact it could have, then wrote a business case that she shared with Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers. The crux of it: employees and customers are attracted to a company that is clear not only on what it does but why.

Rogers challenged her to turn her idea into a reality, which she has. A few quarters into the new branding campaign, research showed it has positioned SunTrust in the minds of consumers as optimistic, progressive and capable. Rogers credits Delorier with making a "tremendous impact" on SunTrust, calling her the driving force behind "one of the most critical initiatives in our history: the launch of our purpose."

Content Continues Below

24. Maura Markus

President and Chief Operating Officer, Bank of the West

Perhaps it is a manifestation of Maura Markus' get-things-done attitude that new technology and products are rolling out so quickly at Bank of the West these days.

From the six weeks it took to ready a new checking account offering to a cutting-edge mobile banking app launched in just nine months, Markus makes a point of emphasizing speed.

Of course, outstanding results are a priority too, and she is not falling short in that regard either. The Premier Relationship Checking that the bank introduced in July 2012 offers benefits like higher interest rates and waived fees, and it did an excellent job of attracting deposits. The account is so popular that more than 2,000 a month were opened in the second half of last year.

Redesigning the digital experience is another major initiative being led by Markus, a Citigroup veteran who joined San Francisco-based Bank of the West three years ago. She says the first-quarter launch of an app with a quick-balance feature helped set the bank apart and addresses what consumers say is their top mobile pain point-easy access to account balances. Now the number of active mobile users has spiked sharply, and half of those who use quick balance do so daily.

25. Caryl Athanasiu

EVP, Chief Operational Risk Officer, Wells Fargo

Caryl Athanasiu might not contribute directly to profit at Wells Fargo, but at a time when operational risk is a key concern for regulators, keeping the bank out of trouble ultimately can have an earnings impact.

Unlike its big-bank peers, San Francisco-based Wells has so far avoided major fines and consent orders in all areas outside of home lending. Athanasiu says she sees this as evidence Wells is doing the right thing for customers-"which boosts our reputation and inevitably translates to improving our bottom line."

But her team is doing a lot more than just avoiding trouble. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency lauded a Financial Crimes risk management program that Wells finished implementing last year, after merging its anti-money laundering and fraud groups. The new approach gives Wells a holistic view of customers, whether for due diligence, surveillance, monitoring or investigations, and makes it easier to rate a customer's risk and recognize unusual activity.

In a sign of Athanasiu's rising profile outside of Wells, the U.S. Treasury Department tapped her last year to serve on its Financial Research Advisory Committee. The committee provides oversight and advice to the Office of Financial Research, which is tasked with helping prevent the next systemic financial crisis. Athanasiu also is a fellow this year at On the Board, a joint initiative of George Washington University's School of Business and the International Women's Forum to prepare more women to serve on corporate boards.