10 Most Innovative CEOs in Banking 2016

2016 has been a year of many things. No, really, just look at this list of most trending Twitter topics of the year (spoiler: elections, Brexit and PokemonGo all made the list).

But the memories are still fresh of, possibly, the most meaningful event in the fintech world: the Comptroller of the Currency announced recently that the OCC will begin “considering” applications to grant banking licenses to fintech firms. This move will give larger tech firms more freedom to develop and deploy financial products. Fintechs that obtain the license will also be less dependent on their banking partners (mostly) for compliance issues.

But, above all, the OCC’s decision could almost entirely blur the lines between tech firms, fintechs and financial institutions. So before that happens, Bank Innovation compiled its annual top 10 Most Innovative CEOs in Banking list (ok, we did include a few fintechs, nobody’s perfect ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

1. Richard Fairbank, Capital One

richard-fairbank-5_largeRichard Fairbank falls into the “duh” category for these kind of lists. But we won’t be expanding on the story of how Fairbank turned a small consulting group into a banking giant – known today as Capital One Financial Corp. – somehow managing to remain the acting chairman and chief executive (and amassing an $800 million fortune). Over the years, CapOne has certainly proved itself as an innovative and trendsetting. The highlight from last year: CapOne became the first U.S. bank to accept NFC payments in its mobile app. “We’re going to need to think more like technology companies and maybe a little less like banks,” he said during an earnings call last year.

Fast forward to 2016, and the technology mindset allowed CapOne to drop another first: last March, the bank launched a developer portal and three new open APIs – a first in the banking world. Technology and data is “deeply embedded” into CapOne’s DNA, Fairbank admits, and the results so far are, well, impressive.

2. Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Bank Leumi

40930048-67cc-11e5-97d0-1456a776a4f5Bored of the U.S. fintech scene? Take a look inside Fintech Startup Nation for a change. The Israeli fintech scene is certainly booming, and big banks are joining in. Recently Rakefet Russak-Aminoach’s daughter, when told to go to a branch to open her first bank account, said, “When I open a Facebook account or a Paypal account, I don’t need to go anywhere. Why do I need to GO somewhere to open a bank account?” And Leumi’s CEO had an epiphany: “It was then I realized that I have a new mission: To be a part of changing the face of banking.”

This led her to launch the all-mobile bank Pepper, a startup incubated within the bank, built by non-bank techies. Pepper, based on a Temenos core and the first mobile-only bank in Israel, will formally launch by the end of the year. Russak-Aminoach has also been shutting branches and transferring resources to the digital side of things — equipping her bank to survive fintech disruption, so much of which is hatched in the bank’s backyard.

3. Blythe Masters, Digital Asset Holdings

blytheAfter much consideration by large financial institutions, blockchain has gathered a solid crowd of supporters. But distributed ledger tech’s number one fan has to be Blythe Masters. Dubbed as the “most powerful woman on the block,” Masters says she expects banks to begin adopting blockchain in a two years’ time. Her own company, Digital Asset Holdings, is already at the cutting edge of finance, testing out and piloting products full-speed. This year, the former JPMorgan Chase exec further proved the validity of the blockchain technology, when she resigned as nonexecutive chairwoman of Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., to become senior adviser on technology and blockchain at the parent company Banco Santander. Masters is no stranger to financial innovation — she is also credited with the invention of the credit-default swap, an agreement whereby the seller of a loan insures the buyer against a default.

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