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Inc. Magazine Features Suzanne Shank as an Innovator making Strides in the Finance Industry

Illustration: Inc; Photo: Getty Images

Three innovators share their top tips for women founders looking to break into finance and make an impact.

The financial industry has always been a bit of a boys' club. Women have been and continue to be underrepresented on the corporate side -- and despite ongoing changes in the industry, female entrepreneurs continue to face an uphill battle.

Rochelle Nawrocki-Gorey, founder of Chicago-based social impact fintech company SpringFour, has spent her entire career in finance. Women-led firms "do not get the same attention as male-led companies do, whether it's from investors, partners, or the media," Nawrocki-Gorey says.


The data backs this up. The 2024 Wells Fargo Impact of Women Owned Businesses report reveals a surge in women starting businesses, particularly in finance, from 2019 to 2023. Despite this growth, only 2 percent of all venture capital funds in the U.S. went to female-founded companies last year, according to PitchBook. For women of color entrepreneurs, the challenge can be even greater: A 2023 McKinsey and Company study found that businesses started by Black and Latina women receive just 0.1 percent of VC funding. 


Over-prepare to stay ahead

Suzanne Shank, co-founder and CEO of investment banking firm Siebert Williams Shank & Co, says her early days as an entrepreneur felt like David going up against Goliath. "We were a small firm, competing head-to-head with all the big-bulge bracket names that are almost household names," she says. 

But Shank knew she had a competitive edge: her dedication to being overly prepared. As a Wharton MBA student seeking her first finance internship, this meant literally going the extra mile. She says she took a train from Pennsylvania to New York and knocked on doors, trying to break in to the industry.


As a CEO, Shanks says, she took a similar approach to forming relationships with new clients in a competitive landscape. Since launching her company in 1996, she has prioritized building long-term relationships over any one transaction. Over time, Shanks says, the approach has enabled the firm to consistently tailor solutions for clients more effectively than its competitors. Now, it's not uncommon for the firm, dually headquartered in NYC and Oakland, California, to land billion-dollar deals.

While Shank didn't share the company's annual revenue, according to Bloomberg league tables, Siebert Williams Shank & Co ranked as the leading minority underwriter in 2023. Notable deals have included underwriting $911 million for Pfizer's $31 billion M&A financing to acquire Seagen and co-managing the $4.4 billion IPO for Kenvue in 2023.


Shank advises other women founders to make sure clients and competitors recognize the value you can bring. "Deliver with excellence," she says.

Read the full article here

By Araceli Crescencio, Editorial Intern @aracelireports

March 28, 2024

Inc. Magazine


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