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Kickass Women in the Finance World

Finance and commerce have always been a male dominated field. But the 21st century has proved that women cannot be left behind on any fronts. We have had several kickass women proving it to us time and again that women can rule anywhere and everywhere they go. Here is a list of 4 such women who have ruled the roost in the world of finance and shown to the world all that women are capable of doing. 

Vicki Turnquist

Turnquist, an executive leadership coach and consultant with the Bailey Group in Minneapolis, entered the banking industry 50 years ago, as a pre-college, loan-document typist at a bank in her native Montana. She came to Minneapolis in 1975 to work for the First Bank system. At that point, women were not well-represented in the upper management ranks of banking, although her first manager was a woman, in the consumer loan department. Early in her career, Turnquist took a proactive approach to seeking positions that would challenge her. “I worked for four rising young stars in the organization, all men,” she recalled. At that point, “I never saw a woman in a ‘rising star’ role. Her first job was relatively menial, but Turnquist went to her supervisors and asked for more challenging work. Two of them trained her to be a credit analyst. Two of her former banking mentors were looking for help starting a credit department at a new bank in Wayzata. “It was a great position for me.” About three years later, she inquired about a private banking department her former mentors were starting, and she was chosen to lead the effort.

Sara Ausman

Ausman, Twin Cities regional president with Grand Forks, North Dakota-based Alerus Financial Corp., noted that women now have much more of a presence in banking management than they did when she began her career in 1991. She feels fortunate to have had two good mentors early in her banking career with Milwaukee-based Bank One. “They informally took me under their wing.” Both later became CEOs — Jeanne Crain, president and CEO at Bremer Financial Corp., and Doug Hile, former CEO at KleinBank.  Ausman said joining Alerus in 2012 was a turning point for her because “I saw a lot of women in very senior-level positions influencing the organization, which was something new to me. When I joined I felt that we were going to make a difference in the community and the profession.”  Ausman worked with Crain for 25 years and learned a lot “observing her professionalism in management and in working with clients. She helped me figure out how you manage everything from a life-balance perspective.” She learned the importance of having a well-thought-out philosophy and fundamental beliefs that govern her daily interactions with co-workers and clients.

Kelli Starkey

Starkey, senior vice president of warehouse and speciality lending at Fidelity Bank in Edina, joined the industry relatively recently. After she graduated from MSU Moorhead in 2003, Fidelity hired her as a credit analyst. Sometimes women underestimate and undervalue the contribution they bring to a team, Starkey said. “Sometimes they can be less vocal (than men) in their expectations of being acknowledged for what they bring to a group.” Starkey said it’s important to “expect to be acknowledged through responsibility, role, compensation, title for the work they do. They may not ask. Not only do our counterparts ask, but they expect that acknowledgement. Women, more passive, they may continue to work hard until a supervisor acknowledges it. When she started her career, Starkey believes she “ran into fewer glass ceilings” than many women who preceded her in the banking industry. She considers herself fortunate to have landed at Fidelity Bank, “a very entrepreneurial environment where I worked with really strong women and men in upper-level positions who took time to mentor me. And it provided me with opportunities to learn across the sales department, credit compliance, policy and legal aspects” said Starkey. “Women succeed when we collaborate with men, and vice versa. Together, we are just more powerful”, she says.

Sue Anderson

Anderson, a senior vice president at VisionBank Minnesota, said “special projects” can be an important door-opener for career advancement. For employees, they are often a way to “learn things that are not part of your day-to-day.” Trying a variety of different roles as they became available gave Anderson a breadth of experience that was valuable, she said. During her early years at the First Bank system, Anderson’s department was being eliminated. But Anderson got involved in helping liquidate the assets of the department, which was “a unique opportunity. My job did not get eliminated; because I was willing to do that kind of work, I was still employed.” She’s a believer in the effectiveness of networking as a career-building tool. Reach out to people who are in more senior level positions. “If you’re young and trying to figure out so many different ways you can go, try reaching out to people who are in more senior level positions. Ask people to sit down for coffee and most will say, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”

Cultivating professional contacts and staying in touch, pays off, she said. “Every bank has its own unique culture, but this [banking industry] is really a small town”.

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