Career ladder: Howe, 59, earned a bachelor's degree in education at the University of Michigan in 1978. In 1980, she received her MBA from Ohio State University, and one year later, she joined National City Bank in Cleveland. She moved to Detroit in 1988 when she was promoted to vice president. She rose to executive vice president and manager of middle market banking in 2002 and became part of the senior management team of National City Bank of Michigan/Illinois. In 2009, Howe moved to Wells Fargo to manage commercial banking operations and was promoted to executive vice president and division manager of the Great Lakes division.Power metrics: Wells Fargo is the third-largest bank in the country with assets of $1.9 trillion. There are 1,500 Wells Fargo employees in the state of Michigan and 270,000 employees worldwide. "We have approximately 2,000 wholesale clients in Michigan with over $6 billion in committed capital." Howe is responsible for middle market banking operations of 10 Wells Fargo offices in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio that offer services including credit, treasury management, global banking and investment banking.
Why the banking industry? "When I was in grad school, I didn't know what I wanted to do and so I thought, 'Well, banking would be a great opportunity to learn a lot about a lot of different industries and then from there figure out what I liked. You know, did I like manufacturing? Did I like service? Did I like retail?' And so, I thought it was being a generalist and learning a lot about a lot of things in a very compact time frame that would give me more direction as I continued my career. What I found was I really liked the variety of banking — the fact that we deal with all sorts of industries across various-sized spectrums. Every day is different and every day is a challenge, but it's certainly not boring."
How she helps other women: Howe co-chairs the bank's national Women in Leadership Committee and is a member of the Middle Market Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Special skill: "I think, for me, one of the most difficult parts of my job right now is to motivate a high-performing team in a competitive market where people are used to winning." She faces that difficulty by having her team focus on the long term. "As much as we all like to win in the moment, we're really about long-term results and having the focus on doing the right thing over extended periods of time."
Most rewarding aspects of your job: "Really seeing companies grow and being able to expand our team. So success, you know, really motivates future success, and it's neat to see companies that we were banking when they were relatively small grow. Maybe they had 50 employees and now they have 250. And when I think about what they bring to the community and how they help the markets grow, that's just really rewarding to me — seeing people grow and reach their full potential."
Big win: Being promoted to executive vice president and division manager of Wells Fargo and being part of the senior leadership team for all of commercial banking nationally.
Surprising fact: She worked out of her home from 1988 to 1998 while managing National City's large corporate portfolio in Michigan. At one point, all four of her children were younger than 4 years old. "This was groundbreaking at the time and the lack of technology, etc., made it even more challenging, but it kept me in the game and allowed me to stay engaged so I could take on leadership roles when the time was right."
Power lesson: "You could be the most talented person in the world, but if you don't surround yourself with team members who have a shared vision in what you're trying to accomplish, you're never going to be satisfied with where you can go and reach your full potential."
Biggest motivation: "I would say building a business that is sustainable … just really building something that will continue long after I've, hopefully successfully, retired."
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