“As I look back on my own life and career, I believe what has helped me the most is getting out of my comfort zone,” says Karen Larrimer (BUS 1991), executive vice president, head of Retail Banking and chief customer officer of the PNC Financial Services Group. “This is good advice for anyone, but especially for young people just starting out.”
“You need to seek opportunities to go above and beyond. That’s what I’ve always done,” says Larrimer, who is responsible for leading PNC's consumer businesses, business banking, brokerage, all distribution channels, digital, marketing, enterprise innovation and customer advocacy. “If I heard about something new, I wanted to learn more about it and get involved.”
“Getting out of your comfort zone helps you develop muscles that you don’t even know you have. If you don’t push yourself to do something you aren’t sure of, you may never know that you can actually can do it,” she says. That approach, “along with the experience of attending Point Park while I was working full-time during my early career, kept me in a continual state of learning.”
Larrimer says she chose Point Park, where she earned a B.S. in business management with a concentration in marketing, in part because of the Downtown location and classes that fit around her full-time work schedule. “Point Park catered to people who needed that [flexibility], which I appreciated.” In addition to her time at PNC, Larrimer also held management positions at Mellon Bank and served as a sales executive for Ernst & Young.
Larrimer was attracted to PNC’s “culture of teamwork and focus on the customer, and that is what I still love today. I’ve been afforded so many opportunities to challenge myself.” She was named chief customer officer in 2014 and assumed the leadership of Retail Banking in 2016. Prior to that she held various executive positions at PNC, including chief marketing officer and executive vice president for business banking, where she directed strategic planning, marketing, and product management and development.
When Larrimer accepted the position of chief customer officer, “it was a unique position in the financial services industry, and a real breakthrough. It was an opportunity for me to step into an enterprise-wide role, across the entire company, and create something from scratch. I knew it could have an incredible impact, and that was pretty exciting.”
Larrimer has been recognized as one of the Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker magazine (2015 & 2016); was selected to receive a Most Powerful and Influential Woman Award by the National Diversity Council’s Pennsylvania Awards Committee (2014) and was a finalist for the 2014 Athena Award. She received the Girl Scouts of America Award of Distinction in Business (2013) and was named a Working Mother magazine “Mother of the Year” (2010), “Women Worth Watching” by Diversity Journal magazine (2009), and one of the Best 50 Women in Business in Pennsylvania (2003). She is known as a generous mentor, in and outside of her own profession.
A mother of four children ranging in age from six to 28, Larrimer says, “what I’m truly most proud of is that I’ve been able to have a successful career while being a good mother to my children, raising them well, and still being able to make an impact on my community.
"I’ve found value in all three of those pathways, and I’m very proud of bringing them together.”
Community service is close to Larrimer’s heart. A board and executive committee member of United Way of Allegheny County, she will soon become the first woman in the history of the organization to serve as board chair. “I believe in the work of the United Way because of the significant, broad-based impact it has on the community in identifying and meeting critical areas of need,” she says.
Larrimer is also deeply involved as a board member of The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, “an incredible treasure that makes a great impact on the lives of children.” She also serves on the board of directors for The PNC Foundation and Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
For Larrimer, education is a lifelong endeavor. After graduating from Point Park, she went on to complete the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Executive Education Leadership Program. Today she serves on the board of trustees for Robert Morris University and volunteers on the Board of Visitors of the RMU Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program.
And as she travels each day to her office in the PNC Tower, across from the site of the University’s new Pittsburgh Playhouse, Larrimer says she is impressed by Point Park’s transformation.
“The growth of the University has been amazing,” she says. “I drive through the campus area every single day and I am so proud of what I see, and of the vibrancy that Point Park has brought to the city of Pittsburgh. It’s very exciting.”
Text by Cheryl Valyo
Photo by John Altdorfer
The Point is the magazine of Point Park University