2015 Powered by Women

With women-owned businesses in Michigan continuing to increase in number, we asked our readers to nominate female business leaders in the region who are driving profits, adding employees, and opening new opportunities.


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Marybeth Howe

Executive Vice President | Wells Fargo’s Great Lakes Division, Southfield

Employees (Regional): | 80 Revenue: NA

Marybeth Howe trained at the University of Michigan to become a teacher, but in her senior year she found another destiny. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for,” Howe says, “but the skills I learned (about) how to get the best out of people have been very transferable to my roles as a mother and mentor.”

Education’s loss was the banking industry’s gain, since Howe, executive vice president of Wells Fargo’s Great Lakes Division, has led her team to achieve double-digit year-over-year growth for the past five years.

“The three-state region I manage is very much viewed as a growth market for Wells Fargo,” she says. “We did it kind of the good, old-fashioned way. Because we don’t have bricks and mortar in  any of the states I support (Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio), a lot of it (has been done) just by knocking on doors and telling our story.”

In addition to that growth, Howe says more opportunities have become available for women. “Over the past five years, representation by females in leadership positions within Wells Fargo Commercial Banking has grown from 5 percent to 40 percent,” says Howe, who co-chairs the company’s Women in Leadership Committee. The group consists of 100 senior commercial banking executives who, like Howe, empower women to rise to higher levels across the corporation.

Along with one-on-one mentoring, committee members organize a yearly gathering of mentors and mentees to learn and network; hold quarterly conference calls for female leaders to share information; and alert female employees to senior-level opportunities.

“Before the Women in Leadership Committee (was formed), we had a lot of women across the country, and there was no real way for them to get together to facilitate growth and to network,” she says. “We made a concerted effort to benchmark how many women we had in leadership. Detroit is a great example; we have two women leading teams.”

Howe has three formal mentees, and she mentors another three women informally. It’s a process she’s quite familiar with: Years ago, she was on the receiving end of the same kind of personalized coaching. “I’ve had a number of mentors in my career, and I’ve been in banking close to 35 years at this point,” she says.

Howe was one of the first women in commercial banking at the former National City Bank, now PNC Bank. “I had as my mentor one of their senior guys, Bill MacDonald, who ended up becoming chairman of the old National City,” she says.

Howe reaches out to female clients as well as fellow employees, and is part of a subcommittee of Women in Leadership that promotes growth among women-owned businesses nationally.

“One of the ways we bring value to our customers is to help bring new business to them,” she says. “We share best practices and bring ideas to help grow their business.”

Her MBA in finance and marketing from Ohio State University provided Howe with the confidence to counsel clients whose businesses are expanding. “It takes some of the same things I have a passion around, helping people be successful,” she says. “I think that’s the role of the banker — to try to make customers and clients succeed.” — Ilene Wolff

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