STRATEGIC ALLY: ALLY FINANCIAL'S DIANE MORAIS BUILDS A BANK OF THE FUTURE.

Author:Lecgett, Page
Position:NC TREND: Game changers: Profile of a female leader
 
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The story of Ally Bank's recent growth is inextricably linked to Diane Morais. Each year since launching in 2009, the online-only bank has seen double-digit growth in deposits. Kiplinger's named it the best internet bank and the best bank for millennials. And for the last three years, Morais, who is president of Ally Bank's consumer and commercial banking products division, has been ranked among American Banker's "25 Most Powerful Women in Banking."

After more than two decades at Citibank and Bank of America, the Pittsburgh native and Penn State graduate joined General Motors Acceptance Corp. in 2008. The financial-services company, still heavily focused on auto finance, was bailed out by the federal government in the recession. It rebranded as Ally Financial in 2010 and went public in 2014. Though the company is based in Detroit, most of Ally's top executives, including Morais and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Brown, are in Charlotte.

Morais oversaw the launch of Ally's mortgage and credit-card products in 2016. She also leads digital strategies and Ally Invest, the company's online brokerage and wealth-management business that originated with the $275 million acquisition of TradeKing Inc. in 2016.

While the bank has no retail branches, about 1,500 of Ally Financial's 7,900 employees work in Charlotte. In addition to downtown, Ally has offices in Ballantyne, South Park and the city's newest arts and business hub, Camp North End. A new 26-story, 742,000-square-foot corporate center, Ally Charlotte Center, is under Construction.

The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity:

* MILLENNIALS MAKE UP A LOT OF YOUR CUSTOMER BASE, RIGHT?

They are a growing segment for us, and we love that. Our customers are equally divided among baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials, but our digital offerings have really struck a chord with millennials.

There's a recent statistic that $30 trillion in wealth is going to be passed down from one generation to another over the next 10 years. Millennials stand to inherit that money from their parents and grandparents.

* ALLY ASSIST, THE VIRTUAL ASSISTANT THAT USES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, SEEMS PERFECTLY GEARED TOWARD MILLENNIALS.

It's embedded within our mobile app. It uses artificial intelligence to learn, over time, what you're looking for. If you log in every day to check your balance, it will eventually learn that and automatically provide your balance when you log in.

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