KeyCorp's Beth Mooney: The Most Powerful Woman in Banking

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Beth Mooney has made history as the first female CEO of a top 20 U.S. banking company, but when her career is over she most wants to be remembered as a banker who made a difference.

She's proud that KeyCorp's profits and share price have risen steadily since she took the helm in 2011, and equally proud that it is the only large bank in the country to have earned an "outstanding" rating from regulators on its community reinvestment activities for eight consecutive years — dating to when she ran Key's community bank.

She's proud, too, that the company's charitable arm gave away $18 million last year and that its small-dollar loan product has been praised by banking regulators and consumer advocates for meeting a need without trapping consumers in a cycle of debt.

"All of these things are proof points... that we are a company committed to doing things the right way," says Mooney.

Though Key has long had a reputation as a good corporate citizen, it has redoubled its efforts under Mooney. One of her first acts as CEO was creating an office of corporate responsibility to oversee a wide range of functions — from community development lending to diversity in the workplace — and to help guide Key's mission of always doing right by customers and communities.

Mooney believes that most banks are acting more responsibly these days and says that the banking industry has made huge strides in regaining the trust it lost during the financial crisis. Still, she wants Key to be recognized as a leader in corporate responsibility and points to its small-dollar loan product, the KeyBasic Credit Line, as an example of how it is differentiating itself from competitors. Unlike deposit advance products, which can be similar to payday loans, Key's revolving line of credit gives borrowers up to 60 months to repay at interest rates ranging from roughly 17% to 22%, depending on the size of the loan. While regulators have been sharply critical of the fees and terms for deposit advances and have forced many banks to stop offering them, they have hailed KeyBasic, launched in 2011, as a viable and responsible alternative to payday loans. Key has collaborated with the Center for Financial Services Innovation on a white paper about small-dollar lending and was recently asked by the Pew Charitable Trusts to help it come up with guidelines on responsible payments that it could recommend to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Another priority for Mooney is workplace diversity. DiversityInc magazine has named Key as a top 50 company to work for in each of the last two years in part because women and minorities comprise roughly 36% of the leadership team. Its board of directors is diverse as well, with five women, including Mooney, and two minority males among its 13 members. Earlier this year the advocacy group WomenCorporateDirectors presented Mooney with its annual "Visionary Award" in recognition of the fact that Key has a higher percentage of females on its board than any other large banking company in the country. But what motivates Mooney above all is "helping clients and communities thrive." Her ideal is for people to think of Key as a company that improves their lives, through its products and services, its workplace culture and its community contributions. "I take my legacy very seriously," Mooney says.

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