1. Karen Peetz

President, BNY Mellon

Karen Peetz, who has been in banking for three decades and at BNY Mellon for the past 15 years, was the company's first female vice chairman and has sat on its executive committee since 2007. She spent four consecutive years on our list of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking, including a turn at No. 1 in 2011. With her promotion this year to president of BNY Mellon, she shoots straight to the top of our list of 25 Women to Watch, which recognizes senior executives who have taken on new roles within the past year, as well as talented up-and-comers.

Peetz, who led BNY Mellon's financial markets and treasury services group before her promotion in January, also stepped up to guide her alma mater, Pennsylvania State University, through a devastating period, taking over as chairman of the board of trustees during the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. She stepped down after being named president at BNY Mellon but remains on the board of the university. She also is active in efforts to reform the tri-party repo market, and is spearheading the creation of a "virtual university" at BNY Mellon, with a focus on skills such as sales and client service, risk management and compliance, and even professional development. Each discipline will have its own "dean," and the "students" will be BNY Mellon's 9,000 middle managers.

(See Peetz' full profile here.)

2. Jane Fraser

CEO, CitiMortgage Citigroup

After leading Citigroup's private bank to an 8 percent increase in revenue last year, on top of 7 percent growth the year before, Jane Fraser was made CEO of CitiMortgage in May.

She's no longer running a global franchise-CitiMortgage is a U.S. business serving 5 million customers-but her track record as a savvy manager of capital, talent development and technological innovation suggests that Citi has fresh ambitions for its home loan division.

The four years Fraser spent at the helm of Citi Private Bank left that business, which caters to a third of the Forbes billionaire list, in a strong position competitively.

In her new role, she reports to Citi Co-President Manuel Medina-Mora and has a seat on Citi's 24-member operating committee.

3. Marianne Lake

Chief Financial Officer, JPMorgan Chase

In the style of her boss, Jamie Dimon, Marianne Lake has a reputation as a rapid-fire talker with a solid command of the numbers driving performance at JPMorgan Chase. This summer, with JPMorgan still in the hot seat over a spate of regulatory issues, it was Lake who did most of the talking on the company's second-quarter earnings call, which immediately inspired talk about her potential as a Dimon successor.

Appointed chief financial officer in November, Lake has held finance posts in the company's corporate, investment and retail arms, accumulating what Dimon has described as "an impressive breadth of knowledge and experience" fit for her "critically important role." Lake was CFO for the consumer and community banking unit until her latest promotion, which she described in an interview with Marie Claire magazine this spring as "the role on my list." She also talked about relying on friends and a nanny while in a job that doesn't always allow her to meet her goal of spending an hour a day with her young son, telling the magazine, "I try to try to make that work, but if I can't, I just move on. You can't beat yourself up about it."

4. Mary Tuuk

Board Secretary, EVP for Corporate Services, Fifth Third Bancorp

After 18 months running a Fifth Third affiliate bank in the upper Midwest, Mary Tuuk is back at the company's Cincinnati headquarters, where she worked as chief risk officer from 2007 to 2011.

Tuuk's brief tour in her native Grand Rapids, Mich., worked out nicely for her and for Fifth Third: she got the business line responsibilities she'd been looking for to round out her resume, and the bank's Western Michigan affiliate enjoyed strong gains in net income and commercial loan production.

Western Michiganers got something out of the deal, too: a committed local leader who lent significant time to local nonprofits and cultural institutions. Tuuk's extracurricular work included a three-day workshop she created at her alma mater, Grand Rapids' Calvin College, to address the discrepancy she saw between the numbers of male and female students choosing to major in business.

Tuuk's new assignment, announced in June, draws heavily on her risk background. As board secretary, she'll be managing boardroom agendas at a time when enterprise risk and assorted legal and regulatory issues are top of mind for bank directors. And her corporate services job puts her over areas of increasing importance, such as facilities management (key as the shift to digital banking prompts new questions about the future of branch infrastructure) and M&A integration (not a priority for Fifth Third now, but potentially important if predictions of further industry consolidation come to pass).

5. Heather Cox

EVP, U.S. Card Operations, Capital One Financial

A top priority at Capital One last year was the integration of the card business it acquired from HSBC. Leading the task was Heather Cox, the company's EVP of domestic card operations.

Cox oversees more than 11,000 Capital One employees, plus another 10,000 contract workers in 10 countries. With a budget representing the bulk of the company's direct operating costs for U.S. cards, her responsibilities include sales, customer service, debt collections, and operations for key areas like marketing and risk.

Cox sits on the board of the Capital One Foundation and the national board of LIFT, a nonprofit promoting financial literacy to help combat poverty.

In 2010, she was appointed by Virginia's governor to a commission charged with making state government more efficient and transparent. A second gubernatorial appointment came last year when she was named to the Council on Virginia's Future.

6. Eileen Serra

CEO, Chase Card Services, JPMorgan Chase

She's only been CEO of Chase Card Services since last summer, but Eileen Serra started writing the playbook for the job years ago.

Hired away from Merrill Lynch in 2006, Serra joined Chase as a card strategy executive and developed many of the business plans that remain in place at the division today.

Before her promotion in August of last year, Serra was head of card consumer-branded products, and was responsible for the group's mass affluent, affluent and high-net-worth customer segments.

Under Serra, expect Chase to remain a relentless marketer, with finely tuned advertising that's designed to show the company's 60 million active cardholders what's available to them, like the popular rewards programs tied to the Chase Sapphire card and the cash-back feature on the Chase Freedom card.

7. Laura Schulte

Region Executive, Eastern Community Bank, Wells Fargo

Dispatched to Charlotte, N.C., after Wells Fargo's acquisition of Wachovia, Laura Schulte has played a central role in making Wells a major retail force throughout the eastern half of the country.

The San Francisco-based institution would have been hard-pressed to find a better ambassador to the region. Schulte has spent 31 years with Wells and worked in finance, credit review and internal audit before taking on leadership roles in the community bank (which is how Wells refers to its retail and business banking operation).

Prior to her current role, she was president of Wells' home region in the West. In the East, where the bank has 2,700 branches and 32,000 employees, Schulte has overseen stronger household penetration and increased cross-selling of Wells Fargo products and services.

She also co-leads the retail bank's affluent segment strategy and is the executive advisor to Wells' Women's Team Member Network, which formed in 2009 with Schulte as executive sponsor.

8. Karen Parkhill

Vice Chairman, CFO, Comerica

As she continues to help guide Comerica to the financial performance targets she established for the company (return on assets greater than 1.3 percent, efficiency ratio below 60 percent), Karen Parkhill will take on a brand new challenge: preparing the $63 billion-asset Comerica to join the list of large bank holding companies stress tested each year in the Federal Reserve's comprehensive capital analysis and review.

Luckily for Comerica, Parkhill arrived in 2011 with plenty of experience working within a large bank holding company. She previously was with JPMorgan Chase, where she was an investment banker and later CFO for the commercial bank.

Now back in Dallas, the city where she began her career as an analyst with Dain Rauscher, Parkhill is on the executive board of Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business and active in the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. She's also a national trustee for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

9. Andrea Smith

Global Head of HR, Bank of America

Righting the ship at Bank of America is a monumental task, and employee engagement is crucial. That's where Andrea Smith comes in.

A key adviser to CEO Brian Moynihan, Smith has been focused on attracting and retaining top talent, and in some cases redeploying it. The portion of job openings filled internally has risen from a third to almost half, with a simplified process for posting and applying for jobs within the company. (Nearly 9,000 reassignments were made in the first year the new system was used.)

Smith also has overseen significant work on the benefits front. BofA recently started contributing to U.S. Employees' 401(k) plans and responded to employee requests for a Roth 401(k) option, while staff making $50,000 a year or less had their health insurance premiums held steady for a third straight year.

Smith spearheads BofA's diversity and inclusion efforts globally and chairs the firm's black executive leader council. She has been in HR roles at BofA since 1988, and has led the department since 2010.

10. Peyton Patterson

President and CEO, BNC Financial/Bankwell Financial

The tireless Peyton Patterson says she has a five-year strategic plan for Connecticut's BNC Financial. If the first 12 months of her tenure are any indication, it's going to be a busy five years.

Already Patterson has announced a $5 million acquisition, a planned capital raise, an expansion into wealth management and a rebranding that will bring the company's Bank of New Canaan and Bank of Fairfield franchises under the same new name, Bankwell Financial.

"There's no shortage of things to do," says Patterson, who is aiming to double assets from the current $631 million. Her track record indicates she can do it. Patterson is the former CEO of NewAlliance Bancshares, which she grew from a sleepy Connecticut thrift (it was called New Haven Savings Bank when she started there) into one of New England's largest depository institutions until it was sold in 2011 to First Niagara Financial Group.

11. Donna Goodrich

Senior EVP, Deposit Services Manager, BB&T

BB&T has gotten a good return on its investment in Donna Goodrich, who began her career in the bank's leadership development program in 1985.

Goodrich has served in a variety of roles at the North Carolina-based regional, from retail banking officer, to mergers-and-acquisitions analyst, to corporate funding manager. In her latest, she has helped BB&T get retail transaction accounts growing again despite regulatory headwinds and the end of free checking.

The deposit services team she leads has successfully reengineered its offering, and it hasn't let a year go by without winning internal recognition in the Chairman's Innovation Awards. (Last year the group was recognized for developing a new client profitability model.) Goodrich serves on BB&T's executive committee. A past chair of the North Carolina Bankers Association, she was elected in December to chair the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta.

12. Bita Ardalan

EVP, Union Bank

Bita Ardalan debuted on this list in 2012 when she was running Union Bank's national specialized lending group, which expanded beyond the California regional's branch footprint to build relationships in select industries. In just over two years, she grew the group from three sector-specific lending niches to seven, including healthcare, aerospace and environmental services.

Now Union is counting on her to spearhead a growth strategy closer to home. With designs on expanding its commercial business from Southern California to Washington state, and perhaps points beyond, Union in July announced it was putting Ardalan in charge of commercial banking for its western region.

The new post draws on her prior experience at Union as commercial banking chief in Los Angeles, and solidifies her status as a woman worth watching.

13. Diana Reid

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

With the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac still up in the air, Diana Reid, head of commercial real estate lending at PNC, has spent significant time strategizing for the different possible outcomes.

It would have been easy to get engulfed by all the contingency planning, but Reid has kept a steady hand on deals in the pipeline. In 2012, her group originated more than $12 billion in new commercial real estate loans, increased its activity in syndications, securities placements, derivatives and cash management services, and took in 20 percent of its revenue from three credit products introduced just in the past two years.

Reid recently served on the Mortgage Bankers Association's GSE Multifamily Task Force, advising on an area of increasing importance to PNC. She is active in various Pittsburgh cultural institutions and in PNC's Women Connect group.

14. Theresa McLaughlin

Group EVP, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, RBS Citizens Financial

Theresa McLaughlin has substantial credibility as a marketer. Time magazine put one of the television spots for the company's Citizens Bank unit on a list of the Top 10 commercials of 2011, and her work for a nonprofit, Horizons for Homeless Children, received an Emmy.

At least as valuable to RBS Citizens is the holistic approach that McLaughlin brings to problem-solving. The Customer Experience Group she leads is a prime example. Created in 2011 to address common pain points for customers, it has gone well beyond basic troubleshooting.

Under McLaughlin, the group plays a role in product development, regularly shares its findings with business line executives, and operationalizes big data to capture and analyze customer experiences.

Reinforcing the company's "Good banking is good citizenship" mantra, McLaughlin has launched an internal recognition program called the "Good Banking Awards" and is working with human resources to incorporate the brand's values directly into the hiring process at the retail bank.

15. Amy Brady

Technology and Operations Executive, Chief Information Officer, KeyCorp

Amy Brady, Keycorp's new technology and operations chief, has quickly brought an "on time, on budget" philosophy to the Cleveland-based company, which previously struggled with the delivery of strategic projects.

Now it has competitive phone and tablet apps, increased payments revenue and a revamped process for handling Distributed Denial of Service attacks like the one that disrupted Key's network for four days in July 2012.

Brady has a deep understanding of the problems that banking technology is intended to solve. A former branch manager, she came up the retail ladder at Bank of America before transitioning to a research and development role that led to a post as CIO there.

Her new colleagues at Key credit her with improving morale in her 4,500-employee division and engaging senior leaders in technology and operational imperatives.

16. Nancy Shanik

Group EVP, Chief Risk Officer, RBS Citizens Financial

In a little over two years, Nancy Shanik has completely upended RBS Citizens' risk organization — just as outgoing CEO Ellen Alemany hoped she would.

Alemany hired Shanik in 2010 from the workout specialist firm Alvarez & Marsal, where she landed after three decades in finance, restructuring and risk management roles at Citigroup.

At RBS Citizens, Shanik has streamlined the number of risk committees from 33 to 10 and broken through the company's silos to manage risk across products rather than divisions, thus eliminating the "handoff risk" that occurs when oversight of a particular product or relationship shifts from one department to the next.

She also has introduced a concept she calls "affirmative risk-taking," ensuring that management understands and signs off on the risks before an action is taken.

17. Patricia "Patti" Husic

President and CEO, Centric Bank

Patti Husic, absent from our ranking last year, returns after making a series of bold moves at the $311 million-asset bank she runs in Harrisburg, Pa., and at the Pennsylvania Bankers Association, which she began chairing in July.

Generating fees to offset net income margin pressures, Centric Bank recently established a mortgage department and broadened its SBA lending activity. It also executed on the vision for a private bank and "financial concierge" service specifically for physicians, a niche in which Husic has long seen big opportunity.

In May, the bank opened its fourth location in Hershey, Pa., right across from the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. It took in $4.2 million in deposits in the first week. At the PBA, Husic is leading an effort to steer more women into middle management and executive roles. She asked the group's female membership about career development efforts at their banks, so that the PBA can establish programs to help fill the gaps and keep the pipeline of female talent strong.

18. Colleen Taylor

EVP, Head of Treasury Management, Capital One Financial

Collen Taylor's goal this year for the treasury management division of Capital One has been nothing less than the complete transformation of the group's service and support models.

She led a revamp of the training provided to new hires, centralized the client services staff and created an internal liaison team to handle client service requests initiated from elsewhere within the bank. She also oversaw an array of technology improvements, from a recently introduced mobile deposit capture tool to a conversion that brought all clients onto a universal online banking interface.

Capital One says that under Taylor, the business has notched consistent improvements in the quality of its sales officers and overall client experiences, based on feedback from industry surveys. This has helped boost revenue each year since her arrival in 2009. Taylor also is responsible for merchant services and enterprise payments at Capital One. She is the vice chair of NACHA, the electronic payments association, and on the board of The Clearing House Payments Company.

19. Lori Chillingworth

EVP, Small Business Division, Zions First National Bank

For years Zions First National Bank has been a top SBA lender in its markets, but Lori Chillingworth keeps finding ways to make this highly profitable business even stronger.

She recently simplified small-business credit applications, replacing four different forms for different kinds of products with a universal application, and she separated out underwriting for SBA loans from other kinds of small-business products.

The combined effect has been more, and faster, approvals and a tighter grasp on customer information. Chillingworth, whose business contributes a third of the bank's total income, also successfully moved her business bankers onto the Salesforce.com platform, and infused more of the commercial and industrial lending division's credit culture into staff deployed in the retail branches.

In the first quarter, small-business loan production among business bankers in the branches was 52 percent ahead of plan.

20. Candida "Candi" Wolff

EVP Global Government Affairs, Citigroup

As Citigroup's liaison to legislators and policymakers around the globe, Candi Wolff still uses her deep Rolodex of government contacts to put out political fires that flare up and threaten to harm Citigroup's interests.

But as Citi has regained its footing, and as policymakers have settled at least some of the questions raised by the financial crisis, Wolff and her team have been able to take an increasingly proactive approach, identifying the issues and formulating recommendations that will impact a broad range of Citi's long-term objectives.

Wolff, a lawyer who served as President George W. Bush's chief lobbyist on Capitol Hill, has been developing and advocating Citi's positions on key topics like cyber security, mobile payments regulation and corporate tax reform, in addition to guarding the firm's interests in areas such as derivatives regulation and the ongoing debate over too-big-to-fail.

21. Barb Godin

Senior EVP, Chief Credit Officer, Regions Financial

Barb Godin is coming off a banner year at Regions Financial.

In 2012, she went beyond the scope of the average chief credit officer to spearhead implementation of one of Regions' most significant technology investments to date: a new platform consolidating every aspect of commercial credit, from origination and servicing to reporting and analytics.

And her focus on improving credit quality helped the $127 billion-asset Regions clear several important hurdles — among them, the repayment of $3.5 billion to exit the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a passing grade on the government's stress tests and key upgrades to credit ratings from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, the latter of which restored its investment-grade opinion on Regions last year.

Godin also takes pride in developing a strong rapport with her staff, sending personal "just checking in" emails to employees every week, and as part of their performance reviews she has them write down their dream job-and spends a portion of the review discussing possible paths to achieving it.

22. Shaza Andersen

CEO, WashingtonFirst Bank

In the two years since we last featured Shaza Andersen on this list, she raised $28 million in new capital for WashingtonFirst Bank, doubled its assets to $1.1 billion through the acquisition of another Virginia institution, Alliance Bankshares, and took the combined company public on the Nasdaq exchange.

The Alliance deal was a strategic one, not only because it expanded WashingtonFirst's branch network by 50 percent, but because it has given the company a platform to expand in fee-income generating businesses such as mortgages and in new DC-area markets such as suburban Maryland.

Andersen founded Reston, Va.-based WashingtonFirst in 2004. She serves on the Treasury Board of Virginia and on the board of Amalgamated Casualty Insurance, is a trustee of Youth for Tomorrow, a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners Leadership Circle and the founder of the WashingtonFirst Youth Foundation.

23. Ann Benschoter

EVP, Personal & Commercial, U.S. Headquarters, BMO Harris Bank

You hear a lot of talk about business line executives in banking wanting to get closer to their customers. At Chicago-based BMO Harris Bank, they have more freedom to do just that because of Ann Benschoter, whose 900-person headquarters team handles the heavy lifting on leveraging technology investments, product development, customer experience improvements and channel integration efforts.

Additionally, if there are merger opportunities to be assessed, divestitures to be carried out, or compliance functions that need to be rethought, it falls under Benschoter's purview-essentially anything involving the personal and commercial banking business that falls outside the customer-facing realm.

Benschoter previously ran commercial banking for M&I, before its merger with BMO Harris Bank. She sits on the management committee of her new bank's Canadian parent, BMO Financial Group.

24. Diane D'Erasmo

EVP, Head of International Business U.S., HSBC Bank USA

A commercial banker with deep experience covering the apparel, jewelry and retail sectors, Diane D'Erasmo took on a new role at HSBC last October, overseeing the flow of foreign business into the company's U.S. subsidiary.

She's been establishing international relationship managers in key regions and advises clients on doing business in the United States, all of which is part of HSBC's strategy to dominate global trade finance and grow its relationships with international business customers.

D'Erasmo joined HSBC predecessor institution Republic National Bank in 1980. She was a founding member of HSBC's Women's Network and was the group's executive sponsor until 2009.

Her fundraising and community work now includes board service at Junior Achivement of New York City, the Fashion Institute of Technology Education Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, and she co-chairs the executive leaders committee of the Financial Women's Association.

25. Donna Smith

EVP, Head of Commercial Middle Market and Regional Banking, Associated Banc-Corp

She had neither the time nor the resources to install a state-of-the-art customer relationship management system, but Associated Banc-Corp's Donna Smith still pulled off major infrastructure improvements her company needed to close the gap with rivals in the middle-market lending arena.

Promoted to her role in 2011, soon after her arrival from Bank of America, Smith swiftly instituted a new prospecting process that was adopted by the sales force bank-wide, and she made quick use of the 360-degree customer views that had just become available to Associated's commercial group.

Another help: a new, formal process for reviewing and following up on customer satisfaction data gleaned from third-party research. As the benefits of those measures began showing up in the commercial bank's efficiency ratio and customer loyalty scores, Smith moved onto another big project, implementing a new system for commercial loan originations.

The only female business-line executive on Associated's executive committee, Smith also is executive sponsor of the company's first affinity group, the Associated Women's Network.

This article originally appeared in American Banker.