RMA New England Chapter Centennial Interview with Carol Brennan, Director of Business Development

RMA New England Chapter Centennial

Interview with Carol Brennan, Director of Business Development,

BDC Capital Corp.

The interview was conducted by John Pratt, Jr., Senior Vice President, Commercial

Lending, The Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank

John Pratt: Thank you Carol, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with our chapter members. The

Chapter is celebrating a 100 year history this year, and what a year it has been. Carol, when did you join the

Chapter Board?

Carol Brennan: Thanks John, for inviting me into this conversation. I joined the Chapter board back in 2003.

JP: Well, that certainly predates me. What was the makeup of the board then, compared to now?

CB: The board was larger when I first joined. We had 23 directors – five women and 17 men, with women

representation of about 20%. We have become more diverse and slimmed down now, with 18 directors – eight

women and 10 men. So women now hold almost 50% of the board seats.

JP: It’s good to see a stronger ratio of women as directors now. Studies have shown that boards with a larger

percentage of women – whether corporate, private or nonprofit – outperform those with little or no gender

diversity. Throughout your 23+ year career, can you share with our readers the evolution of women’s roles in

banking/finance? What positions were women encouraged to pursue in the 1990’s compared to now?

CB: Good question! Historically, financial institutions had employed women as tellers, secretaries and

junior administrative staff. Things started to change in the 1980’s, when women began moving into senior

management roles, and investment banking.

However, a 2019 McKinsey study found that while women made up nearly half of entry-level positions in

financial services, only about 20% served in C-Suite positions. This was an international study, and I don’t

have the breakdown of US statistics, but we clearly have room for improvement here. Deloitte issued a similar

study, which showed that women that held financial services leadership roles were 22% in 2019 and they are

forecasted to grow to 31% by 2030.

Barron’s reported this year that women hold only 11% of the executive positions at publicly traded U.S.

financial services, as quoted by RMA President and CEO Nancy Foster in a press release dated June 8, 2021.

JP: So we’ve seen some movement toward parity then, but we would like to see more. What tools do you

recommend for a younger banking professional to help advance her career?

CB: Well, John, the key is to network, network, network. Attend sessions on career advancement whenever

possible. Find yourself a mentor and take their advice. Join (or create) a strong peer network for women. For

bank HR departments, their focus must be on diversity and inclusion practices when hiring.

If you have specific certifications, list them to distinguish yourself from your peers. An MBA, CFA, CPA

-having achieved these certifications sets you apart. RMA also offers certification programs and I suggest

that all RMA members look further into this. The RMA programs are excellent, regardless of how far down

your career path you are. Younger members can achieve their Credit Analysis Certificate and Operational

Risk Management Fundamentals Certificate. Student members who are enrolled in the RMA Credit Essentials

Course at a university can receive a Credit Essentials Certificate and their Operational Risk Management

Certificate (provided that their university utilizes the RMA ORM training materials). More senior bankers

should explore the RMA Credit Risk Certification (CRC). The CRC is the only recognized professional

designation for credit and lending professionals.

JP: This is common sense advice for younger bankers, both men and women. How does RMA HQ and

specifically the New England chapter approach this topic?

CB: Several years ago the Chapter formed a committee called the Women’s Affinity Group (WAG), which

produces programming specifically addressed to women in banking. We’ve held many sessions, all of which

have been very well attended. We recently held an event in June called Loan Workouts: Expecting the

Unexpected, at which we had over 125 attendees, and an all-female panel. WAG is holding another event in

October, focused on careers in banking for women. I’m proud to co-chair this programming committee.

Most of our sister RMA chapters have women affinity groups as well and in fact, our national parent just

announced a new Women in Risk community at their national CCOR XV Virtual Conference just held in June.

As a chapter leader, I’m so pleased that our parent organization continues to expand their efforts to address

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts across the industry.

JP: Thanks Carol, for these insights. And thank you for your long tenure of service on our board.