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CNN’s Cristina Alesci on making banking authentic again

  • Cristina is a television and digital correspondent for CNN and CNNMoney.
  • "Wall Street still sounds like a 1980s scene from a movie about Wall Street."
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Welcome to the Tradestreaming Podcast. I’m Zack Miller.

Cristina Alesci joins me on this week’s show. Cristina is a television and digital correspondent for CNN and CNNMoney. She covers the companies and business leaders that influence everyday life and unravels the complexities of Wall Street and corporate America.

Cristina joined us at this year’s Tradestreaming Money Conference, November 14th in New York City. We talked about a lot of things, from the Wells Fargo scandal to the changing role of the neighborhood bank branch. Our discussion about the prominence, or lack thereof, of women on Wall Street— and in whose hands it is to change things — kicked off a lot of discussion on social media afterward.

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Below are highlights, edited for clarity, from the episode.

The public’s changing view of banks

There are really two different perspectives. If you ask people on either coast, in San Francisco and New York, the industry’s reputation has substantially recovered. But when you go out to the rest of the country, like Indiana and Kentucky, there’s real distrust of the financial industry in general. The data really show that the industry is still distrusted to the same level as during the savings and loan crisis. The public is extremely skeptical of banks. After the S&L crisis, about 800 bankers went to jail. But after this last crisis, the public didn’t see anyone get punished for what happened. There’s still simmering resentment out there.

How Wells Fargo handled this crisis

From the media’s perspective, it seems like it’s the same story, just a different year. People at the top making bad decisions, encouraging unethical behavior and when it all comes to light, the bank’s initial response was appalling. The bank went into the branches and fired 5000 low to middle income employees. To have no accountability at the top was just incredibly insensitive. Also, from the CEO perspective, you don’t go to D.C. and act like it was all a joke in front of Congress. Other banks now have an opportunity to get some perspective.

The future of community banking

Community banks are under pressure. There’s a unique opportunity for community banks to give back to their communities and start representing values in the community with way more transparency and simpler, cheaper financial products. There’s going to be a transition where community banks are going to look a lot more like the fintech startups. If you can make a local bank branch integral to the local population, there’s an opportunity there if you can also include technology.

Women on Wall Street

Wall Street still sounds like a 1980s scene from a movie about Wall Street. The reality is that there are all sorts of reasons why women feel excluded from the financial industry. I place the blame solely on women because no female banker I know is willing to take the career risk necessary to make real change happen. We’ve worked so hard to get the positions and jobs that we have that we really don’t want to risk it all. Women talk about work-life balance more because they are actually doing more. I don’t understand why women date and marry men who aren’t willing to share the burden.

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