Commercial Finance Association's 2018 Asset-Based Capital Conference

Luncheon Panel Hosted by CFA’s WICF:
View from the Way Up

By Jessica DeBruin


Midway through the second day of the Commercial Finance Association's 2018 Asset-Based Capital Conference, the Women in Commercial Finance Committee hosted a luncheon and panel presentation titled View from the Way Up.  The room was filled to capacity, and attendees were treated to a lively discussion of the panelists' career paths and thoughts on how the commercial finance industry can best develop and retain talent.

Jean Grasso of ING Capital moderated the panel and started by asking the panelists to identify best practices our industry can employ to recruit quality talent.  Danielle Baldinelli, Wells Fargo, spoke of the Wells Fargo internship program for students finishing their sophomore or junior year of college.  It gives candidates and the bank an early look at each other.  Then, after graduation, a rotation program allows the new hires to get to know different departments and select a group that closely aligns with their interests.  Charlotte Parsons of Regions Bank saw many friends go through the public accounting recruiting process and thinks our industry can learn a lot from their comprehensive recruiting approach and well-developed internship programs.

Grasso then noted that the ABL industry may be losing appeal when compared with more innovative and collaborative industries.  But Parsons noted that younger generations can be drawn to the ability to have a meaningful and continuous impact on a client's business, during good times and bad.  Christine Hutchinson of Bank of America considered an offer to join an accounting training program from one of the Big Four accounting firms, but ultimately found the two-year commitment and more narrow focus of the position to be drawbacks,  and found the greater client-facing opportunities to be positives for choosing Bank of America and our industry.

Hutchinson also noted that asset-based lending work has a tremendous amount of variety available to experienced practitioners.  She finds comfort knowing she could take her experience to alternative careers such as a second-lien lender, a field examiner or an appraiser.  Parsons continued that theme, noting that banks typically have a wide variety of internal options for employees, such as underwriting, portfolio management, and business development, allowing employees to develop different skills and take on new tasks.  Drew Ray of J.P. Morgan  mentioned that he has seen colleagues move over to clients as well, as another avenue for career growth. 

Grasso then asked the panelists about the key factors to their own career success.  Ray credited taking ownership of his work, having keen attention to detail, and treating the problems and issues of his customers as if they were his own.  He also mentioned treating colleagues as if they were clients,  and noted that mentorship has been critical to his success.  Baldinelli echoed the point about colleagues, as internal partnerships are critical to servicing the external clients.  Hutchinson attributed her success to keeping her head down, developing a solid reputation and becoming adept at multitasking. 

Grasso wrapped up by asking the panelists to give those in the room some advice they wish they could give to their 20-year old selves.  Parsons would advise herself to work with as many people as possible early in her career, as it's important to learn from a broad set of people.  Use available resources, not be intimidated by working with senior members of a team and reach out for help at an earlier stage.  Ray said his advice would be to be assertive about his career goals and desires, and to trust the institution's process for advancement.  Hutchinson would advise herself to never hesitate to speak up and ask questions.  Share opinions, take initiative, and learn how to golf, she added.  Baldinelli said the most important advice she could give to any potential candidate is to like what you do, and to enjoy the people with whom you work.


About Jessica DeBruin

Jessica DeBruin is a principal in Goldberg Kohn’s Commercial Finance Group.  She represents banks and other commercial lenders in documenting, negotiating and performing due diligence for asset based and cash flow loans.  Additionally, Ms. DeBruin has worked on a wide range of credit facilities, private placement note offerings, securitizations, and leveraged leases on behalf of borrowers, issuers, lenders, equity investors, lessees and lessors. She is a member of CFA’s Women in Commercial Finance Committee.