Of the more than 1 million people in the financial services industry, only a small fraction impacted the credit card industry enough to be considered for the Credit Card Hall of Fame. Mercator Advisory began compiling a list of these industry leaders in 2018. They include people such as Dee Hock (Bank of America), Ken Chenault (Amex), Jim Bailey (Citi), David Nelms (Discover), Earl Isaac (FICO), Jack Dorsey (Square), Nigel Morris, and Richard Fairbank (Capital One), Phil Heasley (ACI Worldwide), and David Nelms (Discover).
Gone (and often retired) but not forgotten are people who profoundly impacted the global and domestic credit card business. Margaret Keane is undoubtedly one in that list of leaders, and her move into the role of Executive Chair of the Board of Directors at Synchrony was announced today.
The change is part of a leadership succession plan and takes effect on April 1, 2021. Ascending to Keane’s CEO role is Brian Doubles, who has been Synchrony’s president since 2019, ensuring a smooth transition.
According to CNBC, Ms. Keane stated: “My legacy is really around the company that I built — it’s not just about the financials,” though she leaves her role in excellent shape. Synchrony announced strong liquidity with $21 billion in liquid assets and 15.8% in common tier-1 equity In the latest published investor. Net charge-offs were 4.42%, down from the prior year’s 5.35%, and receivables were down in line with the COVID-affected industry.
During the same quarter, Synchrony added a new program with PayPal’s Venmo, with another industry breakthrough: the ability to apply for the QR-code embedded credit card through the Venmo app. The firm booked 5.3 million new accounts during 3Q20, more than most credit card issuers have in their receivables.
Keane’s career is particularly interesting because she came through the ranks to a top industry position. According to the Seattle Times:
- Keane broke family tradition by pursuing a white-collar career. Her father, a retired New York police officer, had hoped his daughter would follow him into the field like her siblings did — all five were either in law enforcement or married to someone who was. Instead, she enrolled at St. John’s University in New York’s borough of Queens and got a part-time job for $5.50 an hour at Citicorp, calling customers who hadn’t paid bills.
- For the next 16 years, Keane climbed Citicorp’s ranks, eventually running U.S. retail operations before being recruited to GE Capital. After a variety of roles in operations and quality control, she joined its credit-card business, which works with companies including Wal-Mart Stores and Lowe’s. She became the unit’s CEO in 2011.
Many innovations came to bear over Ms. Keane’s tenure, ranging from their recent Direct-to-Device smartphone innovation to the Amazon secured Private Label credit card. Other standout features include the Synchrony’s Loop Commerce solution, which allows a sender to send innovative gift cards from leading retailers, such as Coach, Kate Spade, and Target, plus advances in healthcare finance with Care Credit.
Brian Doubles, the Synchrony president, who held roles at GE Consumer Finance, and GE Capital Retail Finance, has been with Synchrony since 2014 and will ensure a smooth transition.
As the industry recovers from COVID-19, private label credit cards will need to adapt to online commerce shifts. With competitor Alliance Data recently restacking under new leadership with Citi’s Ralph Andretta, and arch-competitor Citi-Retail holding the line, Synchrony remains well-positioned to face-off in this critical industry sector.
Overview by Brian Riley, Director, Credit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group
Photo credit: Forbes