Just Jump In: Three Women Making Their Mark in The Industry
Forty-Six percent of women make up the workforce in the financial services industry with only 6% of them being CEOs. Reshaping the narrative of men dominating the finance world, women in various components of the industry are making their mark. Sarah Kelly, Lindsey Rohan, and Heather Francis are three women that particularly stand out in the commercial finance industry.
Equipped at Birth
Born into equipment finance, Sarah Kelly got her start by working for the family business at KLC Financial. After a decade of becoming an expert in the trade, she spent some time in the medical equipment finance side of the industry before finally landing at Dedicated Financial GBC, where she is now the Director of Servicing. Dedicated has been experiencing growth, according to Kelly, as the company just hired five new employees in the last couple of weeks.
“I have a lot of confidence in the leadership team and was excited that they were open to having a woman on the team,” said Kelly. “They’ve welcomed me in wholeheartedly, they always ask for my opinion, I’m always willing to give it and I feel like we’ve really all connected to make Dedicated a great company.”
Kelly believes that women should support one another to do better. Even a little friendly competition to push each other to be their best selves doesn’t hurt.
“I believe that we can really show other women that you can be whatever you want to be in this industry, that there’s no limit, there really aren’t,” said Kelly. “I feel like some people think that there might be just because they are a woman but there really is no limit and we just need to get that word out there to them…”
Practicing the Laws of Finance
Finance wasn’t exactly the plan for Lindsey Rohan after law school. Working for a law firm in Long Island she dabbled in real estate closings, but with having two small children at the time, balancing work and motherhood were always at odds. Determined to have her own practice, she started Pollack Cooper & Fisher, P.C. where she worked as a real estate attorney for 8 years. She hadn’t ever foreseen commercial finance as her next career path, but a call from a family friend led her to join a merchant cash advance company.
“It actually became quite a good fit because it’s a lot of multitasking, a lot of looking at all the various aspects of a corporation and its life, and how you can protect it,” said Rohan, Deputy General Counsel at Basepoint Capital.
Handling the legal infrastructure of the company, building out departments to make sure there are checks and balances, and making sure all the collections teams abide by the regulations are routine in Rohan’s schedule. Having much success in her position, a notable point in her career has been about building the Alternative Finance Bar Association. The AFBA was created to facilitate the exchange of information with attorney members concerning alternative finance.
“What’s interesting about this is that while the industry itself is male dominated, most of the dominant attorneys in the space are women,” said Rohan. “Some of the largest originators, the General Counsel are women. The leading compliance and regulatory firm, the two attorneys that lead the group that handle commercial business are both women. And that’s an interesting dynamic.”
Working in a predominately male-led industry can have its challenges but Rohan claimed she never found it to be anything that’s held her back. Acknowledging at conferences that only about 10% of attendees are women while the rest are men, she does not believe it has had a negative impact on growth. Rohan agrees it’s important to support women in every endeavor and to not shy away from positions in this industry.
“Just do it, just jump in,” said Rohan. “Don’t hesitate, you’re in control. The amount that you learn is the amount that you allow yourself to be exposed to.”
Funding with Francis
Graduating with a degree in Health Promotion and Education, Heather Francis took a left turn into finance. Working for a private equity firm, she managed portfolios as well as oversaw many others. That position became her crash course into the industry, fueling her relationship into the financial services world and eventually encouraging her to start her own company in 2015, Elevate Funding. As CEO and Founder, Francis has had to do it all.
“I think owning my own business is accomplishment in itself, as well as being a mom and a wife,” said Francis.
Without dwelling on the industry being predominately male, Francis believes it has opened many doors for her. The women in the field are a “close knit group” propping each other up and sharing information, she explained. She believes it is important to support everyone that demonstrates drive and attitude to better themselves. That can be providing pathways, being a soundboard, introducing people, and simply giving out words of confirmation.
“I’ve always seen that the boys have a club, so do the girls, it’s never been anything that’s been a worry to me, or I’ve been like, ‘I’m being held back because of being a woman in finance,’” said Francis.
As a Board member of the SBFA, Francis helps solve problems in the industry and contributes ideas. And with rapid change surrounding the business, she has a hopeful disposition on where it’s heading as we enter a new economic phase. Experiencing the recession back in 09’, Francis saw the industry grow exponentially between 2009 and 2011.
“Traditional finance pulls back when times are hard, and we’re able to be a little bit more nimble and move around to adjust for it, but still keep funding,” said Francis.
Bonded through finance, women are navigating throughout the industry with strong personalities, outspoken voices, and confidence. Born into the field or pivoting their way in, they seem to be embedded into every aspect. While being a team player to everyone, these women continue to push their career forward with hard work, sticking to core values, and knowing who they are.Last modified: November 30, 2022
Anaya Vance is a reporter for deBanked. Connect with me on LinkedIn.