The gender gap in banking remains considerable, and it's incumbent for women who are in high positions to take the initiative to surpass it, according to Citi's Leslie McNamara.

"I love the quote by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, 'There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women,'" said McNamara, managing director and executive vice president of partner management for Citi Retail Services

McNamara has been recognized in prior years as one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments, partly on the influence of her organization, Citi Retail Services, which accounts for a huge portion of Citi's overall business.

Her line of business is also responsible for retaining the merchant clients that are adjusting to rapid technology-driven changes in how payments are offered, accepted and processed. If Citi Retail Services doesn't enable the move to omnichannel shopping and improved security, there's a long line of disruptors waiting in the wings to steal these clients away.

"We’ve already seen a fundamental shift underway in the customer path to purchase as digital tools become part of the shopping experience," she said. "Now more than 70% of customers research purchases online before shopping in-store, according to a number of different sources. And mobile shopping will bring new dimensions to this phenomenon."

New threats will emerge as more commerce migrates to mobile and other automated channels, McNamara said.

"This evolving threat to the industry necessitates greater collaboration by all parties within the payment ecosystem and a focus on detection and prevention. To effectively combat fraud, it’s going to take a coalition of the willing," she said.

A 30-year veteran of financial services, McNamara attributes her success partly to Citi Women, a corporate career development program to attract women executives and foster mentorship at Citi. The program addresses the need for more women in the company's higher ranks.

"Programs like these foster enhanced interactions between individuals in senior management positions, which inevitably yields enhanced business outcomes," said McNamara, who has been in her current post five years. "They inspire progress, lead change and drive women to success."

Progressive financial institutions have increasingly invested in corporate-sponsored programs as they recognize that diversity of thought leads to better management, better idea generation and better outcomes for clients, McNamara said.

"These programs have benefitted all employees, but in particular women. We’ve seen the pipeline of female talent in mid- and senior-level management increase demonstrably over the past two decades," she said.

There is still work to do, since women's progress within the industry has typically stalled at second-highest layer of management, according to McNamara.

"The remaining hurdle here, however, is in the C-suite ranks, where the representation of women in these levels is stagnant at a mere 17%, up only 1% from three years ago," McNamara said, attributing those numbers to research from McKinsey & Company.

This article is part of PaymentsSource's 25 Most Influential Women in Payments feature. Follow these links to see a full list of all honorees or a slideshow of the featured executives.

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