10 Most Innovative CEOs in Banking 2015

  • Philip Ryan
  • December 10, 2015
  • 5

10most_home2015 has been a busy year in fintech. New mobile payments methods appeared on our phones; investing became easier and cheaper for millennials (who may finally have money to invest); Square went public; money continued to pour into fintech startups; and every other word we have heard is “blockchain.” But, in retrospect, the most significant fintech development of 2015 may be that startups talked less about disruption and more about cooperating with the banks.

The 10 executives listed alphabetically below watched all the excitement carefully while keeping a firm hand on the tiller at their companies. Their companies excelled where it mattered — mobile payments, marketplace lending, and flat-out ambition and vision. All will need to navigate the choppy waters ahead as banks and fintech companies work ever more closely together to deliver better experiences to customers, but all — in our view, at least — have the vision to make their companies better.

1. Ajay Banga, MasterCard

10most_banga2Remember when Capital One Financial Corp. was the first bank to launch app-based mobile payments this fall? You can thank Ajay Banga and MasterCard for that. Payments continue to evolve, but MasterCard is remaining firmly at the heart of it all, among other initiatives and acquisitions, recently concluding its yearlong Masters of Code global hackathon in San Francisco. MasterCard owns 48% of the cards in circulation outside the U.S., and its global transactions are growing at a double-digit rate, led by Europe and China. And Banga is no longer looking to just hire bankers to grow his business. He said in September, “Today 65% of our hires are not bankers and not consultants; they are people from consumer firms, from technology firms, from ex-government jobs, from merchants, and that is transforming the direction of the conversation around the tables in our company. It is completely transformational. Issues are getting discussed that would never have got discussed; risks are getting taken that would never have got taken.”

2. Greg Becker, Silicon Valley Bank

10most_beckerIt’s perhaps the most famous quote in banking these days: “Silicon Valley is coming.” But while some bank CEOs are just waking up to this, Silicon Valley Bank CEO Greg Becker has known it all along. SVB has banked tech startups since its foundation in 1982 and claims two-thirds of Silicon Valley-area startups and VC firms as customers. The bank has grown rapidly, exceeding $24 billion in assets in 2014, and acquiring the API-banking startup Standard Treasury this year to improve its wholesale offerings. Is the bank’s success itself a sign of a tech bubble? Earlier this year, Becker rated the possibility of a bubble at 7 or 8 out of 10. “We have an office up on Sand Hill Road, and something I saw there recently was like it came out of 1999,” Becker said in May. “There was a tour bus in front of Kleiner Perkins.” Becker may not be unconcerned, but his bank weathered the last bubble well, and has significant hedges against another. “We’re paying attention to [the coming shakeout in valuations],” he told Silicon Valley Business Journal. “But it’s very different today than the the way it was in 1999.” SVB hopes so.

3. Jill Castilla, Citizens Bank of Edmond

10most_castillaTake a stroll around financial feeds on Twitter and you’ll soon run across @JillCastilla of Citizens Bank of Edmond. What the heck is Citizens Bank of Edmond? A $250-million community bank with two locations in Oklahoma and an aggressive social media strategy, that’s what. In 2012, bank employees began shooting videos and posting them to YouTube as part of what Castilla calls “just an internal, morale-building thing.” But the videos resonated with the community and brought in customers, Castilla said. In a time when community banks struggle to differentiate and identify a mission, Citizens works to make its community fall in love with it with intensely local initiatives, while broadcasting far and wide (and inexpensively) on social media. She is also a strong voice for diversity as a much-needed asset in what can be seen as an extremely white male industry. “I think diversity of all different kinds matters in banking, ” she told American Banker last year. “We can get to where we all look pretty similar, and that’s not good for our industry.” Women in particular can bring a softer touch to finance: “We need to be well-liked and seen as a warm industry, and women bring that to banking,” Castilla said.

Innovative CEOs 4 to 7

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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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