Terri Dial (1949-2012): Trailblazer for Women in Finance

by Derek Loosvelt | February 29, 2012

Terri Dial, the former head of Citi's consumer banking business and three-decade veteran of Wells Fargo, died today at the age of 62 due to pancreatic cancer. Dial, who rose from a bank teller at Wells Fargo into one of Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business," leaves behind a strong record of performance and management at two of the world's largest banks, as well as a shining example for women looking to advance their careers in financial services.

After graduating from Northwestern University in 1971, Dial began her career at Wells Fargo as a branch teller in San Francisco's Mission. Subsequently, she was chosen to be part of the bank's management trainee program and rose the Wells Fargo ranks to become an executive vice president in 1989, overseeing small business loans for the bank. She was named a vice chair(wo)man in 1996. In 2001, she retired from Wells Fargo to serve as a director on various company boards.

Dial rejoined the banking industry in 2005 when she was hired by Lloyds TSB to be director of the bank's UK retail business. Three years later, Citi's CEO Vikram Pandit, who called Dial "one of the most influential bankers of her generation," hired her away from Lloyds, appointing her head of Citi's ailing consumer business. In 2010, Dial stepped down from that position.

Over the course of her storied rise to the top echelon of the banking industry, Dial offered some advice (through various interviews) to women looking to advance their own careers. She told The Wall Street Journal in 2004 that "women will work themselves to death in the belief that if they do more and more, that will get them ahead, when it isn't so. They think, 'If I do the work, my bosses will see it and reward me.'" Dial added that instead of overworking themselves, women should embrace self-promotion, getting over the idea that "good girls don’t advertise" and that promoting oneself feels "dirty."

In another WSJ piece, it was revealed that Dial wasn't afraid to stand up for what she believed to be unfair, no matter the issue. While a teller at Wells Fargo, Dial "took on the male-dominated order by successfully challenging the practice of having female staffers clean the kitchen."

Dial also noted that it's okay if the boys give you a nickname. Dial, due to an iron will and a fast work pace, was known throughout her career as the "human cyclone." It was a nickname she embraced. In an interview with American Banker, Dial said, "I don't know where the nickname came from, but it's not a bad thing. My pace is a little bit more aggressive than probably people have been used to, and I think they just go, 'Oh yeah, that's right, she's that human cyclone.' So it's actually served me well."

Dial, whether in or out of the office, as one of her close friends put it in an obituary, "did not squander time." She was married to the same man for more than 30 years, during which the couple traveled to more than 100 countries. According to CNN, Dial "hot-air ballooned in Burma," "photographed pelagic birds, penguins, seals, and whales in Antarctica," and "tracked polar bears in Canada and tigers in India."

In addition, for us all, she left behind an example of a life well worked and well lived.

Read More:
Terri Dial, Who Helped Reshape Citigroup After 2008’s Crisis, Dies at 62 (Bloomberg)
Citigroup's Terri Dial: a "human cyclone" to the end (CNNMoney)

Filed Under: Finance | Networking | Workplace Issues


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