10 Most Innovative CEOs in Banking 2015, Page 2

  • Philip Ryan
  • December 3, 2015
  • 3

4. Heather Cox, Citi FinTech

10most_coxBig banks can’t innovate? Er, no one told Heather Cox or Citigroup, which recently launched a mobile-first unit led by Cox, previously the bank’s chief client experience, digital and marketing officer. Cox was in charge of Citibank’s move to the Apple Watch last March, well in advance of the other big banks, and continues to be deeply involved in the industry-leading mobile app, as well. No one is sure where smartwatch-based banking will go or how smartwatches and other wearables will be used in general, but Cox knew it made sense to be out in front. As she told Bank Innovation back in March, “Who knew when the iPhone came out in 2007 that it would become our constant companion?” The industry is closely watching what the megabank’s (and by extension, Heather Cox’s) version of a mobile-first bank will look like — and how customers will react.

5. Gilles Gade, Cross River Bank

10most_gadeThere are just a few banks that can truly be described as digital companies, but Cross River Bank is certainly one of them. The bank — launched in June 2008 and one of the last ventures to receive a banking charter before the credit crisis — is focused on marketplace lending and providing wholesale services to fintech innovators. CEO Gilles Gade told bankers at Bank Innovation Israel last month not to bother fighting over the customer experience with fintech and the tech giants. “That battle has already been lost,” he said. Instead, he said, banks can earn a healthy living leveraging their advantages, their access to the payment rails, and their ability to deal with stringent regulations that fence innovators out of certain areas. The bank is doing some $2 billion in marketplace loans a year, with more marketplaces connecting with the bank all the time. Cross River is innovating from a solid compliance foundation, too. “We start with compliance and protect the platform,” Gade said. “Then we build technology around it and our own APIs.”

6. Francisco Gonzalez Rodriguez, BBVA

10most_gonzalezConversations about banking innovation don’t go far without getting to Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, or BBVA. Under CEO Francisco Gonzalez, the company has moved from being a state-owned bank plodding through the 1990s to arguably the world’s banking innovation leader today. The company’s US subsidiary, BBVA Compass, in 2013 updated its core software — a massive and frightening undertaking — and promptly partnered with real-time payments network Dwolla. BBVA itself formed a venture arm in that year, and in the following year acquired the poster child of banking innovation, Simple, for $117 million. Why make such a bold investment? “Technology is at a turning point,” González said in 2012. “In a few years time, you will see that there is a very new way of doing things, and valuations of banks that are doing them will change dramatically.” It’s about time to see if he’s right.

7. Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Bank Leumi

10most_russakaminoachBank Leumi is not a household name in America, but it’s getting to be for American bankers. That’s because it is increasingly serving as a guide for foreign banks interested in Israel’s fintech scene, one of the most vibrant in the world. When Russak-Aminoach took the helm at Leumi in 2012, she was the youngest female CEO to ever head an Israeli bank, but this did not blunt her ambition. One of her first decisions? To make the bank fully digital, which meant replacing the legacy core with modern software and launching an ancillary, digital-first banking brand. “We are in the process of building the infrastructure to be launched next year, [which] will allow Leumi customers to manage their banking needs entirely [online], without the need for brick-and-mortar branches,” she told the Financial Times last October. She also said she is proud to lead a company with 60% female employees in both staff and management positions. “There is no doubt that the business world in general and the financial world in particular is still male-dominated,” she said. “But throughout my entire career gender was a non-issue for me and I experienced no glass-ceiling effects.” In September 2015, Russak-Aminoach was listed on Fortune Magazine’s list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” And now she can add “10 most innovative CEOs in banking” to her CV.

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at pryan@royalmedia.com.

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