Sarah Anderson of Cintrifuse: “Talk about money”

Set a financial goal every year, from a young age, of the amount you might need to do something you want to do that year. Then work back from that goal to figure out how to get there whether its additional savings or additional earnings. As a part of my series about strong female finance […]

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Set a financial goal every year, from a young age, of the amount you might need to do something you want to do that year. Then work back from that goal to figure out how to get there whether its additional savings or additional earnings.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Anderson.

The Cintrifuse Syndicate Fund is a strategic fund of funds with > 100M dollars in AUM, investing in early-stage venture capital funds across the country. Investors in the Cintrifuse Syndicate Fund include P&G, Kroger, Great American Financial, Smuckers, Western Southern and several other large corporations across the Midwest. The Fund invests primarily to provide access to innovation for its member corporations. Some investments include Greycroft, Lerer, Upfront, Madrona, and Revolution Ventures.

Sarah joined Cintrifuse in 2013 and currently serves as the Manager of the Syndicate Fund. As Fund manager, Sarah is responsible for the Fund’s investments, working with corporate LPs around their innovation and growth strategies, and ensuring a return on innovation both for GPs and LPs. She actively engages portfolio managers both nationally and internationally to create relationships between funders, founders, and corporations.

Prior to her role at Cintrifuse, Sarah worked with early stage venture funds and technology companies during her career as Vice President at JP Morgan in San Francisco, and as an investment banker at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

Sarah received her Bachelors of Science from the University of Florida, and her MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?

I started my career working on Capitol Hill in the US Senate right out of college. While I loved what I did, I was living in DC in the cheapest housing I could find with several other adults, working three jobs just to pay for the cost of living. It was brutal. I knew I wanted to go back to graduate school, and I vowed to focus my studies in an industry that provided more financial stability and would help me support a family one day.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

As a woman in finance, I have been very fortunate to avoid explicit bias, for the most part. However, once, shortly after my move to Cincinnati, I was networking and getting to know different financial institutions in this market. When I was sitting down with an executive at one of the firms to ask about the Cincinnati financial landscape and where there might be growth opportunities, he looked at me and said, “Well, you don’t want to work here because in a few years you will want to work part time and we just don’t allow that.” I was 32 at the time and this was a reference to having kids and a family. When I told him that I expected to work just as much as everyone else, he then told me, “Then, maybe, you should re-evaluate your priorities in life.” Coming from San Francisco, CA, one of the most progressive areas in the country, this was a huge shock to me. Not just that someone would say this, but even that someone would think it. It was clearly gender bias and it shook me to my core. After the initial shock, it just made me angry and, even to this day, has left a mark. When I think about relaxing or slowing down, I just think about these comments, and they drive me harder.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

It hasn’t changed that much. As a woman in finance, it is STILL largely an “all white boys club”. The percentage change in representation over the past few years, while trending in the right direction, has been minimal, unfortunately. But I think the change has been made largely because women and minorities have become a lot more vocal, and *some* white men have seen the benefits of diversifying their organizations and networks. My hope is that this trend continues and drives to an inflection point, where there is a large enough group to really change the mix and guide future hiring and inclusion decisions.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

Individual women need to apply to roles even if outside of their comfort zone. It is frustrating, as a hiring manager, to circulate a job description and end up with a candidate pool that is 99% male. There are very talented women out there, but many of them hold back on applying to positions unless they feel like they are 100% qualified, but please apply regardless! We need more diversified candidate pools.

Companies should review their internal processes and protocols to ensure they are creating a truly equal employer. This goes beyond pay parity, but into things like maternity/paternity leave policies, health benefits, and team events. Companies should also conduct annual reviews to ensure pay parity is maintained and hiring practices prioritize inclusion.

Individuals, companies, and society can continue to educate as many as possible about subconscious bias, the effects of inequality, and the benefits of inclusion. The more inclusion and equality remain part of our daily vernacular, the more it becomes a part of our way of life.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend improving these numbers?

Financial literacy is not taught in school. In fact, for many, we rely on parental support through high school, college, or even graduate school. It’s not until we graduate and are suddenly cast out into the world to make it on our own that we realize we need to keep track of how much is in our checking account, when our credit cards are due, and how to balance our spending. Its such an abrupt change and there is not a mature industry aimed at helping individuals. We know we can go to a pediatrician or a teacher to learn about childcare or a plant nursery to learn how to take care of our yard, but where does an individual go to learn about life’s finances?

  1. The basics of financial literacy should be taught in schools, just like the basics of nutrition and physical education.
  2. There should be governmental resources to provide individuals with financial literacy such as the SBA for small businesses.
  3. Employers should be empowered or incentivized to provide financial literacy to their staff in a form of continuing education.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

  1. Start a company at an early age. Any company. You can sell lemonade or pumpkins or anything. But learn how raw materials and labor go into developing outputs that can be sold for a new price.
  2. Open a stock or savings account with statements addressed to you. This will keep your financial accounts top of mind.
  3. If your parents are throwing out larger items or clothing, ask if you can consign them. This will help you understand the value of goods.
  4. Set a financial goal every year, from a young age, of the amount you might need to do something you want to do that year. Then work back from that goal to figure out how to get there whether its additional savings or additional earnings.
  5. Talk about money. Its such a faux pas topic in many households and social circles, but its important that young learners are encouraged to talk about money, how its made, how its spent and develop a vocabulary around it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The greatest influence has come from my parents. They taught me to be tough, smart, and self sufficient; all attributes that I use often in life.

However, my promotion in professional life has largely been due to sponsorship from male supervisors. For instance, I followed Tim Schigel, my predecessor, into the Fund Manager role at Cintrifuse. Tim and I had worked together for 4 years and when he decided to pass the baton, he sponsored me to run with it. He convinced others around him to also believe in me and, through that, I was promoted to a Fund Manager position. It was a big step and one that I couldn’t have done without his help and confidence.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Everyone should listen to Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret: “We become what we think about.” Goals, identity, and belief manifest the destiny we are traveling towards. Atomic Habits is a book that documents much of the science behind this. If you believe you have particular characteristics and are striving towards particular outcomes, then those outcomes will manifest based on your actions and behaviors. This simple concept helps to eliminate a lot of the doubt and fear which often plagues individuals when striving for things outside of their comfort zone.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that great people are born from strong experiences in childhood. If there were a movement I could inspire, it would be to empower children and ensure their protection. Children can accomplish a lot more than we allow them to and, as strong adult humans, our role should be more focused on protecting and nurturing them to become the worthy inhabitants of our world.

However, many children never even have a chance to see opportunities due to lack of basic care, nutrition, education, and support systems. I believe all children have the power to change our world for the better and should be given the opportunity to achieve.

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