For any child looking to succeed at a new business venture, parental support comes in handy. The same has been true for Na- tionwide Bank.
In the last two years, the upstart direct bank has
doubled its assets, brought in more than 13,000
new customers, boosted revenue and capital ratios,
and begun to increase awareness of its retail banking products. Parent company Nationwide Financial Services’ deep pockets have certainly helped,
but the credit for strategy and harnessing the
strength of the entire Nationwide enterprise goes to
Anne Arvia, hired at launch in 2006 to be president
of the new direct bank.
Arvia, who has been named to US Banker’s
rankings of “The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking”
four times, came to Nationwide after 15 years at
ShoreBank in Chicago. After rising from controller to
president of ShoreBank, she was lured by the challenge of running an Internet-only operation. And
though it can be easy for a new bank to show impressive growth rates, there are no layups. “Every market,
regardless of the challenges, has opportunity; you
just need to look really hard to find it,” Arvia says.
Arvia’s team has certainly found opportunity.
From June 30, 2008 through June 30, 2009, assets
increased 69 percent to $2.5 billion, return on equity
increased 185 percent from - 12. 56 percent to 10. 62
percent and return on assets increased from - 1. 12
percent to 0.85 percent. In addition, net income
swung from a loss of $4 million to $5.2 million.
For an Internet bank, finding opportunity requires dominating search engine placement. For
this Arvia turned to the bank’s parent company for
resources to invest in search engine optimization.
The strategy has worked as deposits have nearly
doubled as of the end of the second quarter and the
average deposit amount for the bank spiked from
$5,000 to about $55,000, Arvia says.
But rather than increasing lending with those
deposits, the bank invested in triple-A rated mort-gage-backed securities after the Federal Reserve
agreed to buy $500 million worth when no one was
buying because of the liquidity crunch. By purchasing the low-risk securities at spreads of 250 to 300
basis points, it has helped to boost revenue 66 percent over the second quarter 2008 and improved
the bank’s efficiency ratio by 20 percent. With numbers like these, it’s not surprising that BauerFinancial has given the bank a 5-star rating, its highest
possible score, and Bankrate.com gives it four stars.
But perhaps the best example of Arvia leveraging the breadth of the bank’s parent company came
when multiple divisions worked together to help
customers after Hurricane Ike hit Florida and Texas
in September 2008. In a hurry, Nationwide Bank
developed a pre-approved credit card that customers could start using immediately. Any purchase
made in the first three months carried zero-percent
interest for the next 12 months.
“Working across a large organization accustomed to working in their own ‘silos’ was a challenge and a requirement for this initiative to be successful,” says NFS president and chief operating officer Mark Thresher. “Her influence over the claims
division and constant communication skills to all
possible stakeholders was critical to pulling this off.”
Favorite pastimes: Spending time outdoors and
Children: Two (ages 15 & 16)
Last book read: Sacred Hearts
Last movie seen: “Marley & Me”
Charity most active in: American Cancer Society
One thing on “bucket” list: Run a half marathon
Top non-business concerns: Direction of American
values and lack of personal accountability
19ANNE FINUCANE GLOBAL CHIEF STRATEGY AND MARKETING
OFFICER//BANK OF AMERICA CORP.
While the entire banking industry is working to regain
consumers’ trust following the market turmoil of the
past year, Bank of America has also had to reposition
its brand following acquisitions of Countrywide Finan-
cial and Merrill Lynch that
created the nation’s largest
mortgage lender, largest
wealth manager and a one
of the world’s leading corpo-
rate and investment banks.
If this sounds like an outsized task, Anne Finucane,
BofA’s global chief strategy
and marketing officer, has
an outsized role at the company. Whether its brand positioning, marketing, or communications across all lines
of business, Finucane is the
go-to voice of the banking
Finucane, who came to
BofA through its acquisition
of FleetBoston Financial
Corp. in 2004, also oversees
federal, state and international public policy for BofA,
setting its agenda and position on all issues affecting its
lines of business. This broad
perspective enables her to
take an integrated approach
to telling the company’s story. BofA has won multiple
industry honors in 2009, including awards for Internet
advertising, community relations, and two Ogilvy
awards recognizing the quality advertising and advertising research.
“We have to be consistent in the broad message;
we’ve got to demonstrate our commitment to understanding our customer base and the community in
which we work and live and providing them with best
financial solutions,” Finucane says.
After BofA acquired Countrywide, the company
designed a marketing campaign focused on a commitment to lend responsibly and create successful
homeowners. After extensive research indicated that
customers were looking for transparency and simplicity from mortgage lenders, the company developed a “clarity commitment,” a one-page, plain-lan-guage explanation of loan terms, and the Flat-Fee
Mortgage Plus, a mortgage with no application fee
and a single closing fee.
Finucane says this rebranding wouldn’t have been
possible if BofA hadn’t already addressed the public
policy issues, however. She and Barbara Desoer, president of BofA Home Mortgage, had worked together
on the company’s loan modification program, determining how much flexibility it should have and where
these efforts should be targeted.
Finucane’s role gives her tremendous influence.
She reportedly had a strong hand in the company’s
decision this past summer to hire former Citigroup
chief financial officer Sallie Krawcheck as head of
global wealth and investment management.
Brian Moynihan, Bank of America’s president of
consumer and small business banking and a colleague for the past 15 years, calls Finucane “a very
“She understands the interconnectivity of business, politics, journalism and the community and how
all those things shape our business, which is very unusual to find in any one person,” he says.
—Allison Bisbey Colter
Favorite pastimes: Spending
time with family, sailing
Children: Four (ages 16, 21,
23 & 25)
Last book read: Infidel
Charities most active in:
Special Olympics, CURE
One thing on “bucket” list:
Top non-business concerns:
Hunger; solving the
mysteries of the brain