Inspired by Yellen, Women in Banking See 'Infinite' Possibilities

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Byline: Sarah Todd, Jeanine Skowronski

This year's most powerful woman in banking is ready for a rendezvous with Janet Yellen.

"I can't wait to meet her," KeyCorp Chairman and CEO Beth Mooney said Thursday at an American Banker gala honoring the industry's top woman.

So what would Mooney, No. 1 on the list of the 25 Most Powerful Woman in Banking, say to the central banker?

"I'd be tongue-tied," Mooney said.

Yellen was not among the 675 attendees at the annual awards dinner in New York at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, but her presence certainly was felt.

"This year, we could not have had better timing," said Heather Landy, American Banker Magazine's editor in chief, acknowledging Yellen's very recent nomination in her opening remarks at the gala.

The Federal Reserve vice chairwoman made history on Wednesday when President Obama named her as his pick to lead the U.S. central bank. Her nomination followed months of speculation about who would be tapped to succeed current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, with many theorizing that Yellen would lose out on the position to White House favorite Lawrence Summers. But the tides turned against the former Treasury Secretary as Yellen received a groundswell of public support, and as key senators said they would vote against Summers if he were nominated. Summers withdrew his name from consideration in early September.

Gala attendees saw Yellen's widely anticipated appointment as a source of inspiration for other women in banking who face logjams in the advancement pipeline.

"Women who find their way to the top create a draw for the people who are coming behind," Mooney said of the nomination.

"I'm so exuberant about Yellen," said LeeAnne Linderman, executive vice president of retail banking at Zions First National Bank in Salt Lake City. "Not just because she's a woman, but because of her experience and reputation. She's eminently qualified and she earned this, hands down. I'm hopeful that this sends another message about the incredible, deep talent among women in banking and finance."

American Banker Editor-at-Large Barb Rehm used Yellen's prospective tenure as Fed chair as an example of how having a woman in a key leadership role can make a meaningful difference to an institution. …