While most careers are not a perfectly paved route, Linda Bowden’s path to banking was more like a winding road. The New Jersey regional president at PNC started as a teacher before completing her MBA and eventually taking a job as an investment assistant.
After nearly 25 years in banking, Linda retired (the first time) with the goal of giving back to her community. She had just received her master’s degree in clinical social work when she got a call from PNC. Intrigued by PNC’s meaningful work within its communities, Linda took a chance and accepted the position as regional president.
Now, more than 11 years later, Linda believes it was one of the best decisions she ever made.
“As regional president, I meet so many interesting people. Our interactions have broadened my horizons exponentially,” said Linda. “I have the opportunity to mentor employees and see them flourish and I also get to be out in the community representing PNC.”
Linda has had a tremendous impact on PNC’s business. Under her leadership, New Jersey has been a top performing region with consistent double-digit growth. Instrumental in growing PNC’s brand, Linda has created long-lasting relationships with customers and business leaders across north and central New Jersey, New York and southern Connecticut.
New Jersey born and bred, Linda exudes pride for her home state. Through her role as regional president, she sits on eight boards focused on a broad range of interests, from economic development to healthcare, culture and education.
Linda’s extensive contributions to the state’s business community led to her recent induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame – a fitting tribute for a humble leader who plans to retire from PNC in 2021.
“I spent the early part of my career feeling like an imposter – like it was just a matter of time before people realized I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I started off not knowing much about financial services. Slowly but surely I worked my way up,” said Linda. “My advice for women going into any field is to be bold. Don’t be afraid of failure. Instead, look at it as a gift – something you can learn from.”
Pioneering the field of data and analytics with the support of a strong network
When Denise Letcher graduated from college the role of Chief Data Officer didn’t exist. She started her career as an auditor and found that experience in finance and accounting prepared her for a lot of different jobs, including building a career around information and technology.
As PNC’s Chief Data Officer, Denise is working hard to change the way PNC thinks about and manages data – and her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Denise was one of the few women in financial services selected for the Chief Data Officer Magazine’s inaugural 2020 Global Data Power Women List.
Recognized for shaping the landscape of business and pioneering the field of data and analytics, Denise oversees PNC’s data and data platforms, governing data as it moves across the company.
“Data feeds many critical business processes at the bank,” said Denise. “Everyone touches data in some way. Having good data quality and discipline around how you look at information is a big task – bad data can result in reputational and financial risks.”
Additionally, data has become one of the most important products for financial services organizations to service customers in a timely manner, use analytics to grow revenue and take advantage of cutting-edge technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Throughout her career, Denise has been intentional about surrounding herself with strong mentors. This network of supporters has been invaluable, offering advice or acting as a sounding board when making critical career decisions. As a result, Denise and her team have been able to accomplish a tremendous amount of work and make a measurable impact on the way PNC manages its data.
“It’s important to have that support network readily available, because you never know when you’re going to need it,” said Denise. “When I was young, my mentor told me that as a leader, you always want to appear like a duck on a pond. Calm and cool on the surface, even though your feet are moving furiously underwater. That stuck with me – and it’s how I approach leading my teams.”
Balancing a big job and a big family is possible
Jenny Masterson, a director in PNC’s Retail Lending business, has spent her entire 17-year career at PNC.
With a degree in technology, she started in software development before shifting to process improvement in consumer and commercial lending. In 2014, Jenny began running operational units – an opportunity she considers a turning point in her career.
“If you told me in college that I was going to work in operations, I would have told you that you were crazy. It takes time for software to be developed and implemented. You have to wait to see the impacts. In operations, making a simple change tomorrow has the ability to impact the customer, the process and the bank right away,” said Jenny, one of 15 executives selected for American Banker’s Most Powerful Women in Banking Next list.
In her current role, Jenny oversees a team that works with customers to recover defaulted debt, whether that’s helping customers who’ve missed a payment on a loan or providing assistance to those impacted by a hardship.
Jenny has excelled at coming up with creative ideas to solve operational challenges. She recently saw a way to reach customers in a more efficient and approachable way using text messages and emails. This change led to improved response rates and better experiences for PNC customers.
Outside of work, Jenny juggles the busy schedules of her three kids. She’s a strong believer that women can balance a demanding career and family. At a time when she was considering taking a step back from her corporate responsibilities, it took the support of her manager to completely shift her mindset.
“My manager at the time had young children. Seeing him step away for family responsibilities gave me the confidence to not feel guilty about being home for dinner with my kids or attending their events,” said Jenny. “There’s a way to be successful in business and have a family to help ensure your life is balanced. There will always be weeks when it swings one way or the other, but I want other women to know that there are ways to make it work. It’s so important to see other women out there like you – to be assured that it is possible.”
Learning the importance of performance
With more than 30 years of banking experience, Leah Reynolds Harris, PNC Healthcare Treasury Management officer, helps nonprofit healthcare systems across seven states succeed by providing working capital and revenue cycle solutions.
Recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of the Most Influential Business Women 2020, Leah is widely respected by colleagues not only for her expertise and client service, but for her servant leader mentality and commitment to developing young leaders.
Leah started her career in Retail Banking management before transitioning to recruiting, but it was her willingness to take a risk that led her to treasury management.
“Moving to treasury management was a turning point in my career,” said Leah. “I previously managed a whole team of recruiters. I had to be willing to move laterally and not be a manager or leader so that I could eventually take my next step forward.”
Leah’s strong leadership extends to her passion for serving her community. She serves on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis and is an active member of the Gateway Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and the Links Foundation, where she has chaired efforts around voter registration and human trafficking awareness.
Leah attributes her success in work and in life to being steady and plowing ahead.
“My story isn’t spectacular and I’ve had some setbacks, but along the way I’ve learned the importance of performance. As a woman of color there have always been challenges in the workplace, but the one thing that cannot be disputed is performance,” said Leah. “It’s really important that you’re hitting your objectives and exceeding them. Your performance and results speak for themselves.”