Margaret Keane, CEO of Synchrony, resigns

Margaret Keane, CEO of Synchrony

Source: Synchrony Financial

Margaret Keane, CEO of Synchrony Financial, will step down after nearly a decade of co-branding the dealer.

Sixty-one-year-old Keane – one of the few women to run a finance firm on Wall Street – remains as chairman of the company while Brian Doubles, president of Synchrony, takes over the running. The move was part of a long-planned succession, Keane said, and will take effect April 1.

Keane brought Synchrony to the public seven years ago as part of his split from General Electric. She oversaw dozen of high-profile partnerships for the lender, including the Venmo credit card earlier this year, as well as co-branded card deals with Amazon and Verizon.

“My legacy really revolves around the company I’ve built – it’s not just about finances,” Keane told CNBC in a phone interview. “GE had such a strong culture and way of working, and we really had to create our own identity.”

The lender is known for its co-branding deals with partners like Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, and Amazon.com. More recently, more tech-focused companies like PayPal have been added. Synchrony has also doubled its healthcare funding with Care Credit and animal health with the acquisition of insurance company Pets Best.

Over the past decade, Synchrony shares have risen roughly 60% under Keane’s leadership. The stock tumbled in March as consumer credit fears rocked investors during the pandemic. Synchrony stocks have returned 6% over the past 12 months, compared to an 18% return on the S&P 500.

Keane has also addressed controversy over breaking high profile partnerships. Walmart and Synchrony ended their nearly two-decade card relationship in 2018, which led to a lawsuit by Walmart over the sale of that loan portfolio.

Doubles, 45, was previously Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Synchrony and CFO of GE’s North American retail finance business from 2009 to 2014. His focus in the chief executive role is on guiding Synchrony and its 16,000 workforce through the pandemic and a shift to an online economy that accelerated this year, he said.

Synchrony’s investments in digital and data analytics to “predict how customers will want to shop”, Doubles said, are helping attract tech-savvy partners like Amazon. He also highlighted the resilience of the U.S. consumer, Synchrony’s credit portfolio during the pandemic, and unexpectedly low credit card defaults last quarter.

“There are certainly the haves and nots and clearly – it’s not consistent across the consumer base – but in general the consumer is in pretty good shape,” said Doubles.

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