Slideshow The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking

  • September 25 2016, 10:00pm EDT
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1. Karen Peetz

President, BNY Mellon

Karen Peetz has myriad responsibilities as president of the world's largest custody bank, not the least of which is managing relationships with Bank of New York Mellon's 500 largest clients. It's a hugely diverse group, ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to government agencies to sovereign wealth funds. Peetz frequently surveys and meets with these clients to gauge how well BNY Mellon is doing in meeting their needs.

Some of the feedback she has received lately is that clients love the bank's people, but they sometimes sense a lack of coordination between the many departments that touch their businesses. Many also do not view BNY Mellon as being particularly innovative, despite its history as an innovator — it was the first institution to use the Internet to process transactions, for example — and the fact that it has set up six innovation labs across its footprint.

Peetz is now leading the effort to change these perceptions and improve the way the bank interacts with these blue-chip clients. The initiative has many moving parts, but a key component is fostering greater collaboration across multiple business lines, primarily through intense training and coaching of the most senior executives. Another component is educating client-facing employees about the bank's innovation efforts so that they can keep clients up to date on the various initiatives.

This "cultural transformation," as Peetz calls it, is still a work in progress, but early results are encouraging. Internal surveys have shown that clients have a more positive perception of the bank's ability to innovate and, anecdotally, Peetz said clients are reporting higher levels of engagement from BNY Mellon employees.

"The biggest reaction we are getting from clients is, 'Why weren't you doing this earlier?' Peetz said. "We were doing it in pockets ... but now we are doing it across the company. It's a cultural change."

This ability to identify problems and lay out substantive solutions is among the reasons why Peetz — the Most Powerful Woman in Banking for the second time — is viewed as such an effective leader. Whether it is taking the lead on improving the bank's risk culture or spearheading an effort to improve career advancement opportunities for women, Peetz has inspired a generation of colleagues with a relentless focus on actionable plans and bottom-line results.

"Having a strong sense of accountability and a commitment to follow through is big part of leadership," Peetz said. "People see through [leaders] who don't step up and say 'That was my thing to do.' "

Perhaps the best example of Peetz stepping up came outside of the bank, when she was serving on the board of Penn State University, her alma mater. It was early 2012, and the school was embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal involving longtime assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Peetz had joined the board two years earlier and when the chairman opted not to run for re-election, she took the initiative to chair it during the most tumultuous time in the school's history. True to form, she ushered in a series of changes designed to make the board more transparent, including opening the meetings to the public and creating committees that included students, alumni and faculty. She stepped down from the post after she was promoted to president of BNY Mellon in 2013.

Apart from overseeing relationships with BNY Mellon's most important clients, Peetz is responsible for the bulk of the bank's activities abroad, helps set regulatory policy and heads its corporate social responsibility efforts.

Before being named president, Peetz ran the bank's treasury services business, where one of her top managers was Susan Skerritt, now a high-ranking executive at Deutsche Bank. Skerritt said that before she joined BNY Mellon, she had tried to come across as a leader who was tough, even though it didn't feel natural. Then she saw Peetz in action and admired how effective she was by being authentic — and listening more than she talked.

"I saw her naturally being herself, and I realized that it was possible to do that," Skerritt said. "When you are talking to Karen you feel as though you are the only person in the world."

2. Marianne Lake

Chief Financial Officer, JPMorgan Chase

Marianne Lake has come up with a simple formula to mentor rising stars.

During American Banker's Most Powerful Women in Banking gala last year, Lake laid out the "30-5-1" challenge. She asked those in the audience each week to spend 30 minutes having coffee with a talented junior woman, five minutes congratulating a woman on a recent success and one minute talking up that woman to another senior peer.

The initiative has now become a firmwide phenomenon at JPMorgan Chase, injecting new energy into the movement to support women across the company. During Women's History Month in March, Women on the Move, an internal initiative launched in 2013 to encourage senior women globally to advocate for female co-workers, hosted a "30-5-1" day at JPMorgan's headquarters.

Lake also co-sponsored a pilot program that aims to support parents who are about to go on or return from leave. The effort is expanding to include a dedicated program manager and an online portal that helps to match expectant parents with mentors who have already taken parental leave.

Lake has been chief financial officer since 2013 and her influence at the nation's largest bank has grown steadily since, particularly with the investment community. She is now an active participant on quarterly earnings calls and investor road shows, and last year she led a number of group and one-on-one meetings with major shareholders.

Under Lake, the finance department is investing heavily in robotics technology that, once perfected, would allow robots to perform certain labor-intensive activities so that employees could focus on "higher-value activities."

JPMorgan Chase spends about $9 billion a year on technology.

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3. Cathy Bessant

Chief Operations and Technology Officer, Bank of America

A lot of what Cathy Bessant knows about directing a team can be traced back to her days as patrol leader of her Girl Scouts troop.

"That was the first leadership role I ever pursued," said Bessant, who was in the scouts as a tween growing up in Jackson, Mich. "You get to wear a special cord, but your power isn't positional. It is relational and that is exactly what I do every day. I work with our board. I get groups to get work done. You can draw a straight line between the work I do today and the things that began in girl scouting."

This Girl Scout connection is also helping Bessant solve a systemic problem in today's workplace: a shortage of women with degrees in computer science. In 2000, 28% of college degrees in computer science went to female graduates. By 2008, it was down to 18% and remained there through 2013, according to a study by the American Association of University Women.

So when a member of Bessant's team suggested pitching the Girl Scouts Hornets' Nest Council of North and South Carolina on the idea of a "women in technology" badge, Bessant put the support of Bank of America behind the initiative. The badge, which bears the Bank of America logo, launched last year and can be earned one of two ways. There is a cybersecurity track, where the scouts learn cybersecurity lingo and either get to do a role-playing activity or a read-and-discuss activity. (They tend to pick the role-playing one.)

Alternatively, they can learn banking basics, including how to use ATMs and what to do in other banking scenarios.

So far, 58 girls in 19 troops have gone through the cybersecurity program, and 50 girls in 18 troops have gone through the banking basics course. Councils in Delaware and Dallas have adopted the women in technology badge. Bessant joined Bank of America in 1982 and over the years she has run some of the bank's most important business units, including global corporate banking, global treasury services and marketing. In her currrent role of chief operations and technology officer, Bessant is responsible for a workforce of nearly 100,000 people in 35 countries and an annual budget of $16 billion. Her division oversees technology and operations for all the bank's business lines.

Another trait the Girls Scouts helped galvanize in Bessant is an appreciation for diversity. At Bank of America, she is leading the development of its LGBT Pride Global Ally program. The company launched an LGBT Pride program in 2009 and expanded it to include LGBT allies in 2013. Now 15,000 employees are involved across the organization.

4. Avid Modjtabai

Senior EVP, Head of Consumer Lending and Operations Group, Wells Fargo

Avid Modjtabai's big job at Wells Fargo got even bigger this year.

Modjtabai took on responsibility for the company's operations group and added its 10,000 employees to the 55,000 she already oversaw. The operations group manages essential banking functions, such as protecting customers from fraud and helping companies wire funds, and the hope is that by combining that line with consumer lending, Wells will be able to bring new services to customers more quickly. Being nimble is especially important as consumer lending faces heightened regulatory scrutiny and increased competition from nonbank lenders.

The veteran Wells Fargo leader and her team outlined several core principles — transformation, rigor and culture — that guide their efforts. So far the work seems to be paying off. During 2015, the mortgage group reported a 23% jump in volume over the prior year, while the overall net credit loss dropped 20 basis points. The group financed one out of every six home loans in the U.S.

Modjtabai's team has launched a number of new digital and mobile offerings in its ongoing effort to improve the customer experience. New digital features include streamlined loan applications, mobile wallets, digital payments and real-time text alerts. The continuing rollout of the group's YourLoanTracker technology for home lending is helping to eliminate paper and provide real-time updates to customers on the status of their loan applications.

5. Diane Reyes

Global Head of Payments and Cash Management, HSBC

Though technology is remaking the banking industry in all sorts of ways, payments could be the sector where the most sweeping changes of all are happening.

So innovation — whether nurturing it internally or keeping up with it externally — is of the highest priority for Diane Reyes. In keeping with that objective, she oversaw the launch of a fintech innovation lab in Singapore last fall. The lab is charged with generating new ideas in payments and trade finance. Later on it also will be expected to develop technology to improve financial crimes compliance.

Reyes said having this incubator is helping HSBC broadly rethink its services. "It's changed how we behave," she said. "We're a lot more open and proactive and willing to offer more to the customers."

Reyes has also made a series of smaller changes to drive innovation. For instance, she advocated for the use of social media to recruit new employees from fintech competitors.

"I think we're making a lot more strides internally in partnering with people who think differently," she said.

Reyes, the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. division of HSBC, was promoted last year to group general manager. There are only about 60 executives at that level across the company, 10 of them women. As global head of payments and cash management, she oversees approximately 11,000 employees, responsible for businesses ranging from corporate and small-business cards to cash-management services.

Over the past year, she has represented HSBC at global events like the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos. One of her goals in doing so is to send a message that HSBC is committed to being at the forefront of the fast-changing payments business and to developing new technology.

HSBC has faced regulatory challenges — on issues ranging from currency rigging to money laundering.

In looking out for the morale of her employees, one tactic Reyes employs is to keep her team well informed. During a recent off-site meeting, she invited HSBC compliance executives to talk to her management team to provide insight about internal investigations. Another is to encourage senior leaders to use their vacation days and disconnect from work. "I've had to say to a few of them, 'I'm coming to your country next week and do not want to see you,'"Reyes said.

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6. Sandie O'Connor

Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer, JPMorgan Chase

Sandie O'Connor is at the forefront of high-level policy discussions currently shaping the banking industry.

O'Connor, JPMorgan Chase's chief regulatory affairs officer, chairs a committee convened by the Federal Reserve last year to look at possible replacements for the widely used London interbank offered rate and other benchmarks. Libor has been tainted by allegations that banks manipulated the rate to their benefit. Additionally, there has been a decline in Libor-based transactions.

Because of this, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee has been examining ways to replace Libor that will meet new standards and be based on more transactions. So far the committee has published interim conclusions that recommend two potential replacements — one unsecured rate (the overnight bank funding rate) and one secured rate (an overnight Treasury general collateral repo rate). That report was the culmination of 18 months of work.

O'Connor is frequently asked to be a speaker at industry events because of her expertise in capital markets, risk management and regulatory policy. She is known for her ability to take complex regulations and explain simply how they will affect customers and the marketplace. "We're still in this wave of unprecedented regulatory change, and there are many new rules being written and rewritten, many of which are conflicting, some of which are driving risk aversion rather than risk mitigation," O'Connor said.

"The one change that I think would provide the greatest relief right now related to regulation is coherence: looking at how all the rules interact and their cumulative impact," she added. "We should be willing to make adjustments as necessary, and focus on supporting the fundamental banking needs of individuals, small businesses, corporations and governments."

7. Jana Schreuder

Chief Operating Officer, Northern Trust

As chief operating officer at Northern Trust, Jana Schreuder is ensuring that the Chicago custody bank stays on the cutting edge of innovation.

Even as it has been cutting costs elsewhere, Northern Trust is investing heavily in fintech research and development. The initiatives range from exploring how new technology could shape the business to building out more user-friendly digital channels like mobile banking.

Schreuder's team is taking a deep dive into a practical application for blockchain technology in fund administration services. It is also actively pursuing the use of robotics and artificial intelligence in custody reconciliation.

Closely related to the fintech R&D is an innovation lab that Schreuder has also championed and sponsored. The lab focuses on high-priority ideas to improve experiences for Northern Trust's customers and employees. One idea being implemented from the lab is a digital collaboration tool to onboard large corporate clients faster and with greater ease.

Northern Trust's clientele is highly sophisticated, ranging from large corporations to hedge funds to sovereign wealth funds to ultra-wealthy families.

Schreuder held a number of high-level posts at the firm, including chief risk officer and president of wealth management, before being promoted to COO two years ago. She is one of four women on the bank's senior leadership committee and is believed to be on the short list of potential successors to Chief Executive Frederick Waddell.

Waddell, who is also Northern Trust's chairman, described Schreuder as a compassionate leader who is also detail-oriented and disciplined in the way she manages her business.

Her ability to strike that balance makes her a role model for others, Waddell added. "Jana brings energy, expertise and a deep caring for people to her job every day," Waddell said. "Her work ethic is legendary while her deep and broad knowledge of banking, global securities processing and technology make her well suited for her role."

8. Barbara Desoer

CEO, Citibank, Citigroup

When a female employee is about to squander a big break for fear of being out of her depth, Barbara Desoer gladly butts in.

In such situations, she pushes the employee to realize that she is indeed ready for the next challenge of her career. It is Desoer's job, she said, "to help them enhance their level of self-awareness so that they do seize that next opportunity."

To help a colleague decide she is up to it, Desoer asks some key questions: Are you thinking broadly? How are you building your management experience through opportunities outside of the job, like nonprofit board involvement and internal network leadership roles? Are you being bold enough not only in your current role but the next position you are seeking?

"I believe that success comes from taking the next job that is a 'reach,' with opportunity to learn and grow," Desoer said.

This advice has worked for Desoer. She joined Citibank as chief operating officer in October 2013 and was promoted to CEO less than a year later.

Since then she has taken on the additional responsibility of overseeing the company's anti-money-laundering program. Several banks, including Citi, have been grappling with how to improve their AML functions, an area that regulators are particularly focused on at the moment. Desoer said she believes that having the company's AML efforts centralized into a single function should continue to strengthen it.

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9. Jane Fraser

CEO, Latin America, Citigroup

Since taking the helm of Citigroup's Latin American business in June 2015, Jane Fraser has been working to make it a simpler, stronger and more transparent institution in the region.

As part of that effort, Fraser decided to discontinue retail consumer banking in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. This was a wrenching decision in light of Citi's history; it opened the first overseas branch of any U.S. bank in Buenos Aires in 1914. But the exit is meant to help the firm focus on institutional client businesses and on the Mexican consumer market.

Fraser has been leading the region for Citi during a turbulent period. Citi's Banco Nacional de México, also known as Banamex, has faced questions about its anti-money-laundering practices. Last year Citi agreed to pay $140 million to settle claims of deficiencies in the AML and Bank Secrecy Act procedures of Banamex USA, an affiliate of the Mexico operation that was eventually wound down.

Fraser oversaw the integration of Mexico, which had operated separately at Citi for 14 years, into the rest of the Latin American division. In February, Fraser completed the sale of Citi's consumer and commercial banking operations in Costa Rica and Panama, part of a series of worldwide divestitures that had been in the works since October 2014.

Aside from streamlining the organization, Fraser says she's focused on building a culture of openness and ethical behavior, one where employees feel comfortable raising concerns.

10. Anne Finucane

Vice Chairman, Bank of America

Anne Finucane is in charge of positioning Bank of America for future success and a big part of that job is figuring out how to reach millennials.

She is not alone in trying to crack the code — nearly every industry is trying to understand those born roughly between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, a generation now outnumbering baby boomers.

One way the bank has found to connect with the cool kids is through a new partnership with VICE News, a trendy and sometimes irreverent online news site that attracts that demographic. The move was inspired by the bank's successful collaboration with Khan Academy to provide online financial education resources.

In the spring of 2015, the news site launched an online series called "The Business of Life" that featured a panel discussing a different topic each episode that is relevant to young people, such as how the U.S. workforce is changing. While the partnership may seem unlikely for the conservative bank, the first season exceeded expectations by garnering more views than anticipated. It also gave Bank of America an authentic way to hear directly from millennials about what's important to them and connect them to resources. Season two is in the works.

When she is not finding ways to connect with millennials, she is engaging with some of the most powerful people in the world. As the first female vice chairman in the company's history, Finucane directs the company's interactions with important U.S. and global organizations, such as the World Economic Forum, the United Nations and the White House. She even serves on a 22-member foreign affairs policy board that provides advice to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Finucane also oversees Bank of America's environmental sustainability efforts. Last year alone the bank provided $14.5 billion in financing for renewable energy and other sustainable projects.

11. Dorothy Savarese

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

Dorothy Savarese draws inspiration from her ability to make a positive difference in the communities her bank serves.

Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank has a branch on Nantucket, and the rising cost and lack of affordable housing on the affluent island have made it increasingly difficult for many hardworking residents to remain there. To combat this problem, the bank signed on to be the construction lender on a housing organization's plan to build affordable single-family homes.

The $2.9 billion-asset company also made loans to some of the project's first residents, including a school teacher and her husband, who is a manager at a local brewery. The bank played a significant role in allowing the couple to remain on the island with their 18-month-old son, and pictures of the couple celebrating their new home brought Savarese to tears.

"I feel so privileged to have a job in an industry where I can play a role in supporting our customers on their life journeys, provide meaningful employment and satisfaction to our dedicated staff and support efforts to help our communities thrive," said Savarese, who is chairman, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts bank.

In her role as CEO — she was promoted to the post in 2005 — Savarese has become one of the industry's most passionate advocates for community banking. She speaks frequently at industry conferences about small banks' role in their communities, has served on the FDIC's Advisory Committee on Community Banking and is a former chair of the Massachusetts Bankers Association. In perhaps the greatest testament to her influence, Savarese last year was named incoming chair of the American Bankers Association. She will be only the second woman to hold the one-year post when she takes over in October.

Savarese has also been a vocal advocate for females in banking. During her stint as chair of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, Savarese created and presided over the state's first-ever Women in Banking conference. It is now an annual event, drawing bankers from across the state.

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12. Diane Morais

President and CEO, Ally Bank

Diane Morais has been driving a transformation at Ally Bank since she took over as president and chief executive in March 2015.

Best known for online deposit gathering and auto lending, Ally has been branching out to meet customer demand and to improve the bottom line. In April of this year, the company announced a deal to buy the online brokerage TradeKing. Then in June, Ally introduced its first credit card. It also plans to re-enter the mortgage business this year. Morais (who reports to holding company CEO Jeffrey Brown) is leading the charge on all three fronts.

The changes haven't always been smooth. Investors have been unhappy with Ally's performance. An activist shareholder, Lion Point Capital, challenged Ally to look for a potential buyer until the company agreed to appoint an independent director. Morais and her team have worked to communicate their vision by speaking at conferences and holding the company's first-ever investor day in February.

Although the negative scrutiny can be frustrating, Morais said she concentrates on getting results and proving that the company's strategy is working.

"You have to focus on delivering and executing on what we said we would do," Morais said. "The expectation or hope is that when we deliver the results, the stock price will follow."

Morais said she has benefited from many mentors throughout her career and tries to pay it forward by working with a "long list" of those she advises at Ally and her previous employer, Bank of America. She counsels women looking to advance their careers to cultivate a network and keep it active. "Someone who really gives you that perspective and challenges you is invaluable," Morais said.

"If there is something you are interested in, if you are missing something, figure out how to get it. Use that mentoring network to help you."

13. LeeAnne Linderman

EVP, Enterprise Retail Banking, Zions Bancorp.

LeeAnne Linderman is a self-styled "change master."

And considering how much change she has been leading at Zions Bancorp. lately, the label is more apt than ever. Perhaps the biggest involved consolidating the holding company's seven bank brands and retail operations.

Linderman served on the committee that arrived at the pivotal decision, after working through options with a consultant. Then, as executive vice president of enterprise retail banking, a role in which she oversees 447 retail branches in 11 Western and Southwestern states, she helped re-engineer how all those parts would work together.

"I want to do all I can to make it more comfortable by leading others effectively through changes," Linderman said. "Perhaps being raised in a family where my father's company transferred him frequently created my ability to lead change. I was always 'the new kid,' continually making new friends then saying goodbye, and making more new friends."

Early efforts for the new enterprise retail banking initiative focused on improving consumer lending. By mapping the "customer experience journey," Zions revamped the entire process from initial application to final closing, reducing 11 different underwriting approaches to just two. In the 12 months that ended April 30, consumer loan applications grew 9%, compared with a 4.5% decline in the prior 12 months. Newly booked balances increased 13% for the same period.

Still, Linderman said it is important at the former affiliate banks to still have a voice within Zions, so she helped devise an advisory council of branch managers that meets quarterly to share ideas for improvements and discuss any pain points. These are supplemented with monthly meetings for affiliate bank retail executives and quarterly meetings with the CEOs.

"I had been one of those heads of retail banking at an affiliate for 20 years, so I just asked myself, 'What would my fears be if I were still in that role?'" Linderman said. "It is important to state very clearly what we will be doing."

As Linderman actively mentors others within the industry, she often encourages women to be proud of their accomplishments. She has noticed that women tend to be quick to negate a compliment by saying what they did was nothing. Doing this could diminish their achievements in the eyes of the person complementing them, she said. "It's not brash when someone complements your work to say, 'Thank you, I'm pleased with the results.' It's not being impolite to acknowledge that."

14. Mary Walworth Navarro

Senior EVP, Retail and Business Banking Director, Huntington Bancshares

The word "welcome" is all over Mary Walworth Navarro's Huntington Bancshares office — from the paperweight on her desk to the artwork on the walls. It is the word tellers and other customer-facing employees say countless times each day as they greet customers at Huntington's branches and it is the first word online banking customers see when they click on

"Everyone feels better when they feel welcome, whether it's someone coming to work or a customer walking through the door," said Navarro, who headed the strategic review that led to the word "welcome" becoming a key component of the bank's marketing efforts.

To Navarro, no detail is too small in promoting a welcoming atmosphere. Free Huntington-branded pens are available for customers to take at every branch. Branches open 10 minutes early and close 10 minutes late to accommodate those who have trouble getting there during regular business hours. And no matter the time, customers' deposits are applied to accounts on the day they are received, not the next day, as at many banks.

Stephen Steinour, Huntington's chairman, president and chief executive, said Navarro takes calculated risks to get results. For example, Navarro was the driving force behind the move to give customers who have overdrawn their accounts 24 hours to replace the funds and avoid an overdraft fee. Huntington lost fee income in the short term, but the 24-hour grace feature has become hugely popular with customers, and it is among the reasons why the bank has won numerous awards for customer satisfaction in recent years.

All of these efforts are paying off. Last year checking balances increased by 20%, households with six or more products jumped 5% and revenue for Navarro's retail and business segment surged 11%. Overall, her group is responsible for roughly 60% of Huntington's revenue.

Navarro has served as head of retail and business banking since 2002. She is one of three women on Steinour's leadership team. She is also a past chair of the Consumer Bankers Association and currently serves on its board.

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15. Stacey Friedman

General Counsel, JPMorgan Chase

"Too big to manage" is a nonissue from Stacey Friedman's point of view.

In her first few months as general counsel at JPMorgan Chase — the nation's largest bank by assets — Friedman has come up with creative ways to get her 1,900 employees working cohesively.

She recently developed what she calls "virtual practice groups," each with an online forum where staff across the globe post must-read memos and commentary on pressing issues. The forums cover topics ranging from the Brexit vote to the new Department of Labor rule that requires investment advisers to act in clients' best interests.

With this structure, even her "1,900th employee," who is sitting in an office on the other side of the world, can always be up to speed, Friedman said. It also helped cut back on lengthy email chains and time-consuming conference calls.

To get the groups started, Friedman pushed her management team to make the slow-moving mechanics of a large organization go faster. That meant not fussing so much over what a forum should look like.

"Bless a big institution, but it could take you six months to build it," Friedman said. "Or you can say, 'Let's do it next week, and we'll just call it version 1.0,'" and worry about making it "pretty" later on.

Friedman also has overseen the development of a mobile app that allows branch and call center employees to connect with each other. That idea came from a town hall meeting in Chicago, where Friedman heard complaints from younger employees who don't have company email addresses, but wanted a way to communicate with colleagues. (More than 25% of JPMorgan Chase employees work in a location where they lack a company email address or direct phone number, according to the company.)

During the Chicago event, an audience member suggested creating a mobile app. A high-ranking technology executive offered to help build it, and other employees volunteered their free time to work on it as well. The app has been well received since its launch earlier this year.

Friedman cited this as an example of how her work can go in unexpected directions. "Your job is to be the sophisticated consumer of common sense, and to weave together what you can see," she said.

16. Karen Larrimer

EVP, Head of Retail Banking and Chief Customer Officer, PNC Financial Services Group

PNC Financial Services Group is increasingly leaning on Karen Larrimer to help transform many of the ways it interacts with customers.

Larrimer became the chief customer officer at the Pittsburgh company in March 2014 and then added the title of head of retail banking earlier this year. Given her experience as chief marketing officer and chief customer officer, Larrimer said she has a good understanding of customers' changing expectations.

"I know what they care about most from their bank, the role they see us playing in their financial well-being and the pain points experienced in dealing with banks," Larrimer said. "My intent is to address those head on and to ensure that PNC is known for being the easiest to bank and invest with and has the fastest and fewest steps in all things that we build going forward."

Larrimer was chosen to lead retail banking because of her track record of strategic leadership and building great teams in other roles, said Bill Demchak, PNC's chairman and chief executive.

"She is an exceptionally talented, smart and capable business leader, and she is a trusted advisor whose counsel I greatly value and have relied upon as a member of the PNC executive committee since 2013," he said. Larrimer has been a champion of innovation, spearheading the launch of the bank's first innovation lab, called the iLab, in 2015. The lab features a full-scale model of PNC's branch of the future, which includes next-generation physical layouts and technology.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is a challenge for Larrimer, who has four children — 6-year-old twins, an 11-year-old and a 28-year-old. She is active with area nonprofits, but said she will not join their boards if they expect her to be at every meeting or every event. "Staying true to the limits you set and being clear about them to others is what brings about the balance," Larrimer said. "And, those boundaries are different for every individual. It has to be your boundaries, not based on someone else's expectations."

17. Patricia Husic

President and CEO, Centric Bank

Patricia "Patti" Husic doesn't give up once she sets her mind to something.

Last year Husic, the president and chief executive of Centric Bank in Harrisburg, Pa., was determined to raise money for her $420 million-asset bank. She wanted the capital for a few reasons, including a chance to bring in top talent from rival banks that were merging with larger, out-of-market players.

However, the investment bank she wanted to work with, Boenning & Scattergood, was initially reluctant to take on the capital raise. Mainly the two sides disagreed over valuations. But Husic persisted, convincing the investment bank and investors that Centric was worth betting on.

Her dynamic personality and deep understanding of Centric's markets went a long way toward convincing investors to open their checkbooks, said Charles Hull, head of investment banking at Boenning & Scattergood. "She has a ton of energy and truly has a passion for banking," he said. "That's not her putting on a persona. It is really evident in everything she does and showed through during the capital raise."

Centric ended up raising $18 million — $12 million through a private placement of common stock and the remaining amount in subordinated debt. The stock offering was twice oversubscribed and brought institutional investors into the bank for the first time.

Among other things, Centric used the proceeds to expand in suburban Philadelphia by hiring a new five-person commercial lending team.

Investors are already being rewarded for their faith in Husic; the bank reported a record profit last year and is on its way to setting another record this year.

Husic has long worked to create more opportunities for women in banking and lately she has been focused on bringing more millennials into the field. She created a Millennial Advisory Council that meets quarterly to help management understand what drives that demographic. "If we don't engage the college grads, the young professionals and the digital natives then we have no future in banking," she said. "We need to attract them, hire them, learn from them and set them loose in our institutions to do innovative things."

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18. Janice Fukakusa

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

In a rapidly changing banking environment, Royal Bank of Canada is trying to stay on top of the competition by being more agile.

Janice Fukakusa, the company's chief administrative officer and chief financial officer, is contributing to that cause by leading a companywide transformation and efficiency initiative focused on improving the customer experience and reducing costs through agile management, essentially handling projects in small sections so that adjustments can be made quickly rather than tackling everything at once.

Under Fukakusa's guidance, the company has launched an initiative called rapid digitization that embraces agile principles and encourages leaders to pursue opportunities at an enterprise level rather than in individual businesses. As a result, RBC's retail and capital markets businesses launched or improved 15 products in six months.

For instance, it launched myGPS, an application for wealth advisers across North America that provides a holistic view of a client's goals, needs and progress.

"Our continued strength as a leading global bank requires us to embrace new skills and create simpler, more collaborative, nimbler ways of working so that we continue to be the choice for clients," Fukakusa said.

The quote, "Done is better than perfect," has special meaning to Fukakusa. She said that traditionally RBC has been "uncomfortable with imperfection, and that's despite our extensive track record of success."

But given the challenges the industry is facing — rapidly changing technology, emerging competitors and evolving regulations — they need to be quicker and more nimble.

"When perfection is no longer part of the equation, you encourage people from across different levels, groups and geographies to come together, be bold, make real-time decisions and try things they may not have previously considered," Fukakusa said. "That's often where true innovation occurs — when you actively encourage a diversity of thought."

19. Anne Clarke Wolff

Head of Global Corporate Banking and Global Leasing, Bank of America

Between the volatility in the energy sector and the geopolitical turmoil in Latin America, Anne Clarke Wolff's global corporate banking team has a lot to keep up with.

Despite those challenges, the business, which serves Bank of America's largest 2,200 clients, posted a 20% increase in funded loans last year. The other business Wolff oversees, global leasing, also had a strong year, generating record originations and a double-digit increase in net income.

Beyond the numbers, one point of pride for Wolff is the happiness of the group she leads, which is reflected by employee satisfaction scores that are the highest across the global corporate and investment banking division. Wolff said this is a result of constantly monitoring and acting on feedback from across the organization.

To help bring out the best in her female colleagues, Wolff encourages them to share their ideas with conviction.

"One should never be hesitant to express an opinion that differs from that of others," Wolff said. "How you deliver that opinion and how you reach a conclusion is, however, as critical to the team's overall success. Positioning your views in a way that demonstrates you seek an outcome that is a shared success is key."

20. Ranjana Clark

Head of Transaction Banking Americas, MUFG Union Bank

Ranjana Clark took a risk when she left banking five years ago for a job in fintech. But the decision put her on a fast track to the executive suite.

Now Clark not only leads transaction banking in the Americas for San Francisco's MUFG Union Bank, but serves as its Bay Area president and is one of three women on the executive committee for its parent company, MUFG Americas Holdings Corp. She is also an executive officer of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, which is the largest bank in Japan. (All three are part of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.)

The reason she took a chief marketing officer job at PayPal in 2011 was to gain experience in consumer payments and digital marketing. Moving into fintech was a culture shock at first, as PayPal had a more casual workplace and a lot of skepticism toward bankers. But she gained valuable insight into how startups innovate quickly.

She went back to banking in 2013, in her current role. Clark said she has a broad array of duties that allows her to draw on her disparate work experiences and even maintain her fintech ties. One aspect of her work is overseeing an innovation unit in Silicon Valley.

"I've moved industries, and I've moved geographies," Clark said. But "at some stage of your career, you have to knit those experiences into a cohesive whole."

The innovation unit is meant to be a "source of creative thinking" for the global company, to encourage a fast-moving, high-tech mindset, she said. The deals it has struck over the past year include participating in a $10.5 million investment in Coinbase, a digital currency exchange and wallet service. The bank also formed a partnership with Plug and Play, a tech accelerator with ties to companies such as Dropbox and PayPal.

Clark has a daughter who recently graduated from Stanford University and accepted a job at Morgan Stanley in New York. Asked what advice she would give her daughter about succeeding in the industry, Clark said, with a laugh, that children rarely take advice from parents. But she added that she hopes her daughter takes career risks.

"Stay intellectually curious and agile," Clark said. "The roles that will exist 20 years from now may not even be here now."

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21. Amy Brady

Chief Information Officer, Technology and Operations Executive, KeyCorp

On her desk Amy Brady has a little stone inscribed with the words, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

The stone was a gift from a co-worker and the quote is often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. To Brady, the message is a reminder to demonstrate the characteristics she wants to see in the community, in her family and at work.

"This powerful quote from Gandhi reminds us that we are in charge of the change — both in how we respond to it and what we create," said Brady, who as head of technology for KeyCorp is caught up in a lot of change herself.

In the last year, Key, under Brady's direction, has made several noteworthy choices as it looks to be a standout amid the digital changes that banks are facing. These moves include finding a niche in commercial payments, seeking out fintech partnerships and fostering innovation internally.

One of the biggest projects Key has underway is that it is about to become the first U.S. bank to implement the Oracle banking platform, technology that promises to make it easier to stay current on the digital front. As Brady describes it, the platform is designed to allow Key to pivot quickly, implementing changes as needed without having to wait for an all-inclusive overhaul.

A year into the process of switching to this new platform, Key announced it would acquire the $40 billion-asset First Niagara Financial Group. Facing a major integration, Brady chose to accelerate the platform implementation rather than delay it. That way, First Niagara customers would transition to the new digital experience soon after coming on board. The deal closed in late July and the conversion is expected to take place this quarter.

Brady, who oversees a $600 million budget and more than 4,500 Key employees, also has sought to encourage grass-roots innovation and a culture of continuous improvement. That effort entails sponsoring hackathons and launching an internal website where employees can submit ideas. Last year Key got 550 ideas and implemented 233 of them. "The ideas run the gamut, but they show that every idea is welcomed here," she said.

22. Melanie Dressel

President and CEO, Columbia Banking System

Melanie Dressel manages by walking around.

Each year, the president and chief executive of Columbia Banking System in Tacoma, Wash., makes it a priority to visit each of the bank's branches, as well as its various departments, to help her better understand what is working for customers and what the bank can be doing better. "We want to engender a culture where we can make informed decisions based upon what is going on in the real world," Dressel explained.

It is a practice she started early in her tenure as CEO and has continued even as she has built Columbia into one of the Pacific Northwest's largest community banks. When Dressel took over as CEO in 2003, the bank had less than $2 billion of assets and around two dozen branches, mostly in and around Tacoma. Ten acquisitions later, Columbia is now creeping up on $10 billion of assets and has 145 branches in three states,

Growth through acquisitions is just part of Columbia's story. The company posted a record profit of $98.8 million last year and Dressel said that is due in large part to its success in attracting high-quality bankers and giving them the freedom to do what they see as best for their customers.

"I think the most important thing is to create opportunities for our bankers and then not get in their way," Dressel said.

As one of the industry's few female chief executives, Dressel relishes the opportunity to mentor or advise talented young women. She particularly loves when a male bank CEO asks her to give advice and share her experiences with his daughter or one of his female executives.

Dressel hadn't initially planned on becoming a banker; she was on her way to law school when someone suggested that she give banking a try first. She started out as a commercial real estate loan clerk before becoming a manager's secretary at Bank of California in the 1970s. She moved steadily up the ranks over the next 14 years as management, recognizing her skills as a leader, kept handing her more challenging assignments.

"They saw leadership ability in me and knew that I could fill in that slot," Dressel said. "It was great being with a group of people that kept me in mind."

23. Diana Reid

EVP and Head of PNC Real Estate, PNC Financial Services Group

Some might think the World War I poster that Diana Reid has hanging in her office is chilling.

It shows an airplane that has crashed into the ocean while a lone survivor waits to be rescued, along with the message, "Warning: Consider the possible consequences if you are careless in your work."

But the poster resonates with Reid because it reminds her of the importance of the strong work ethic that her parents helped instill in her. It also underscores for her the need to communicate clearly — but also compassionately — with employees.

"Each colleague is doing the best they can at that moment, and intentional communications can help you both actually do better," Reid said.

Doing better is what Reid is always aiming for and that approach to her work is serving her well. Her business has posted double-digit commercial real estate loan growth for four consecutive years.

One new strategy helping spur growth this past year can be attributed to astute observations of the housing market.

In response to an undersupply of affordable housing, Reid took a contrarian approach to a sector many fear is getting overheated. She opted to put more emphasis on multifamily commercial real estate financing as competitors pulled back in the second half of 2015. The result was nearly $1 billion in loan volume with strong credit quality.

Her strategy included an expanded warehouse program for multifamily lenders and an affordable housing preservation fund, among other components. "The boom in multifamily housing means that affordable housing is at risk of being bought by investors and turned into market rate high-end housing," Reid said. "The design and implementation of a new affordable housing preservation fund created an innovative investment for clients and supported affordable housing investors by keeping affordable housing units for families in the communities served by PNC."

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24. Helga Houston

Chief Risk Officer, Huntington Bancshares

Huntington Bancshares pulled the trigger on the largest acquisition in its history because it had Helga Houston on its side. As chief risk officer, Houston developed a risk due diligence process that was used to evaluate Huntington's $3.4 billion deal for FirstMerit in Akron, Ohio. The process included making sure management and the board understood the risk and return and that it aligned with the company's strategy and capital policy. Analyzing both companies' risk profiles on a stand-alone basis and then combined was also essential, Houston said.

"This deal takes us from $70 billion to $100 billion of assets so it could fundamentally change who we were as a company," Houston said. "We wanted to make sure we had clear transparency and that it was consistent with Huntington's risk appetite."

Houston's due diligence framework on the deal was "impressive" and her evaluation "proved vital" in Huntington's decision to buy FirstMerit, said Steven Elliott, who chairs the bank's risk oversight committee and a former senior vice chairman at the Bank of New York Mellon.

The Columbus company will be using the risk due diligence that Houston developed to evaluate future deals as well, said Chief Executive Officer Stephen Steinour, adding that her due diligence work was some of the best he had seen in his career.

Houston's influence extends beyond Huntington. She is the incoming chair of the Risk Management Association's board and helped to found the Risk Institute at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business. The institute is a forum for industry leaders and academics dedicated to the advancement of risk management.

25. Barb Godin

Chief Credit Officer, Regions Financial

Regions Financial was more proactive than most energy lenders in getting ahead of credit troubles caused by falling oil prices, and the Birmingham, Ala., company has Chief Credit Officer Barb Godin to thank for that.

As prices plunged, Godin worried that investors would draw parallels between this downturn and the real estate bust of 2008. It wasn't the case, but Godin decided anyway that Regions needed to be fully transparent about its energy exposure.

In late 2014, Regions' earnings reports began disclosing such details as credit metrics, number of customers and how much it had in allowance for the energy segment. "The last thing we want is people guessing on our book value," she said. "We wanted to lay out the facts so that reasoned people could come to a reasonable conclusion."

Not everyone at Regions was on board with providing such detailed information, but Godin was able to bring skeptics over to her side by being analytical in her arguments. Godin once heard men describe women as being dramatic and she wanted to avoid that stereotype, so she has always presented her point of view in a factual way.

Godin advises women to avoid the "sticky-floor syndrome" by letting others know that they are interested in opportunities. This was something Godin suffered from early on as she watched less-qualified men get promoted to positions for which she felt she was well suited. "It took me five years until I walked into my boss's office and said, 'Next time this comes along, I should have it,' " she added. "And the next time it became available, I got it."