Financial Services remains a field in which women are largely underrepresented, and the disparity becomes more apparent as they climb the ladder. According to McKinsey, women make up 53% of the entry-level banking workforce but less than one-third at the Senior Vice President and C-suite levels. At WSFS, some of the leadership positions within Commercial and Industrial (C&I) banking are held by women.
Unlike more specific areas of lending like Commercial Real Estate (CRE), C&I loans have broader applications as funds can be used for many purposes like working capital or financing business equipment. Since C&I is essentially industry agnostic, work in the space requires relationship managers to be eager and open to learning about many different types of businesses and their unique needs.
Some of WSFS’ top female leaders recently shared what drew them to C&I and advice for other women looking toward a similar path or who may not know about commercial banking as a possible career avenue.
What drew you to C&I specifically vs. other areas of financial services?
Karoline Moxham, Vice President, Commercial Relationship Manager: “I spent most of my career in asset-based lending. In 2008, I decided I wanted to hone my business development skills and become more of a generalist. Since C&I isn’t focused on any one particular industry, it allows me to learn about various industries and learn more deeply about the prospects.”
Kristin Simpson, Vice President, Commercial Relationship Manager: “I started my career as a credit analyst learning the ropes from the other relationship managers. I was promoted to a relationship manager in 2012 and in 2015, I made the move to WSFS. I was drawn to C&I because I like being around the entrepreneurial spirit of our Customers and becoming an expert in their business. There’s a lot of variety in that every deal is different, I get energized by that.”
Betsy Niedziejko, Senior Vice President, Commercial Banking: “Commercial banking kind of found me. I was a stay-at-home-mom entering the workforce after seven years. Luckily the bank I was working at was looking to grow in the market, so I started as a teller and two years later I was a commercial lender. Something I appreciate about working in C&I is that it allows me to work with Customers in the nonprofit sector. Bringing solutions, where they might have thought there were none, and bringing value to the community is a great benefit of this work.”
What are some challenges women face in C&I and financial services in general?
Moxham: “C&I is very much still male dominated. I can think back to all the places I’ve worked and there would be 1-2 women, at most, in the room. It just makes you realize you have your work cut out for you and in some aspects, it might be harder to get to know male business owners if you don’t have the same interests or networking groups.”
Niedziejko: “Early in my career, being a woman, I think I was held to a different standard than my counterparts. From a pay perspective, I was definitely not paid the same, so I took it upon myself to ensure I was getting paid market salary. With less female representation in lending, it can feel intimidating to have challenging conversations, but you just need to insert yourself and have faith in your ability.”
There is definitely opportunity to close the gender gap in commercial banking. How can women get started in this industry?
Moxham: “I would suggest they find a bank with a credit training program and rise up through that. There is a great opportunity for women in portfolio manager positions that will help them get to know lots of industries, clients, and deal structuring. It can be a good way to determine if you’re interested in pursuing a relationship manager position. There are also increasingly more women business owners so that is a great opportunity for female commercial lenders to connect on a more personal level.”
Simpson: “Whether male or female, people interested in this industry should figure out what type of career they envision–for commercial banking, is it credit or sales? Sometimes sales can scare people off but it is dependent on personality. The great thing about commercial banking is there is a role for every personality, you just have to find the right way to connect with people. Whether a relationship manager or portfolio manager, there are opportunities in loan documentation, risk management, appraisals… there are lots of opportunities for different personalities to fit into commercial banking roles.”
Niedziejko: “I would challenge parents to teach their children to learn about opportunities in banking or talk to those in your network who have young women in their lives. There are so many avenues to pursue within our industry and lots of benefits to working for a bank. There are also benefits to being a woman in commercial banking. As women, I believe we deliver a different customer experience than our male counterparts; we set realistic expectations and then look to exceed those. Delivering an exceptional client experience, frames the RMs reputation in the market and leads to referral business.”
Karoline Moxham, Vice President, Commercial Relationship Manager
Karoline joined WSFS Bank in 2019 as a Vice President and Commercial Lender for one of the southern New Jersey based teams. Previously, Karoline worked at several other financial institutions in commercial lending; prior to that she spent several years working in asset-based lending. Karoline has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry.
Kristin Simpson, Vice President, Commercial Relationship Manager
Kristin Simpson is a Vice President at WSFS Bank in the Business Banking department. She has over 16 years of experience in the local commercial banking market. Currently her focus is business development and relationship management of closely held family businesses primarily in New Castle County. Prior to joining WSFS Bank in 2015, she was employed by M&T Bank/Wilmington Trust in a similar role focusing on government banking, healthcare, and middle market business lines.
Betsy Niedziejko, Senior Vice President, Commercial Banking
Betsy joined WSFS Bank in December 2018 as SVP Commercial Banking Relationship Manager and has nearly 20 years of banking experience. Betsy is responsible for business development and providing business owners, including non-profit organizations, financial solutions to meet their needs. Her focused geographic market is the greater Chester County area. Betsy is an expert in SBA 504 financing.
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