To be a successful woman in finance is to compete in a field dominated by men, challenge the status quo and make powerful change happen across the economic sphere.
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The heavy hitters on this list have not only strengthened the entities they head up, but some have used their influence to fight for the greater good through philanthropic efforts.
These women have accomplished far beyond what’s expected and have raised the bar for what’s expected from a career in finance.
Ana Botín, Executive Chairman of Banco Santander
Carrying on the family tradition, Ana Botín is the fourth generation of the Botín family in this high-powered position, but her accomplishments are all her own. Before Banco Santander, she was the first female CEO of a UK bank as the head of Santander UK.
Since Botín took over Banco Santander in 2014, she has grown it to become the largest banking institution in Spain. Botín takes hardships hitting her community very seriously, and in March of 2020, she gave up half of her annual salary to launch Together Solidarity Fund to provide medical materials to healthcare providers to help fight COVID-19.
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Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America
Thasunda Brown Duckett has made history as the second Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 firm after accepting the CEO role at TIAA in February 2021. Her first day at the helm is on May 1st.
Before accepting the job at TIAA, Duckett has served as CEO of Chase Consumer Banking since 2016. She’s always been a champion of diversity in her field and served as executive sponsor of JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways program. This program helps Black Americans close the achievement gaps in wealth, education and career opportunities.
She also served as a committee leader for Chase’s Women on the Move initiative that educates women about careers in finance.
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Abigail Johnson, President & CEO of Fidelity Investments
Since 2014, Abigail Johnson has held her position as the head of Fidelity Investments, but she’s worked at the company since 1988, where she started as a stock analyst. She has taken the firm to innovative places, including launching a platform on Fidelity to trade bitcoin and ether in 2018. Johnson has donated to nonprofits in Boston, including the Institute of Contemporary Art.
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Beth Wood, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Principal Financial Group®
After ten years in consumer packaged goods and similar tenure as an entrepreneur running a small business, Wood was on a quest to better understand financial and succession planning for small business owners. Networking her way into the financial services industry, she has found great opportunity to expand the appeal and understanding of financial services, elevating some of the world’s most long-standing global brands. “The language used by financial services can often be misunderstood, and we have a great deal of opportunity to simplify financial concepts and make this category more relevant to families and businesses looking to build a strong financial foundation.”
Wood is excited about the financial brands that are well-positioned to deliver on their expanded mandate – as both economic engines for society and to support the greater good. This is especially relevant as younger consumers in particular are sharing the value they place on brands prioritizing people and the planet.
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Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of J.P. Morgan Asset & Wealth Management
It’s not an easy job to lead a private bank with $3.4 trillion in client assets, but Mary Callahan Erdoes has done it since 2009. Erdoes also spends her time serving on the boards of the U.S.-China Business Council and the Robin Hood Foundation of New York City.
Erdoes is on the rumored short list for CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. after Jamie Dimon’s tenure comes to an end. She oversees influential programs within JPMorgan Chase like ASCEND, which works to retain and promote female and ethnic diversity.
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Anne Finucane, Vice Chairman at Bank of America
Anne Finucane leads the $300 billion environmental business initiative — and its $1.6 billion CDFI portfolio — at one of the top financial institutions in the United States. Finucane was inducted into the AAF’s Ad Hall of Fame and received the Edward M. Kennedy Institute Award for Inspired Leadership in 2019.
Finucane has pushed for diversity in banking, and leads BoA’s $1 billion commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity in communities across the nation.
Meredith Verdone, Chief Marketing Officer at Bank of America
Since starting at Bank of America in 1999, Verdone has ascended the ranks to Chief Marketing Officer. She manages marketing efforts and client relationships for millions of people. She is also dedicated to bringing about social change. During her time of BoA, she’s formed partnerships with organizations like (RED) which focuses on ending the mother-to-child transmission of AIDS. Under Verdone’s leadership, her team has earned awards from the Financial Communication Society, David Ogilvy Advertising Research Foundation and Cannes Lions.
Michelle Spellerberg, Vice President of Digital Strategy and Innovative Growth at Alliant Credit Union
Before she became the Vice President of Digital Strength and Innovative Growth at Alliant Credit Union, Michelle Spellerberg served as a Senior Director at CareerBuilder and the Chief Marketing Officer at Sikich, LLP.
When Spellerberg started her career path at Alliant, she quickly moved through the company’s ranks, rising from her initial position of VP of Digital Channels to VP of Marketing and Digital strategy to the position she currently holds at one of the world’s largest credit unions.
Spellerberg’s award-winning work has led to a large increase in customer acquisition at Alliant and has successfully cemented the financial institution as a major player in the digital space.
Kristy Williams Fercho, Head of Home Lending at Wells Fargo
Kristy Williams Fercho left Fannie Mae after 15 years to pursue her passion for helping families buy homes. She found that opportunity first at Flagstar Bank, where she served as executive vice president and president of the mortgage division, and then at Wells Fargo, where she is the Head of Home Lending.
Adding to an already impressive resume is her position of vice-chair of the board of directors of the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Susan Somersille Johnson, CMO of Prudential Financial
Although Prudential Financial is headquartered in Atlanta, both it and its chief marketing officer, Susan Somersille Johnson, have global reach. When announcing her ascension to the position in 2020, Prudential brass commented that it chose Johnson — who moved there from Truist Financial — largely because of her international experience, particularly in Japan. An engineer by training, Johnson started her career with Apple. 6.2 million people have joined the onUp \financial freedom movement she launched in 2016.
Melissa Merk, SVP of Truist
Before moving into her current role, Melissa Merk held executive-level marketing leadership positions at Wells Fargo, including senior vice president, as well as a senior VP spot at Bank of America. Since February 2020, however, she’s been the head of mortgage marketing and senior vice president of Truist, which is the result of a 2019 megamerger between BB&T and SunTrust Bank.
Merk specializes in UX development, analytics, strategy, and brand identity.
Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup
Of all the extraordinary and accomplished women on this list, only Jane Fraser can boast the title of the first woman ever to hold the position of CEO of a major Wall Street bank. Fraser was an executive with Citigroup as well as the company president for years before being named to the top spot when Michael Corbat stepped down in 2020.
Beth McDonnell, EVP, CMO at U.S. Bank
Before she was named executive vice president and chief marketing officer of U.S. Bank in 2016, Beth McDonnell worked in high-level positions at Anthem, where she took on growing responsibilities over 20 years there. Her specialties are strategic marketing and corporate brand-building.
Jenny Johnson, President, CEO of Franklin Resources
Jenny Johnson is charged with the formidable task of overseeing all investment management and support services for the entire Franklin Resources firm. She’s also in charge of global technology, fund administration, client services, infrastructure systems and support, and software development. She’s credited with bringing Franklin Templeton onto the Internet.
Penny Pennington, Managing Partner of Edward Jones
Penny Pennington has leveraged her position at the top of one of the country’s biggest financial investment firms to advance causes like diversity and women’s rights. She’s the senior executive sponsor for the Edward Jones LGBTA Business Resource Group. She’s been well compensated for her efforts, with AdvisorHub reporting that Pennington’s salary jumped by more than 25 percent from $11.7 million to $14.7 million in her first year as managing partner.
Porter Gale, CMO at Personal Capital
A marketing industry veteran with more than two decades of experience, Porter Gale is a member of the Board of Directors of Reddit as well as the chief marketing officer at her wealth management firm. She was a VP at Virgin America Airlines before that, but her career has spanned far beyond the corporate world. She’s a successful author and speaker who has also worked in the realms of advertising and indie filmmaking.
Stacey Watson, SVP at Fidelity Investments
With the super-cool job title of Tribe Leader of Life events, Stacey Watson earned her reputation as one of the driving forces behind the rehabilitation of the Harley-Davidson brand. She spent nearly two decades there before moving to Fidelity. She’s also studied comedy at the Second City and Improv in Boston.
Teresa Rasmussen, President and CEO of Thrivent
A Fortune 500 financial services company with $162 billion in assets under management, Thrivent has been lauded as one of America’s most ethical big firms. It’s transitioning to a specialty in “holistic” financial services, a transition that Rasmussen is overseeing. She’s come up through the company’s ranks throughout her career, with previous roles at Thrivent including general counsel and secretary, vice president, and president of Thrivent’s core life, health and annuities business.
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Jaime Catmull and Sam Disalvo contributed to the reporting for this article.