Mary Henehan and Paula Comings work together to help companies understand and manage their foreign exchange exposure
The global economic shocks of the past few years have translated into similar turmoil in foreign currency markets. Most foreign exchange rates have seesawed and the U.S. dollar this year has significantly retreated from the two-decade high it hit in late 2022.
These conditions have forced multinational companies to refine – or in some cases, establish – their currency hedging strategies. Without a robust plan in place, U.S. firms selling their products abroad or paying for imports in local currencies can face significant added costs when they convert to and from U.S. dollars.
That’s where Mary Henehan and Paula Comings can shine. They co-lead a team of dozens of foreign exchange (FX) experts who work with companies – from midsize to Fortune 500 – to help them understand and manage their foreign exchange risk.
“Today’s market conditions have driven, or even forced, companies to reevaluate how they have operated historically when it comes to FX,” Henehan said. “Many of the clients we work with have had to adjust their currency practices to make sure they are operating as effectively, efficiently and competitively as they possibly can.”
The team is well positioned to succeed during this economic moment, she said. While U.S. Bank has offered FX services for decades, Henehan, Comings and U.S. Bank Head of FX Chris Braun joined forces three years ago and set out to re-imagine the FX support the bank provides clients.
Key to this was delivering an exceptional client and product experience that makes it easy for corporate treasury officials to manage currency risks.
“CFOs and treasurers benefited from a relatively calm currency market in the years leading up to the pandemic,” Comings said. “Since then, managing FX is a top priority and we’re focused on making the work as painless as possible. With our updated tech platform, we can help them automate more mundane tasks, stay ahead of emerging risks, and execute quickly.”
The team also developed a strategy to better educate corporate and mid-size clients on FX risks and solutions, she said. In addition to holding hundreds of meetings with CFOs and treasurers to discuss currency hedging plans, the team also invested in providing a free, publicly available webinar series for companies of all sizes to share information on FX hedging strategies.
With the U.S. Bank FX team working closely with a growing number of firms, the bank’s foreign exchange business had record revenue in 2022, besting the previous record by more than 30%.
Beyond the growth numbers, Henehan and Comings said they are even more proud of the recognition their team has received for its client experience. For example, in a survey of corporate finance leaders, Greenwich Associates found that U.S. Bank ranked first among corporate FX providers for smoothest experience.
The team is further benefitting from the bank’s acquisition of MUFG Union Bank’s core regional banking franchise, adding an experienced Los Angeles-based FX team that brought deep client relationships and knowledge.
Henehan and Comings co-manage their team from different time zones, with Henehan based in Minneapolis and Comings in New York. To add better focus across the bank’s client base, Henehan and Comings recently launched a new FX team fully dedicated to the Consumer and Business Banking business line.
“Co-head roles aren’t always successful, but Mary and Paula’s strengths are so complementary that it works very well for our team and our clients,” Braun said.
Neither Comings nor Henehan intended to work in foreign exchange when they started their careers. Henehan, who just celebrated her 22-year anniversary at U.S. Bank, was first introduced into the area when she took a part-time teller job at a bank. She often chatted with the traders at the nearby currency trading desk and became intrigued by their work, which led to her first FX job.
Comings, who has been with U.S. Bank for nearly a decade, began her career at a non-governmental organization helping finance projects in developing countries. After earning an MBA, she joined a large investment bank and fell in love with the fast-paced currency trading environment during her rotations.
Comings and Henehan said their shared passion for FX markets and building high-performing teams has served them, and U.S. Bank clients, well.
Non-U.S. Dollar funds are subject to foreign currency exchange risk. Customers are not protected against foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations by FDIC insurance, or any other insurance or guaranty program. Deposit accounts with non-U.S. financial institutions offered through U.S. Bank are not deposits of U.S. Bank and are not insured by the FDIC or guaranteed by any governmental agency or authority, or by U.S. Bank.
Derivative products and services are generally restricted to “eligible contract participants” as defined in the Commodity Exchange Act and Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulations, and other legal requirements and restrictions apply.
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