While Jane Fraser heads Citi, female CEOs of large banks are few and far away


Top line

As Jane Fraser begins her tenure as CEO of Citigroup, the number of women holding the title with top banks and financial firms in the US, UK and Europe remains very small despite the recent rise of women in large corporations.

Important facts

Jane Fraser was named CEO of Citigroup, the fourth largest U.S. bank by wealth ($ 1.65 trillion in September 2020) last September, and took over the helm this month. This makes her the first woman to run a major Wall Street bank.

Born in Scotland, Fraser officially assumed her new role in late February (having headed the bank’s global retail business), succeeding former retired CEO Michael Corbat.

Educated at Cambridge University and Harvard Business School, Fraser began her banking career with Goldman Sachs in London and has been with Citi for 16 years.

Fraser joins only a small number of women running Fortune 500 companies, as only 37 of the Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs last year – though that number hit a record high, up from 33 in 2019 and just two 20 years ago.

In the UK, Alison Rose took over NatWest Group (formerly Royal Bank of Scotland) in November 2019, becoming the first woman to head one of the UK’s largest lenders.

Key background

According to BoardEx, a London-based global data company, there are currently only six other female CEOs from top public banks, investment or financial services companies (defined by a minimum market cap of $ 14 billion) out of 79 of those companies in the US, UK and Europe. Others include Fraser and Rose Carina Åkerström from the Swedish bank Svenska Handelsbanken; Kjerstin Braathen from the Norwegian bank DNB ASA; Margaret Keane of Synchrony Financial; Helena Stjernholm from Industrivarden, a large Swedish investment firm; and Adena Testa Friedman of exchange operator Nasdaq Inc. As such, the top executives in the banking and financial services industries remain predominantly male, and the outlook for women of color at the helm of the country’s largest corporations is even bleak. Barbara Krumsiek, Senior Industry Fellow at the Women’s Leadership Institute at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and former CEO of asset manager Calvert Investments, said Forbes The biggest barrier to advancing to the CEO level faster for women in finance and banking is the overall corporate culture. “Gender equality in pay and flexible and responsive workplaces are just the starting points for a gender-neutral work environment,” she said. “Women in banking suffer dramatic loss of representation as the corporate pyramid narrows.”

Surprising fact

While banks have been reluctant to place women in top positions, global financial institutions also have poor historical records. One of the most powerful figures in finance – Christine Lagarde – is not only the first woman to be president of the European Central Bank, she was also the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund and the first female finance minister of a G-7 nation (for France from 2007-2011).

What to look out for

Krumsiek said CEO selection is typically done through a succession planning process that draws on the pool of available senior bank executives, which is still dominated by men, “the outlook for growth in CEO stats for women through organic growth is not good are. Targeted action from board members and executives is required. ”Angel Brunner, CEO and founder of EB5 Capital, a commercial real estate investment company, said Forbes In order for large US banks to have more female CEOs, companies need to move “from gender representation – one woman per board of directors – to gender equality, more than one” [per board]. ”But Krumsiek added that she sees“ growing numbers of senior women in high-impact roles ”in finance, wealth management and asset management, particularly at levels a step or two below the C-suite. “This represents a pool of talent ready to lead at the CEO level if given a fair shake as they evolve,” she added. Vanessa Martinez, managing director and partner of The Lerner Group, a Chicago-based wealth management firm, suggested that Sarah Drwal, currently Chief Risk Officer of Santander US, a wholly owned subsidiary of Madrid-based Banco Santander, be a “great” CEO. ““[Drwal] has served in the risk management department and worked in private and commercial banking and wealth management, ”said Martinez Forbes.


In May 2020, Beth Mooney – the first woman to ever run a top 20 U.S. asset bank – retired as chairman and CEO of KeyCorp in Cleveland, Ohio. Her successor was a man, Chris Gorman. During her eight-year tenure as chief executive, KeyCorp’s net worth doubled from $ 87 billion to $ 145 billion. At the time of her appointment as CEO in 2011, Mooney said Forbes: “To women, [my ascension] is a big deal. When I got promoted, I got hundreds of emails from women in the bank … One even said, ‘I’m going to go a little bit taller and be a little bit prouder because I work for a company with a female CEO.’ Being able to look up and see a woman at the top is important for women. “

further reading

Top 17 Most Influential Women in Finance, Banking, and Venture Capital 2016 (Forbes)

Citi Appoints Jane Fraser as New CEO and Makes Her First Wife to Run Major Wall Street Bank (Forbes)


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