As the CEO Of KeyBank’s parent company KeyCorp, Beth Mooney said she’s seen a lot of change in her industry. Women still are a rarity among finance CEOs but that is changing as more ascend the corporate ladder.
KeyBank has 62 branches in its South Sound market. Like many other industries, banking is responding to the increasing demand for smartphone-enabled apps and services.
In an April visit to the Seattle area, Mooney talked with The News Tribune about KeyBank’s work in the region, as well as her ties to long-serving Columbia Bank CEO Melanie Dressel, who died in February. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What are your priorities for the Seattle-Tacoma area, and how is that different from the rest of the country?
A: I am here for a couple days meeting with employees and high performers, and we just came out of a town hall. Part of what we’ve been talking about is how Key can differentiate itself in this market. I think we have this interesting mix of all of the capabilities of a large bank, but we’re organized around delivering like we’re a local community bank.
Part of what is different about this area is the demographics of Washington in terms of median household income, growth, industry mix, immigration — you just go down the list. You don’t have to look at a list, you can just feel it as you come here, what a vibrant economy it is and what a great opportunity it is to participate in helping customers, both personal and business, to meet their goals and thrive.
So I look at this as a very, very attractive growth market for our company.
Q: Is there a sector that you hope Key can grow in this specific region?
A: I think we have opportunities across the board. With our branch network as well as some of our leading-edge mobile and digital capabilities, we are really well-positioned on the consumer end, with a real interesting value proposition of people understanding their financial wellness and how to achieve their goals.
Q: We had a story about how real estate prices are skyrocketing compared with income. I’m wondering how the banking industry will shift in this area to respond to that disparity.
A: We have a group that does community development lending and within that is trying to create an emphasis as well as investment and lending dollars for what we call more workplace housing, affordable housing for working adults. So that is something that we did, a $16.5 billion community benefits plan last year that goes over five years.
Q: What expansion plans do you have for the Puget Sound area?
A: What’s interesting is in the period between 2009 and 2012, we did build a variety of branches in the Washington market. Branches, I think, are still central to how our customers of every age and demographic want to do business with us.
But increasingly, the investments we are making is in our online, mobile and digital capabilities. Obviously, there is a groundswell of being able to supplement with the ability to go to the branch to get advice, open an account, resolve a problem, but the desire to interact digitally and on a mobile phone is growing.
I mentioned financial wellness, which is one of the cornerstones in our branches. That is actually a digital tool, where you go online and it is in a digital environment and you create a wellness plan and goals and objectives and it automatically prompts you, helps track what you need to do, sends you reminder notices. So while it can emanate out of a branch-based environment, it really is a digital mobile tool.
Q: I’m sure you heard of the death of Melanie Dressel. I’m wondering if you knew her and what kind of relationship you had.
A: I knew Melanie. I was so saddened to hear that. When it happened, I cannot tell you how many people emailed me to make sure that I had seen the news, because over the years I had met her, both in the Washington market and at various banking meetings.
There are not a lot of female CEOs in the banking industry. There is a natural affinity oftentimes when you are meeting and you’re in an underrepresented group. But she was such a lovely, gracious and interesting person — so successful. She had done such wonderful things with her banks that it was truly a sadness, and for all of us personally one of those sobering things to remind us about how important and precious life is.
Q: How are things different now for women than when you started rising through the executive ranks of the banking world?
A: I’ve told the story today that I graduated from college in 1977, Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. When I interviewed for jobs people asked me how fast I could type. I think the banking world, and business in general, has changed dramatically. I am a person who has much optimism and confidence about the future.
I think the path is better, and if I were a young woman or minority entering banking I would have a lot of optimism about the opportunities my career would be able to afford me with my willingness to work hard and the capabilities I had.
Q: What does the financial industry need to take to be more friendly to women and minorities?
A: I think it’s in our cultures already. One of the things we talked about today in all of our different groups is the pillars of making a great company. One of the foundational pillars is a diverse and inclusive environment. We have done lots of things over the years to make sure this is a company where diverse populations are hired, retained, promoted, developed. The next leg of that is to make sure it’s an inclusive environment where people can generally bring their best and authentic self.
I hope it will be part of my legacy that I took a company that was incredibly values-based, cared about diversity and gave it some rigor and metrics. We have a chief diversity officer, a diversity council, and really took our company to the next level of having a genuine diverse and inclusive culture.