July 23, 2021
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
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.