Eileen McDonnell is the first woman president of Penn Mutual, but this isn’t the first time that she’s been the first at something.

In 2003, McDonnell became the first woman president of Boston-based New England Financial, a wholly owned subsidiary of MetLife [MET]. Nonetheless, she doesn't take credit for her success. When talking about both experiences, McDonnell consistently attributes her positions to supportive mentors and corporate cultures.

“I think it is a very exciting point in Penn Mutual’s history, and personally I am excited to have the privilege,” McDonnell said.

At Penn Mutual, McDonnell said chairman and chief executive officer Robert Chappell has done a great job of fine-tuning its mission and positioning it for growth. She also points to prominent women on Penn Mutual’s board of trustees as evidence that the company will entrust major responsibilities to anyone with the talent to carry them out.

“The environment was attractive to me as a female executive, knowing I would have women in the ranks,” McDonnell said. “You go outside and the story is not the same.”

Former colleagues, some of whom have known her for more than 20 years, say that McDonnell has a deft touch with her staff. Susan Cooper, a managing partner at Penn Mutual’s New York City agency, said McDonnell gives her staff the leeway to reach their potential, which creates loyalty. “She is able to attract people who are very accomplished and talented,” Cooper said. “She can get people on board and get them to perform well beyond their own expectations.”

McDonnell also has a track record for teaching women how to be savvy about their finances. She was a member of the Master of Science in Management faculty at The American College, in Bryn Mawr, Pa., where she held the endowed chair for women and financial services. She gave up that post when she joined Penn Mutual two years ago, but she has continued to do research.

Part of helping women plan for their future entails taking stock of how far they have come.

McDonnell is a national advisor for Vision 2020, a program that will celebrate the 100th anniversary of suffrage, and assess how far women have come in arts, education, finance and sciences. Sponsored by Drexel and Penn Mutual, the program will kick off with a conference in Philadelphia and host delegates from across the country. “Without financial empowerment, we don’t believe women can accomplish those other things,” she said.

***

Also on the move this week:

Citi Private Bank [C], which is based in New York, hired Todd Devin as a director in its Palm Beach, Fla., office. He was a senior vice president and private client advisor for U.S. Trust, Bank of America Wealth Management [BAC] in New York City. 

HighTower, based in Chicago, hired Barnaby Levin as a managing director and partner of the firm. He will be based in San Francisco. He was director of wealth management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney [MS]. The company has also appointed Michael LaMena as its chief operating officer. He was an executive director of Morgan Stanley’s private wealth management operations in New York City.

Life Policy Group of New York appointed Mark Engelhardt as its chief executive officer. He was founder of LEAF Advisors, a life settlements provider and consulting firm.

Lydian Bank & Trust, which is based in Miami, hired Alan G. Randolph and Malcolm Brown as senior vice presidents of private banking and wealth management, respectively. Randolph was an executive vice president at The Bank of Miami, and Brown was chief investment officer of LDM Partners, a multi-family office he founded.

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, a New York unit of Bank of America Corp., hired Guy Wynter as a senior portfolio manager, to oversee the portfolios of its high and ultra-high-net-worth clients. Wynter was a managing director of charity and pension funds at BlackRock Management [BLK], which is also based in New York.

TCP Global Investment Management, based in Radnor, Pa., hired Jerry Thunelius as a managing director and head of its newly launched fixed income strategies group. He was director of fixed income management for Oppenheimer Capital, an independent unit of Allianz Global Investors, which is based in Newport Beach, Calif.

Check out more "People on the Move" or click here for some of our other columns.