Vice Chairman of U.S. Bank Discusses Anticipating the Financial Needs of an Increasingly Diverse Population
Gunjan Kedia Vice Chairman, Wealth Management and Investment Services at U.S. Bank
Provided by U.S. Bank
Gunjan Kedia is transforming the face of wealth management at U.S. Bank by working to make wealth management delightful for all, regardless of their current income level.
Kedia admits that the images many have when they think of wealth management remain true, even in an era of growing diversity.
“The wealth management industry started as a business for the men, and by the men,” she says. “In some ways, we still see remnants of that today.”
But her presence at the corporate table as Vice Chairman of Wealth Management and Investment Services at U.S. Bank is a significant indication that the industry is changing, along with the population it serves.
“I started in the banking industry as a young woman of color in the early 1990s,” Kedia says. “I grew up in India, which was a very conservative society, so I’m actually very optimistic about where we are today. The fact that we’re even having this conversation and that I’m in this position shows the power of what is possible.”
Kedia, who joined U.S Bank in her current role in late 2016, has only added to her reputation as a rising star in finance. American Banker Magazine named Kedia to its 2018 list of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance, noting the revenue growth and financial success of Kedia’s Wealth Management and Investment Services unit. Kedia came to U.S. Bank with more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry, including leadership roles at State Street, Bank of New York Mellon and McKinsey & Company.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Delhi School of Engineering and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. Kedia has also served on the boards of directors of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, the Carnegie Mellon Tepper Business School, CorStone, State Street Syntel and Boston Financial Data Services.
Headquartered in Minneapolis, U.S. Bank is the fifth-largest bank in the United States, generating $22 billion in revenue and $6.2 billion of net income in 2017. The corporation has a significant presence in Cincinnati due to its acquisition and merger with Star Bank and Milwaukee-based Firstar bank in the late 1990s-early 2000s. In addition to wealth management and investment services, U.S. Bank businesses include consumer and small business banking, corporate and commercial banking and payments
U.S. Bank offers three business models within its wealth management umbrella. Ascent Private Capital Management serves ultra high-net worth individuals and families with more than $75 million in investable assets. The private wealth model serves clients with $3 million to $75 million in investable assets, and the head of its eastern region is based in Cincinnati. Finally, in-person wealth management guidance is offered for clients who have $100,000 in U.S. Bancorp Investments and/or U.S. Bank investment balances.
“For the longest time, Cincinnati served as our second headquarters of sorts,” Kedia says. “We have many board members from the area and we have a huge presence here in terms of the number of people we have. Cincinnati is a very dear and familiar market for us.”
The warmth Kedia shares when speaking of the Cincinnati area permeates her interactions with clients. She wants to bring a personal touch to the staid world of wealth management, recognizing that her efforts can have a significant effect on her clients’ futures.
“What we do has a very real and direct impact on the lives of real people,” Kedia says. “I know banking is a complex business and sometimes there are products that you don’t really see how they’re consumed, but I hear the stories almost every day: helping a small business get up and running, seeing a family send their kids to college, or helping someone give to charity in a tax-efficient way.
Money can also create personal tensions in a family. With the latter group, for example, U.S. Bank offers a family wellness service that can help repair familial relationships damaged by disputes over money. Parents can also work to develop plans to distribute their funds to their children in a sustainable way that doesn’t threaten their golden years or affect the children’s abilities to work and save for their own families.
“We often see parents worried about their children’s motivational health and we can craft plans for the kids,” Kedia said. “We help enable a lot of retirements and a lot of dreams. It’s very real and very personal. I find that very fulfilling about the job.”
Kedia also wants the financial industry in general to do a better job serving all groups when it comes to money management.
“We’re undergoing a significant shift in the makeup of our country’s demographics and I’m not sure that the businesses that serve clients are transforming with quite as much rapidity,” she said. “Women are living longer than their husbands, and more women of marriageable age are choosing not to marry today. We still have a very high divorce rate. Whether it’s because of death, divorce or choice, most women end up managing their money, but wealth management is still often led by men.”
Kedia said the same about the nation’s growing multicultural population and young people spending decades paying off loans without the ability to save.
“That’s one of my challenges,” she says. “Are we keeping up with what’s happening around us, and anticipating and fulfilling those clients’ needs?”
Embracing technology is one method that can be used to reach underserved clientele. Kedia notes how the nation has become an “Amazon country,” used to clicking a button at any hour and receiving a product the next day. Clients expect the same from their banks, which brings both challenges and opportunities for the financial services industry.
“We’re trying to be digital friendly because we want to reach youth,” she says. “Taking control of one’s own finances is an essential skill in life. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. It’s all about getting started early in a way that they understand. We want to be impactful, delightful and lifelong partners. I know it’s a little kooky, but no one wakes up in the morning and says ‘Yay, let me manage my taxes.’ You do have to make it a little approachable, a little fun, a little human.”
And Kedia believes U.S. Bank is in a great position to meet those challenges. As one of 14 members of the corporation’s executive team, she has trust in the group to move the industry forward.
“Our team is very diverse, and very forward thinking,” Kedia says. “It’s a culture that is very progressive, warm, people-focused and diversity-friendly. You just look at the makeup of our board and our managing committee and it stands out in the world of banking. This is an organization that is glad to be better at this. My challenge is not that I have to push culturally to get acceptance – we all ‘get it.’ We’re ready and willing and just need to get it done.”
Working toward that goal requires action that might be uncommon in traditional banking. In addition to embracing technology and targeting underserved groups, Kedia recognizes that there is still consumer trust to be earned by banks, investment firms and financial services in general. Banks have to be willing to meet people where they are, and work to establish a foundation of trust versus writing potential clients off as simply uninterested.
Her work isn’t just about helping clients make more money.
“I have increasingly come to believe that the right person at the right time can completely change the course of a person’s financial journey,” Kedia says. “However much we may not want this to be true, money does help you accomplish a lot of non-monetary aspirations in life. It is a powerful tool to have a more fulfilling life. I would like to find the right people at the right time with the right style to reach clients to inform their decision making to create better outcomes.”
And she wants all customers to know that their current financial limitations don’t have to prevent them from beginning that journey.
“Engage,” she says. “Don’t run away from it. Get educated. Then get started. Don’t overthink it. Take some amount, put it away and get started. Everything else tends to fall in place afterwards.”
U.S. Bank is located at 425 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, call 513.632.4234 or visit www.usbank.com