Spotlight on Leading Lenders - Jamie Rivard
Check out Jamie's video above. You can also read her article below.
As an Agricultural Commercial Lender with TD Bank and a woman in finance for the past seven years, Jamie Rivard sees her share of entrepreneurs, as well as the various obstacles and barriers they encounter when starting or growing their business. Funnily enough, but not funny at all, is the fact that even today, one of the most common barriers that women entrepreneurs face in the business financing world is the fact that their gender is female. “Because I’m female, when I have done lending to women entrepreneurs in the past, I was very welcoming of them, I was supportive of their ideas, but I know that there have been times that they felt like there weren’t being taken as seriously as men, and they discuss that. They expressed to me that they really enjoy being heard and being taken seriously in our meetings, so I think that’s something they encounter when they access business financing.” Unfortunately, it is still a common thread – gender biases continue to exist. She goes on to say: “as a woman in banking, I am a minority in my group, among my peers, and when I take my clients, which are majority male, out for lunches and suppers, the waitress always gives the bill to my customer, and I’m like no no no, I’m paying for this. It’s just funny because it’s 2022.” Indeed, it is 2022, and it is the perfect time to put an end to these biases.
Unfortunately, these consistent experiences of not being heard have had another negative impact on women: it robs them of their confidence. No matter how prepared they are, most women entrepreneurs don’t feel like they can do it, or at least, don’t feel as confident as their male peers. Jamie even gave an example of a friend of hers, who was just hired into a Commercial banking role, and during their talks, her friend confessed that she didn’t feel ready, despite having a master’s degree in finance and previous banking experience. As Jamie told her: “You ARE ready. You will do amazing. But her confidence just wasn’t there.” Jamie goes on to explain that that’s the best way lenders can support women entrepreneurs: “encourage them, and listen, and tell them: You can absolutely do this, and we can help you. The one main difference I’ve seen from women coming into my office for lending compared to men is that the women have done so much more research and analytics of what they’re doing but they lack the confidence, and they can be really discouraged easily. They want to be really sure before they do something. Whereas I’ve had men come in, and it’s not to say that all men are like this, but some men are all willy-nilly – they’re just going for it. I’m like: do you know what the projections are going to be? And they’re like no, but I can make money though. Even women veterinarians that I’ve worked with, professionals, I tell them: you can do this, you don’t need to buy a practice, you can start up on your own. Just encouraging them to pursue it, and that they will be successful. They are doing more research than their counterparts, and they are prepared.” Though easier said than done; that first step can always be daunting, no matter your gender.
What can you do to make that first step easier? Find the right person. Jamie explains: “if you can, find a person that you are comfortable with, that supports you, that you feel heard with, and will help build your confidence up, and take you seriously. Take a look around for that. Remember: you’re building a relationship with your banker, and you have to find somebody that you’re comfortable working with. Try and find that person who will listen and support you and get you where you need to be. You just have to find somebody who works for you.” Important advice, especially for women who are prone to settling. Jamie reminds us that it’s okay to look around and speak up if something is not working for you. If you want to be heard, you have to make sure to use your voice. “This is a professional relationship. You are totally welcome to provide me feedback. If I’m not providing the level of service that you are expecting, let me know because I am happy to work with you and make changes. I encourage entrepreneurs to have that open conversation with their lenders because it is a professional relationship, it’s not personal. I want to do better, and I want to progress, and I hope that my counterparts feel the same.”
On the flipside, what advice does she give to her counterparts when working with women entrepreneurs? “I can only say this as a woman who’s been married for 18 years, often women, and myself included, we like to vent to our partners. And we like to just get everything out and we don’t typically want them to solve our problems, we just want them to listen to us. And sometimes things will be frustrating in your business, and you just need somebody to vent to, and sometimes that person is your banker because it is confidential and it is related to the company, so I hope that my male counterparts can focus on listening before answering. Just take a moment to reflect on it, and also communicate that you’re open to feedback, and try and make them feel more comfortable.” It does seem like the most obvious solution for people who don’t feel heard: give them a voice and then listen to what they have to say. Though it makes sense that reminders are needed – it’s 2022 and we’re still having this conversation.
Thankfully, women with work ethics like Jamie are resilient: “When you have to do something, you do it. I guess you don’t really know what you’re capable of until you’re pushed.” Which is why it’s so important for women entrepreneurs to speak up and push through their barriers, and for lenders to continue encouraging women to push their limits, to let go of all those insecurities and trust themselves to succeed.
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