Bank of Montreal stands to land one of the top female executives in U.S. finance as part of its acquisition of Bank of the West, and a CEO who has raised hackles in the energy industry by cutting off loans to fracking and oil sands companies.
Nandita Bakhshi, 63, has been the chief executive at San Francisco-based Bank of the West for five years. American Banker, an industry publication, consistently ranks her among the most powerful women in U.S. banking, based on financial performance and Ms. Bakhshi’s leadership on diversity and environmental issues.
Ms. Bakhshi’s corporate biography points out that as CEO, she introduced policies that made Bank of the West “one of the few U.S. banks to restrict financing of activities deemed harmful to the planet.” The moves drew criticism from politicians such as U.S. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican who serves on the Senate’s energy and natural resources committee.
“This misguided and politically expedient decision is a direct attack on hard-working families in Wyoming and across the country that depend on fossil fuels for energy security, jobs and economic growth,” Mr. Barrasso said in a 2018 public letter to Bank of the West’s CEO. “It is a serious mistake to pick winners and losers in energy markets, especially to the detriment of your own customers.”
On Monday, Bank of Montreal CEO Darryl White said in an interview that Bank of the West’s approach to sustainability is largely consistent with the Canadian bank’s policies. However, Mr. White said in Canada, Bank of Montreal will continue to finance energy companies, “with a focus on assisting clients as they transition to a net-zero emissions economy.”
A native of India, Ms. Bakhshi earned a masters in international relations from Jadavpur University and undergraduate history degree at University of Calcutta. She started her banking career as part-time teller at a regional bank in upstate New York.
Over three decades, Ms. Bakhshi held executive roles at the U.S. arm of Toronto-Dominion Bank and a series of U.S. banks and financial firms that were later acquired, including FleetBoston Financial (bought by Bank of America in 2004) Washington Mutual (rescued by JPMorgan Chase & Co. during the 2008-09 financial crisis) and First Data (bought by Fiserv in 2019).
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