By Patricia Sellers
September 29, 2008

No sooner did we unveil Fortune’s 2008 Most Powerful Women in Business rankings than the ground shifted beneath two women on the list. Terri Dial, No. 47, is CEO of the U.S. consumer bank at Citigroup

. With Citi’s deal to buy Wachovia, annnounced this morning, she will be in charge of the largest retail banking system in the U.S., with 4,300 branches and a 9.8% market share of deposits.

It’s a high bar for Dial, 58, who joined Citi this past spring, after heading the UK retail bank at Lloyds TSB in London. At Lloyds, Dial, a California native, was known as “the human cyclone.” Though I don’t know her well, she seemed quite that type — quick and confident — when I chatted with her briefly a month ago after I had breakfast with Sallie Krawcheck at Citi headquarters. As for Krawcheck, she quit her job as CEO of Citi’s Global Wealth Management unit last Monday. So we knocked her off the Most Powerful list just as we were going to press.

Meanwhile, the Citi-Wachovia deal may not be an awful thing for another woman on our 2008 power list. Cece Sutton, No. 33, heads Wachovia’s retail and small business banking unit. Even as Wachovia was flailing these past weeks, we kept Sutton on the list because her division, with $13.5 billion in revenues, is a relatively healthy source of capital that helped keep her bank, the nation’s fourth largest, stay alive this long.

Sutton started at Wachovia as a clerk 30 years ago and has run the retail unit since 2003. She’s impressively built the deposit base and kept Wachovia at the top of the customer service charts. Whether she’ll stay or go post-acquisition is uncertain. But given Citi’s plans to fold its retail banking operations into Wachovia’s and maintain a presence in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sutton, a native, is well-positioned. Because the overlap in the two banks’ retail operations is small, Citi expects to close less than 5% of the combined branches.

Jessica, my partner on Postcards, and I had breakfast with Sutton two weeks ago when the outlook for Wachovia was not quite so dire and the deal on the table was a possible merger with Morgan Stanley

. (Remember? Then Morgan Stanley opted to remain independent by becoming a bank holding company.) We talked extensively about coping with stress and uncertainty in these tumultuous times. How does Sutton do it? An accomplished equestrian, she owns six horses plus has three boarders on her farm in North Carolina. She visits the horses after work every night when she’s in town. “On weekends,” she told us, “I literally work at the barn for hours, feeding the horses, cleaning the stalls, doing all sorts of physical work. It’s a different kind of thinking that helps me a lot.” Whatever it takes!

P.S. That morning we had breakfast with Sutton, who else did I run into at the Four Seasons hotel in Manhattan? Pat Russo, who has been on Fortune’s Most Powerful list since its first year, 1998, but isn’t this year since she just lost her job as CEO of Alcatel-Lucent

. Talk about coping with stress. We had a pleasant off-the-record conversation, and all I can tell you is that Russo seems glad to be out of there.

You May Like

EDIT POST