Celebrating Women in Banking

Financial services leaders share their insights and inspiration as banking’s next generation of changemakers

hoto courtesy of American Banker from the 2023 Most Powerful Women in Banking Gala. Photographer: Donna Alberco.

Women in Banking at a Glance:

  • More women are rising to leadership, which adds fresh perspectives for financial institutions
  • Women are breaking through barriers to leverage their skills and expertise to succeed as leaders and pave the path for others
  • Banking can increase in women in leadership by doing more to identify high-potential woman leaders and develop their talents
  • Women in banking should advocate for themselves and actively seek out opportunities to advance

Making Their Mark

As notable women take on leadership roles at big banks, regional institutions, community banks, and credit unions around the country, there is no doubt that women have made phenomenal strides over the last 100 years, as they expand their influence and impact at institutions throughout the financial services sector. “There are so many opportunities for women (and men) in banking today,” according to Kelsey Dahl, Marketing Director at Bravera. “Gone are the days of assuming that women need to be behind the teller line. Thanks to advancements in the banking industry, career paths can range from traditional lending roles and innovation officers to CEOs and beyond.”

While it’s true that women are found in leadership positions at banks across the country today, there is still needed change at the very top of organizations. According to the ABA Banking Journal, while women make up more than half of all bank staff in the U.S., only 7.5% of banks have a woman CEO at the helm. “I believe the banking industry can do better in identifying high-potential woman leaders and empowering their confidence and skill development,” says Melanie Alves, VP of Specialty Branch & Merchandising Support at PNC Bank. “I have been in banking for 17+ years in seven different job roles, and each one has given me the opportunity to work for a dynamic woman leader.”

Women breaking through barriers themselves are helping to lay the groundwork for influential roles for other women. “Significant female leaders have paved the way for future generations to achieve leadership positions in the industry,” says Deborah Lumpkin, Centier Bank’s Senior Partner. “At Centier Bank, a $8.7B family-owned community bank based in Indiana, we have a rich history of lady leaders who have played pivotal roles in its success – which continues 129 years later. Today, as one of six senior leaders reporting to our CEO, I am honored to highlight that 80% of our workforce comprises talented women, and half of our senior leadership team are accomplished female leaders.”

Photo courtesy of Centier Bank. Composition of women who trailblazed the path at Centier. (Left to Right: Carolina Wustenfelt, Lois Coffin, Doris Schrage, Pat Burgess, and Jill Schrage)

Agents of Change

Representation at the top is a key change that’s needed, according to an analysis of financial services by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org. And the women Adrenaline spoke to say that the landscape is changing. “My role as a Designer at TD provides me with the unique opportunity to work within two typically male-dominated industries – banking and construction,” says Martha MacInnis, AVP and Head of Retail Design & Experience at TD Bank. “While I do believe there are still many systemic challenges to overcome related to equity and empowerment, I’ve seen and experienced a change myself throughout my career, and I’m thrilled to see more and more encouragement for young women entering into finance and the construction trades.”

Making moves within their own organizations has helped women take their seat at the table. “Many women are breaking through these barriers, leveraging their skills and expertise to succeed in various areas of banking, from retail banking to many other areas of the financial world,” according to Cassandra McKinney, EVP and Executive Director of Retail Banking at Comerica. “Women in banking today often navigate a complex landscape, balancing career advancement with personal and family responsibilities while advocating for gender equality and inclusion in the industry. I believe in championing change and disrupting the status quo.”

Women are at the forefront of leading change for the financial services sector. “The pace of change and transformation in banking means that the industry as a whole and our clients in particular are reimagining how they serve customers and communities,” says Juliet D’Ambrosio, Chief Brand Officer at Adrenaline. Women are essential to making manifest those changes. “Leaders are seeking wholly new solutions from the brand to the branch – all while doubling down on their purpose, the human connections and relationships that are at the heart of how we feel about, learn about, and plan around finances.”

Leading Ahead

Women are essential to evolving their organizations, from the inside out. “The banking industry is going through an evolution in not just the way in which we deliver our services, and we serve our customers, but it’s also evolving in the way that our organizations are run,” says Andrea Pruna, Senior Vice President & Chief Growth Officer at Northeast Credit Union. “As women in leadership roles, we have the tremendous opportunity to inspire the next generation of leaders… We are on a path that has been opened by those amazing trailblazing women before us that led the way and opened the doors for us to be in the roles we are in.”

“More women are rising to leadership roles, which adds a fresh perspective for organizations,” says Angie Dvorak, Chief Marketing + Growth Officer at Everwise Credit Union. Women bring valuable contributions to the conversation. “Speak up and share what is on your mind. Far too often, women take a back seat in meetings. If you have something to add to a conversation, say it.” Other women leaders recommend continual learning. “Seize every opportunity to expand your knowledge and experience, and remain resilient in the face of setbacks, says Christina O’Brien, President & CEO of Robins Financial Credit Union. “Recognize that each obstacle is an opportunity for growth, and approach them as such with unwavering determination.”

Women leaders recommend being bold. “Don’t hesitate to apply for jobs even if you don’t meet all the qualifications – confidence and a willingness to learn can take you far,” says Jill Castilla, President and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond. “Advocate for yourself; don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, actively seek them out and speak up for what you deserve. Lastly, be aware of the broken bottom rung of the corporate ladder – recognize and challenge any systemic barriers or biases that may hinder your advancement. Trust in your abilities, persevere, and remember that your voice and contributions matter.”

Seizing opportunities for growth is one thing, but paying it forward through mentorship will make change sustainable for the future, according to experts in human resources and financial services. “My advice has always been to seek out opportunities to work for great leaders who will teach you the craft of banking,” says Tammy LoCascio, SEVP and Chief Operating Officer at First Horizon Bank. “It is more important who you work for than what you do. I have found myself over the years seeking out great leaders to work for versus seeking out roles in order to advance my knowledge, and ultimately my career.”

The Takeaway

All of the financial services leaders surveyed by Adrenaline not only shared their experiences, they gave actionable advice for other women to maintain momentum in an industry in the midst of an evolution. Most of all, everyone is betting big on banking. “I believe in banking now more than ever – I see it as a linchpin of creating healthier, more thriving communities and a better world,” says Juliet D’Ambrosio, Chief Brand Officer at Adrenaline. “It may sound overly optimistic, but I see banking as one of the very few services that can have a fundamental, positive impact on people’s lives. I’m proud to serve this industry, and can’t wait for more!”

To learn more about leading change in financial services, or to speak with one of Adrenaline’s experts, contact us today.

Photo courtesy of American Banker from the 2023 Most Powerful Women in Banking Gala. Photographer: Donna Alberco.

Adrenaline is an end-to-end brand experience company serving the financial industry. We move brands and businesses ahead by delivering on every aspect of their experience across digital and physical channels, from strategy through implementation. Our multi-disciplinary team works with leadership to advise on purpose, position, culture, and retail growth strategies. We create brands people love and engage audiences from employees to customers with story-led design and insights-driven marketing; and we design and build transformative brand experiences across branch networks, leading the construction and implementation of physical spaces that drive business advantage and make the brand experience real.

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