Bank on Great Lady Leaders

There’s so much more to banking than tellers and lenders and the things we see when we walk into a branch lobby. What you might not notice right away is that behind the scenes many women hold prominent positions that make the complex world of banking run smoothly. But don’t assume these women are all math geeks tied to a desk — many are naturally outgoing “people” persons whose jobs reach far beyond the teller windows and the vaults, requiring that they have as much of a heart for their customers and their community as they have a head for numbers. Whether they work in public relations for the bank, focus on community development, or take charge as senior vice president, these great women are all important cogs in the wheels that make the banking world go round. So we sat down with four top women in the world of banking in San Antonio and asked them to tell us about their careers. Their answers are sure to inspire you.

Jeanne Bennett
Senior Vice President/Private Banking Manager
Amegy Bank of Texas

How did you get started in banking?
I wish it were glamorous, but in reality I just needed a job out of high school. I enjoy working with people and have an affinity for numbers, and the bank took a chance on me, hiring me as a teller.

What are some misconceptions people have about bankers/banking?
People don’t realize it, but we really do want to say yes as often as we can, respond timely and never make mistakes! The regulatory environment has really challenged our ability to always be the “good partner” with our clients that we want to be.

How is technology changing banking today?
Honestly, I was nervous at first that technology would detract from the relationship with our clients. What we have found is that it complements our ability to serve our clients more efficiently by giving them access to critical information on a real-time basis.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your job or in life in general?
I think it is what most people are challenged with these days, and that is life balance: making sure that you are growing in your career but also making time for your family and your faith. It is a daily juggling act!

Banking was for many years a man’s profession, but now many women are finding their place in this field, don’t you agree?
I have been very fortunate to have worked in situations where my job skills were valued regardless of my gender. In general, I do see more women in positions of influence and authority and challenge them to give back, to be a mentor to a young woman seeking a career in banking.

What do you love best about your job?
People! My No. 1 motivation in my job is going the extra mile for my clients — not only taking care of their banking needs, but trying to anticipate those needs to give them something extra.

What is your daily life like?
Well, there is no such thing as “banker’s hours” anymore. A typical day is 10 to 12 hours long, and even once you leave the office, you are connected by phone and email. You better love what you do!

Do you have any advice to women interested in a career in banking?
Embrace every experience, good or bad, as it gives you a well-rounded knowledge base from which to build. Find someone in a position of authority that you trust and respect, and ask if she or he will mentor you.

How do you give back to the community?
By finding organizations where I have a passion for their mission and that have similar value systems and integrity in the way that they do business.

Any other pearls of wisdom?
Have integrity in all things you do, communicate effectively and often, listen and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are!

Jennifer Moriarty
Vice President, Community Development Officer
Wells Fargo

How did you get started in banking? My first job out of college was as a teller, but very shortly I transitioned into mortgage lending as a loan processor and originator. I have worked in a wide variety of positions in banking, and prior to joining Wells Fargo, I ran a local community development financial institution that was shareholder owned by 21 local banks and provided financing to small businesses that couldn’t secure traditional bank financing. The organization has since merged with ACCION Texas, Inc.

What led you to be interested in this kind of work? Actually, I didn’t aspire to be a banker. As a matter of fact, my grandmother served as a vice president at a bank, and she discouraged me from a career in banking because she didn’t feel that women were paid well in that industry. Fortunately, a lot has changed since her time. My father, who is very persuasive, was in the mortgage business and thought that it was a good path for me. I enjoyed working in mortgage lending, yet it was when I began focusing on homeownership for first-time homeowners that I really found my passion, and ultimately it led me to a much broader focus in supporting the needs of our community.

Were you always a math whiz?
Absolutely not. While I liked finance, I would never say I was a “math whiz.” In fact, the graduation ceremonies at Texas State University were held before final grades were released. I can vividly recall sitting in my cap and gown, with my parents and grandparents in the audience, praying that I had actually passed my math class. I didn’t know at the time, but I had earned a C. Whew!

How is technology changing banking today, and what challenges/opportunities does that afford you in your work?
When I was processing mortgage loan files in the late ‘80s, everything was done via typewriter and mail — and in triplicate. Now, everything is computerized, allowing us to be so much more efficient and reach a much broader audience. Yet because much of my work is focused in underserved communities, I recognize that the digital divide is a very real challenge. Not everyone has a computer, and not everyone is technology-savvy, and that creates access issues for a large percentage of our community.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your job or in life in general?
Without question, I see more opportunities than I do challenges. One of the greatest opportunities I have is inspiring Wells Fargo’s more than 5,000 team members in San Antonio to actively engage with our community. Recently, our volunteer chapter members told me that they adopted 1,000 Angel Trees on behalf of the Salvation Army program. That’s 1,000 families in this community that will have had a better holiday because of Wells Fargo.

What do you love best about your job?
I love my leadership and colleagues.

What is an average day like?
I am married to Kevin C. Moriarty, CEO of Methodist Healthcare Ministries, and I have one son, Reid, age 16. Kevin has four grown children — Kendra, Kevin, Kenneth and Christopher. Most days are kicked off with Kevin’s serving me cappuccino, and then I head off to take Reid to school. Typically, my workdays include conference calls. I also meet with various community groups and support several internal employee engagement committees. Every day is ripe with new challenges and opportunities, and that’s what I enjoy about my life.

What advice would you give to a young woman interested in a career in banking?
I would tell her that there is a lot of opportunity in the financial services industry and that she shouldn’t be shy about embracing and seeking out leadership roles. Former ambassador and author Linda Tarr-Whelan has a great quote that is applicable here: “When the door of opportunity opens, step through it.” I’d add that you shouldn’t hesitate and assume that it was opened for someone else. It’s there for you! So step up, work hard, and everything else will fall into place, especially if you are passionate about your job.

What hobbies or things outside of work do you enjoy?
I love art. Right now, I am working on a project that includes lots of bottle caps and cut-up soda cans. I also make jewelry and enjoy reading, traveling and cooking for friends and family.

How do you give back to the community in your job?
Right now, I am focused on Wells Fargo’s commitment to home preservation and financial education. Also I was appointed the chair of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council this year, and I joined the board of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas last year and serve on the organization’s executive committee. I am a trained facilitator, and I have spent a significant amount of time this year working with nonprofit organizations.

Betsy Baker
Vice President, Marketing Director
Jefferson Bank

How did you get started in this field?
After graduating from college, I entered the retail leadership program at Texas Commerce Bank in Houston (now Chase Bank). Even though my degree was in elementary education, I saw this as an opportunity to learn about banking from the ground up on a faster track. The program was familiar to me through friends with whom I graduated. I was curious about what opportunities it might offer.

What led you to be interested in this kind of work?
I felt that with my education degree, opportunities in teaching would be available; however, the opportunity to learn banking through class and experiential work was rare. I didn’t get into marketing until I started working at Jefferson Bank. I began in February of 2000 in small business lending, then P&E lending. After four years at Jefferson, there was an opening in marketing. I had always had an interest in that, and I felt I knew our bank well enough to convey the right messages to customers and prospects. It turned out to be a great fit, and I have loved every day of my job since then.

What are some things about your job that others might be surprised to know?
Marketing tends to encompass a lot of things. I wear many different hats, which keeps the job exciting. I enjoy working with and learning about all the departments within the bank and how our area can help. Marketing involves creative work, but it also involves knowing our products backward and forward.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your job or in life in general? Balance! Growing up, my father taught my three siblings and me the concept of the “fourlegged chair”: religion, health, education/wisdom and family/friends. The goal is to distribute the weight (importance) equally. When we stop focusing on one, we lose our balance. At this stage in my life, my constant struggle is balancing work and family. Jefferson Bank is a family-oriented place, and thankfully I have never had to sacrifice one for the other. I do feel out of balance at times and have to stop and re-evaluate where my priorities should be.

What do you love best about your job?
The people! I can wholeheartedly say we have the most amazing employees and customers I have ever experienced.

What is an average day like for you at home and in your job?
Each day holds a new challenge. Most days start with getting my two children off to school, then coming in to work. I have a few routine responsibilities, but after that our department is reacting to the needs of other departments, working on projects with our advertising agency, Texas Creative, and strategic planning for the weeks/ months ahead. Some days are longer than others; however, a lot can be done from my computer at home. So, if a project requires longer hours, I can still give my family time after work and then pick back up after children go to bed. My husband, Wally, owns Casa Verde Landscaping. I have a son, Owen, who is 10, and a daughter, Elizabeth, who is 7. We also have a sweet yellow Lab, Lily.

What advice would you give to a young woman interested in a career in this field?
Get as much exposure in as many different departments of the bank as you can. It is so beneficial to have an understanding of how each area operates, what each focus is, and what the challenges are. It’s important to know what messages our customers are receiving.

What hobbies or things outside of work do you enjoy?
I enjoy hunting and fishing with my husband and family, I like to exercise, and I adore time with good friends.

How do you give back to the community in your job?
I am on the board of Mission Road Ministries, I am a Guardian of Girls Inc. of San Antonio, and I am involved in my church as well. I also volunteer with Junior Achievement through the bank.

KaRynn Kolm O’Connell
Senior Vice President, Private Banking
Broadway National Bank

How did you get started in this field, and what do you like best about your career in banking?
Helping clients and prospects with their financial business needs gives me great joy. I help my clients develop a strategy designed to help them optimize their liquidity and manage their debt and savings, including establishing a wealth management plan for their family. One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is hearing the clients’ stories — learning about their family, their profession, their dreams and finding the correct solution for their financial needs. At Broadway Bank this becomes a win-win for everyone and builds lasting relationships.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
The people I work with and relationships I develop make my career fun and enjoyable, which brings a smile to all. I take time to get to know my clients as individuals and deliver the best financial solutions that our company has to offer. Client satisfaction is a No. 1 priority. Broadway has a great group of resources, and I am proud to be a part of the Broadway Bank team.

What are some things about your job that others might be surprised to know, and what are some misconceptions people have about bankers/banking?
At Broadway Bank, each loan is discussed collegially to arrive at an innovative, creative solution for each client. It may surprise people to know that the solutions we offer are never “cookie cutter” or “one-size-fits-all.” It should also be comforting to know that loan decisions are made right here in San Antonio by local Broadway Bank executives.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am a native of San Antonio who enjoys volunteering in the community, and I have actively provided leadership to many community and civic organizations.

In what ways do you enjoy giving back to your community?

I served as the 2004 Junior League of San Antonio president, as a former co-chairman for Leadership San Antonio, as a volunteer for NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Final Four and Midwestern Regional City Events and as a previous board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Antonio, as well as for the San Antonio Library Foundation. I am currently a member of the Battle of Flowers Association and the Downtown Rotary Club.

San Antonio is a great place to live. Tell us about your home life with your family.
My husband, Keith O’Connell, is a local attorney and immediate past president of the Texas Association of Defense Counsel. We are proud parents of a daughter, Elizabeth Ann, who is currently in her second year of law school. We are also lucky to have three Labrador retrievers.

What hobbies or activities outside of work do you enjoy when you’re off the clock from banking?
I enjoy meeting people, volunteering, traveling, saltwater fishing and spending time outdoors.

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