Sunday, November 30, 2003

Look Who's Talking: Kathy Beechem



Kathy Beechem has a passion for driving fast sports cars, making money and helping others excel. The 52-year-old Park Hills native, Mount Adams resident, wife and stepmother of two oversees 1,215 bank branches with 11,000 employees and $43 billion in deposits as executive vice president of U.S. Bancorp in Cincinnati. She balances work, leisure and community service with family time.

MANY BIG BANKS in Greater Cincinnati don't have high-level female executives. How did you do it?

When (CEO) Jerry Grundhofer and (consumer banking chief) Richard Davis came in (1993), it was the first time I had worked anywhere that it didn't matter that I was a woman. All that mattered was that I could produce the numbers. I don't think they noticed gender, and it was like, oh my gosh, I could feel the opportunity was really here.

WHAT DO YOU SEE as your biggest remaining challenges?

To continue to grow the business at the double-digit rate. I have 70 district managers, half of them are women. Half my regional managers group is female. A personal challenge is helping grow the next generation (of women business leaders).

WHAT DO YOU DO when you're not punching numbers at U.S. Bank?

I like to work hard and play hard. I like sports cars and I follow sports-car racing. Whenever I get a chance I do that (she has a 2000 model bright-red Porsche 996 convertible).

WHAT ABOUT MARVIN LEWIS and the Bengals?

Woo-hoo! I think it's good and so fun to see. It shows the power of leaders and what a good leader can do. It's nice not to be abused by the Vikings fans and Rams fans. It's great for the city.

IS THERE ANYTHING in Cincinnati you would change if you could?

I'd like to have our Cincinnati public schools be as good as the Bengals. As good as the Bengals now. I'm a supporter of (CPS Superintendent) Alton Frailey. We have to make sure we're investing in the future leaders of our city so the city can continue to grow and prosper.

SPEAKING OF INVESTMENTS, what about interest rates?

It's a good time if you want to borrow money. We're anticipating that low interest rates will continue through 2004. We haven't had rates this low in 40 years, and that's driving the consumer economy.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR involvement in community organizations?

I'm co-chairing the Women's Initiative, a new effort by the United Way. We have 77 women who have individual commitments to contribute a minimum of $10,000 a year (Alexis de Tocqueville Society givers), and we hope to increase that to 100 or beyond by late 2004. I'm also board president of the Jobs For Cincinnati Graduates Program and board member of Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. Helping kids succeed in school is important to me. It's a way for me to put my money where my mouth is and make a difference.

Jeff McKinney



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