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Influential women in banking and finance: 7 powerful females changing the industry

November 6, 2018 | Georgina Varley

Influential and Powerful Women in Finance

Here are 7 powerful women in banking and finance who you really should know about.

These women are recognised the world over for the innovation, leadership, and success they have brought to the banking and finance sector. Women in finance who hold senior positions continue to be a minority. Findings this year reveal that fewer than one in seven partners at hedge funds and private equity firms are women. To add to this, just 15 of the 800 bank CEOs around the world are female – women in banking have it just as tough. Although the current figures are damning, the seven women featured here are bucking the trend and excelling in a male-dominated field. Who are these women, and how have they made a name for themselves?


1. Arundhati Bhattacharya – Former Chairman of State Bank of India

Arundhati Bhattacharya

Arundhati Bhattacharya is the former Chairman of India’s largest bank. After gaining a Master’s in English Literature from Jadavpur University, she began her career at India’s largest lender as a Probationary Officer. Bhattacharya swiftly climbed her way to Managing Director, then Chief Financial Officer, and finally the youngest, and first female, Chairman of SBI in 2013.

SBI has gained notoriety for the number of loans it issues; Bhattacharya is credited with facing this issue head-on. She pulled up errant borrowers and worked with other borrowers with valid reasons for delayed loan repayment to address their problems. During her time at SBI, she also introduced the innovative two-year sabbatical policy for women.

In 2016, Bhattacharya was ranked 25th in Forbes’ ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’ list. A year later, Fortune ranked her 26th in its list of ‘The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders’. After working at SBI for four decades, Bhattacharya retired in 2017. Although no longer a female banker, she remains a prominent public figure. This year, Bhattacharya was named Business Leader of the Year at The Asian Awards and spoke at TEDxChandigarh on the leadership lessons she has learnt from leading over 200,000 people. You can watch her inspirational speech below.




2. Ho Ching – CEO of Temasek Holdings

Ho Ching CEO of Temasek Holdings

Singaporean Ho Ching is a well-known and respected figure across the whole of Asia. As well as being the head of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Ching is married to the country’s current Prime Minister.

Ching studied at Singapore University and graduated in 1976 with First Class Honours in her Electrical Engineering undergraduate degree. She completed her Master’s – also in Electrical Engineering – at Stanford University. Ching’s career began at Singapore’s Ministry of Defence, and seven years later she became the Director of Defence Material Organisation. By 1987, she was the Deputy Director of Engineering for Singapore Technologies where, 10 years later, she became CEO. In January 2002, she joined Temasek Holdings as a Director and, within a few months, became Executive Director. In January 2004, she was appointed CEO of the company. 

Ching has featured on Forbes’ ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’ list every year since its launch, once ranking 3rd behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and China’s then Vice-Premier Wu Yi. She was also included in The 2007 Time 100, a list of the people whose power, talent or moral example transformed the world for the better in that year.


3. Christine Lagarde – Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

Christine Lagarde – Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

Since 2011, Christine Lagarde has occupied the role of Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, working to bring economic discipline to 189 countries including the UK, Russia, and China. She is the first woman to head the IMF.

The French-born Lagarde studied in the US for a year. Whilst in America, she acted as a US Capitol intern, becoming a fluent English speaker during her time there. After returning to France, she graduated with Master’s degrees in English, Labour Law, and Social Law from University Paris Nanterre and later a Master’s degree from the Political Sciences Institute. She was Finance Minister from June 2007 to July 2011, and also served as France’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade for two years. In 2009, the Financial Times named her the best Minister of Finance in the Eurozone.

Lagarde has also been ranked in Forbes’ 2017 list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, coming in 8th. This year, Lagarde also boasts a spot on The World’s Most Powerful People list. As one of the world’s top female bankers, her decision to urge fellow banking professionals not to ignore virtual currencies is one of her many informed comments that has influenced the sector.


4.     Dame Helena Morrissey – Chair of the Diversity Project and Head of Personal Investing at Legal and General Investment Management

Helena Morrissey Chair of the Diversity Project and Legal and General

As well as being one of the most successful women in the banking and finance sector, Dame Helena Morrissey defies gender stereotypes daily in both her professional and personal life. Morrissey was thriving in her role at Newton Investment Management around the time of the birth of her fourth child. On the contrary, her husband Richard wasn’t enjoying his work as a journalist. They decided that Richard would become a stay-at-home dad and, lo and behold, a few years later Helena became CEO of Newton Investment Management – a position she held for 15 years. The couple now have nine children together. 

In 1987 Morrissey graduated from Cambridge University with a Master’s degree in Philosophy. Her early roles following graduation included positions at global investment manager Schroders. While CEO of Newton Investment Management, she controlled £48.3bn worth of assets; she is now in charge of £894bn at Legal and General Investment Management.

In 2010, Helena founded the 30% Club, a cross-business initiative aimed at achieving better gender balance in the boardroom. The proportion of female directors on FTSE-100 boards has since more than doubled and there are now over ten 30% Clubs globally. For her contributions to finance, Morrissey was appointed a Dame in the Queen’s 2017 Birthday Honours list. She has also been awarded honorary doctorates from Cranfield, Queen’s Belfast, Essex, and Cambridge Universities, as well as being named on Fortune’s list of The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders for 2015. Morrissey spoke at Women of the Square Mile in February 2018, you can see video highlights from the event below.



5. Marianne Lake – CFO of JPMorgan Chase

Marianne Lake CFO of JPMorgan Chase

American Banker named Marianne Lake 2nd in The Most Powerful Women in Banking 2018 list and, as CFO of global bank JPMorgan Chase, she is certainly one of Wall Street’s highest-ranking women. Tipped to take over as CEO from Jamie Dimon when he retires, Lake earnt $13m (£9.9m) in pay and bonuses last year and has built up a $65m (£49.48m) share pot in America’s biggest bank. She was included in Forbes’ The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list last year.

The dual US and British citizen keeps track of $2.5t (£1.9t) in total assets, and to do so with efficiency she has introduced automation technology to JPMorgan Chase, including a new companywide platform that oversees regulatory capital. Prior to her current role, Lake was the CFO of Consumer and Community Banking at JPMorgan Chase. She began her career as a Chartered Accountant at PwC after receiving a degree in Physics from Reading University.

Lake has created the Women on the Move programme at JPMorgan Chase. This campaign is designed to empower female employees, clients, and consumers to build their careers, grow their businesses, and improve their financial health. Part of the initiative featured a global listening tour to exchange ideas with female employees, identify the barriers to advancement and create meaningful change. The five-city tour grew to multiple senior women speaking to over 6,000 women.


6. Thasunda Duckett – CEO, Chase Consumer Banking (JPMorgan Chase)

Thasunda Duckett CEO Chase Consumer Banking JPMorgan Chase

Number two on American Banker’s The Women to Watch 2017, Thasunda Duckett joins Lake as a fellow female JPMorgan Chase employee who has climbed her way to the top. Duckett’s role is particularly significant, however, as she is the first African-American to hold her job at the largest US bank.

Duckett gained her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Finance and Marketing, from University of Houston and her Master of Business Administration degree at Baylor University. From March 2013 until September 2016, Duckett was CEO of Chase Auto Finance, where auto loan and lease balances increased in every quarter during her tenure. Notably, Chase became the US’s 2nd largest auto lender by dollar volume in 2016, up from 5th in 2015.

Duckett is now responsible for 47,000 employees, 5,300 branches, and 18,000 cash machines at JPMorgan Chase. She is also leading the company’s retail expansion, which will include 400 new branches across America over the next five years, employing 3,000 people. As CEO, Duckett has made one of her goals the ability to connect with moderate-income households, developing new ways to help families keep their finances on track through education and products that help them to save and invest.



7. Lucy Peng (Peng Lei) – CEO of Lazada and Former CEO of Ant Financial


Lucy Peng Peng Lei – CEO of Lazada and Former CEO of Ant Financial

Lucy Peng is one of China’s 21 self-made female billionaires. Peng graduated from the Hangzhou Institute of Commerce at Zhejiang Gongshang University in 1994 with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. After a five-year career as a teacher, she joined business magnate Jack Ma in founding online marketplace Alibaba in September 1999. Her first job at the online shopping giant was working as Human Resource Vice President, where she managed a team of 20,000 employees.

By 2010, she was CEO at an affiliate company of Alibaba, Alipay, an online payment services provider with 400 million registered users. Later, she was named CEO of Ant Financial, another Alibaba affiliate that is valued at more than $5b (£3.81b). Fortune ranked her the 11th most powerful woman in Asia for 2015 and, as of 2017, she is 34th on The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list.

Ant Financial is the highest valued fintech company in the world, which made Peng one of the most powerful females in finance during her time as CEO. Peng has since stepped down from her role at Ant Financial and become CEO of Lazada, an Alibaba-owned start-up for online shopping in Southeast Asia, which will no doubt flourish under her leadership.

Interested in supercharging your career like these women have?

European Women in Finance returns for 2019. This conference will inspire you with talks from industry leaders and enhance your skills with practical workshops, helping to drive change in the European financial sector  a must for any women in banking and finance looking to smash the glass ceiling.

Visit this page to request a brochure.