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Janice Fukakusa: “The pipelines are pretty positive for women to get there now.”Erin Elder/The Globe and Mail

Janice Fukakusa, chief financial officer at Royal Bank of Canada, has been tapped by American Banker as one of the 25 most powerful women in banking for the third consecutive year, and her profile will probably head higher after RBC closes its $5.4-billion (U.S.) acquisition of Los Angeles-based City National Corp. later this year.

The magazine pointed to that transaction in its write-up, noting that it is the biggest bank mergers and acquisitions deal of the year so far, and that Ms. Fukakusa was instrumental in assessing City National's fit with RBC's strategic goals and cultural footprint.

But her ranking goes well beyond the deal, of course. It resonates strongly with Canadians because Ms. Fukakusa is the only Canadian represented. It also resonates with RBC's U.S. personnel, who don't always expect to see their bank ranked alongside brands such as KeyCorp and JPMorgan Chase (whose top female executives placed No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, respectively).

"It really makes them feel good to see that recognition of RBC," she said.

Ms. Fukakusa said there has been a renewed focus on women within banking in the past five or 10 years, as stakeholders recognize the value of gender diversity. Yet there's more progress to be made. She pointed out that women make up 63 per cent of RBC's work force but only 38 per cent of the executive team. "That's quite a difference," she said.

"There is more of a recognition that if you are serving clients, you have to be reflecting the demographics," she added.

But are we on the verge of seeing a female chief executive officer at a Big Six bank?

"The pipelines are pretty positive for women to get there now," Ms. Fukakusa said, pointing to the three women on RBC's executive committee and a number of others at senior levels. "So I think it is just a matter of time."