By Deborah Prussel, WV Contributing Editor
What the Book Says
John Dillinger, so the story goes, when asked why he robbed banks, responded, “Because the money’s there.” The money’s still there, many not as much of the cold, hard stuff as they used to have on hand because banks have gone way beyond serving as depositories for money.
Banks safeguard money and valuables, provide loans, credit and payment services such as checking accounts, money orders and cashier’s checks. They offer credit cards and provide a variety of services, what used to be “nonbank” functions such as financial services and insurance products. They even want to become real estate brokerages.
Passed by Congress in 1933, the Glass-Steagall Act, enacted in the midst of the Depression and bank failures, became the backbone of banking regulation until 1999 when it was repealed. During the ’90’s banks and other financial institutions found ways around what they considered the restrictive nature of the act. The repeal opened the floodgates to consolidation. However, large companies like Citicorp and others were already offering insurance and securities through companies acquired during the mega mergers and acquisitions of the 1990’s.
Since 1995, a numerous mergers and consolidations occurred. But, according to American Bankers Association, the pace is slowing, and in 2000 208 new banking and savings institutions received charters. Technology impacts the industry as well, leading to a decline in the need for tellers. Expected employment growth sectors are loan officers, customer service representatives, financial service sales and international banking.
There are several different kinds of banks. Commercial, also called consumer or retail banking, is what most picture when they think of banking. They provide a number of services for individuals, businesses and governments. Savings banks and savings and loan associations, sometimes known as thrift institutions, are the second largest groups of depository institutions. Their original purpose was home loans.
Credit unions are also banks, formed by people with a common thread such as teachers or labor unions. The interest rates are sometimes lower than at traditional lending institutions. Federal Reserve banks are government agencies performing financial services for the Government. They regulate the banking industry and control the nation’s money. Think Allan Greenspan.
Today’s reality differs greatly from what our parents and grandparents knew. Mergers and acquisitions not only lessened the number of banks but also put many of them on a global level. Citicorp and Chase serve as prime examples. It’s the megaplayers who are doing the majority of the hiring. The mergers led to many golden handshakes since two CFO’s were not necessary in one bank.
Complicating matters is that many of the multi-national banks offer consumer-banking operations and investment-banking and asset management. Many, like Chase, provide a huge range of advisory and transaction management services for corporate clients. These same players aggressively added investment banking and asset-management to their portfolios.
Traditionally, employees started as tellers or at the branches. With all of the conglomerates and added services, there is now a multitude of options within many of these banks.
A number of banks routinely make the best places to work lists of Working Mother and Fortune. Chase, Bank of America and Union Bank receive consistent high marks for their diversity programs and advancement of women and minorities.
Dr. Jon Rosenberg chaired the board of a NASDAQ bank, acting as CEO during the 1990’s. “There were fewer than a dozen female CEO’s at the time,” she says. Her attitude is that in general it is easier for women in more structured, traditional industries like banking than it is in others.
The type of degree and even an MBA can be less important since many of the banks provide on the job training. “They want smart, well-educated, literate people,” says Goodman. “To get ahead, you need to be a start in the management training programs. This leads to plum assignments, determining your trajectory,” she states.
“Discrimination still exists as does the glass ceiling, but the height of the latter varies. It is not a given,” says Goodman whose Ph.D. is in economics and is executive director, EC2@USC, University of Southern California.
Majoring in finance, Shannon Millard started her career at Sumitomo Bank’s management-training program in 1984. “It was a tough two year program,” she says. Looking around, she failed to see any Caucasian women at any titled level and went to Bank of California. Mentored by Cheryl Moorhead, Millard was given projects she knew were beyond her level at the time. “She gave me the confidence and empowerment to them,” she says.
When Moorhead left for a position at First Federal, Millard followed. First Federal’s CEO, Babette Heimbach, has held that position for over 20 years. During the 1980’s women filled all the senior level positions. Millard is now executive vice president, chief credit officer and has been there nine years.
Ann Lederer started as a part-time teller at First Federal while in college. She is now senior vice president and general counsel. A music major, she realized income limitations as a piano performer and went to Loyola Law School while working full time at the bank. She liked securities and corporate law, deciding to stay in banking.
“The general counsels at the larger institutions are usually male, but I’m now starting to see other women,” she says. “There are still times when I walk into a meeting and I know the men are thinking I must be there to deliver a message. Then I hand them my business card.”
Lederer and Millard know their work environment is unique. There is flexibility in schedules and families are important, much of that attitude reflecting back to Heimbach. “Accountability and responsibility comes from the top; the attitudes filter down,” says Lederer.
Milllard sees more women in operations and accounting. She advises women not to be afraid to try new things and encourages them to speak up and hold their ground, something she has practiced.
“I see it getting better,” says Lederer. The companies are being dragged along. We need more women on bank boards of directors. They are the one who hire the presidents and CEO’s,” she says. As more women come through the ranks and obtain the corner offices and positions on boards, it will change.