Find ways to maximize your productivity at work. There are several different ways that I do this. Mark Twain said that if the first thing you do in the morning is “eat the frog”, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you. The frog is the hardest task and you should tackle it first in the morning. If I have a particularly challenging task that I’m less motivated to complete, I try to do it first thing in the morning to create momentum for the other things I have to do. I also try to live by the mantra of touching emails only once, so that I avoid wasting time by going back to an email multiple times without actually acting on it. If I open an email, I make a point to decide on the spot what I’m going to do with it — either addressing it, delegating it or adding it to my To Do list. I also align my schedule and To Do list to maximize my efficiency. I recognize that I need larger chunks of time to get through certain types of tasks. I know it takes some time before I can really immerse myself in something and get to a peak state of productivity. To adjust for this, I try to group meetings together to then create larger windows of time for larger tasks. I take advantage of the smaller windows of time by focusing on more discrete tasks that may not require as extended focus, such as responding to an email or preparing for a meeting.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Karoline Andris.As Chief Compliance Officer of Avant, Karoline oversees the compliance management system. She has over 10 years of legal and compliance expertise advising financial institutions on federal and state consumer finance regulatory matters, including supporting the credit card lines of business at BMO Harris Bank and specializing in consumer automotive finance law in private practice. Karoline received her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she graduated cum laude.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was hired at a firm during law school that gave me an opportunity to work on a lot of different areas of law and through that work, I gravitated toward the consumer finance space. Since then, my entire career has been focused on the legal and regulatory compliance side of the consumer finance industry. I’ve supported different products along the way, from auto finance to credit cards and now installment loans at Avant.
A couple of years ago when the opportunity arose to join Avant as associate general counsel, I was part of the legal team at BMO Harris Bank that supported the bank’s consumer and corporate credit card products. The thought of going from working on a three-person legal team to becoming the sole legal counsel for the credit card product Avant would be launching was intimidating. However, the experience taught me that challenging opportunities can also be the most fulfilling and allow you to tap into areas of yourself that you may not have been able to fully utilize in other roles. I learned that I’m actually quite good at figuring out how to effectively and strategically partner with business units to support initiatives, while also managing legal and compliance risk. It was those skills that led me to the chief compliance officer role I’m in today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s the people, the ideas and the execution. Avant recently announced the rebranding of its financial technology business unit as Amount, a new platform that utilizes the technology, intellectual property and capabilities developed by Avant to provide custom technology solutions for financial institutions. Already, several financial institutions, including Regions Bank and Eloan, Banco Popular’s national lending platform, use Amount to provide customers with digital lending products. What’s interesting is that Amount started out as an idea on a whiteboard just a couple of years ago and today has transformed into a fully-functioning business line. This is reflective of Avant, how we work and our agility across the company. There is no shortage of ideas and as a copmany, we’re well positioned to act quickly and execute on ideas. Seeing them come to life is really exciting.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’ve been working on providing compliance services to the Amount platform I mentioned in the previous answer. As I mentioned, we already have multiple banks on the platform and other partnerships will be announced in the near future. The creation of this separate business better positions Avant to ultimately provide lending platform solutions to more financial institutions. And ultimately, this means bringing digital lending to consumers that have historically been underserved and are in need of credit, which has really been Avant’s mission from the beginning.
The Amount rebrand has had an impact on every team across the company, including compliance. We are thinking strategically about what we’re offering to banks, how to structure the internal teams and the work we will do on a day-to-day level to make Amount successful. It’s exciting in the sense that we’re having to figure things out. There’s a lot to consider from a strategic perspective and it’s rewarding to build something and take it to market.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive? I have a few pieces of advice.First, don’t underestimate team morale. I personally think it’s really important to keep a pulse on how your team is feeling and consciously provide support when they need it. Second, empower members of your team to make decisions and be proactive, but balance that by providing direction and support when it makes sense. Finally, never stop looking for ways to keep your team engaged and excited about the work they’re doing. I’ve asked members of my team what they’re interested in and figured out ways to incorporate their interests into their work. It’s important for people to enjoy what they do and want to come to work.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Play to individual strengths and manage around weaknesses. Figure out what people are good at and areas where they aren’t as strong and figure out how to utilize their strengths and develop their weaknesses.
Also, it’s important to set a good example. I hold myself to a very high standard and if I expect my team to commit to their work in a certain way, I know I have to set the standard by example.
Make yourself available. Despite attending meetings most of the day, I make a point of making sure that I’m also available for people to talk to and bounce ideas off of because I feel that kind of availability for collaboration is really important.
Seek out feedback and be receptive. I make it a point to solicit feedback and truly understand what things are working and what needs to change because we have to be open to change in order to grow and ultimately, maximize our potential.
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?
My husband. I really would not be doing what I do today if it wasn’t for his support and the balanced partnership that we have. I sometimes complain that over time, I’ve assumed responsibility for the remembering, or the mental load of managing our family’s calendar, such as scheduling appointments for our children or making sure we’ve purchased gifts for upcoming birthday parties. On the other hand, my husband tackles anything involving technology or electronics, cars, insurance and taxes. But in reality, we manage to balance each other out really well and we really share in the responsibility and the joy of raising our kids. He’s also provided endless amounts of really good advice and listens when I need a sounding board.
But most importantly, my husband Tim is someone who despite being extremely competitive in all other areas of life, is not threatened by traditional gender norms. He’s been supportive of any success that I’ve achieved and at times, put my career ahead of his own. I think this is the kind of male mentality that will help more women to advance to leadership roles.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’d like to think that I can be an example to other women who envision themselves in leadership roles. In particular young women like my daughter because it’s probably hard for women today to see certain career opportunities as being available to them if they visually are not seeing other women in those roles. It’s important that more women seek leadership roles to instill confidence in the younger generation that the opportunities exist, they just have to go after them.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why.
– Communication is key. Never make assumptions about what someone may know. I’m really conscious of what I’m saying, how I’m saying it and how it’s going to be received by the other person. This also applies to email. I make it a point to strategically format emails with bolding, underlining and bullets, to ensure that I’m efficiently and effectively conveying information. If I get an email that’s all text and multiple paragraphs, it’s extremely difficult to digest. So, I’m extremely conscious to format emails in a way that helps people process the information quickly.
– Set expectations. I found this to be essential in creating effective processes and advancing projects. There needs to be an understanding of what each person is going to be doing in order to hold people accountable. If there are no expectations, there is no accountability and at that point, it’s just really hard to get things done.
– Find ways to maximize your productivity at work. There are several different ways that I do this. Mark Twain said that if the first thing you do in the morning is “eat the frog”, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you. The frog is the hardest task and you should tackle it first in the morning. If I have a particularly challenging task that I’m less motivated to complete, I try to do it first thing in the morning to create momentum for the other things I have to do. I also try to live by the mantra of touching emails only once, so that I avoid wasting time by going back to an email multiple times without actually acting on it. If I open an email, I make a point to decide on the spot what I’m going to do with it — either addressing it, delegating it or adding it to my To Do list.
I also align my schedule and To Do list to maximize my efficiency. I recognize that I need larger chunks of time to get through certain types of tasks. I know it takes some time before I can really immerse myself in something and get to a peak state of productivity. To adjust for this, I try to group meetings together to then create larger windows of time for larger tasks. I take advantage of the smaller windows of time by focusing on more discrete tasks that may not require as extended focus, such as responding to an email or preparing for a meeting.
– Step back to consider the bigger picture. It’s very easy to get caught up in the task right in front of you. However, I always remind myself to take a step back and think, “has this issue even been framed properly, are there other things that we need to consider that are outside of the confines of what I’ve been asked to do and how does this specific task fit into what are we trying to accomplish overall?”
– I used to think that I was always right, particularly with my husband, but I’ve realized that stubborn approach doesn’t really allow for consideration of other ideas, which may be, or lead to, better ideas than my own. I realize the importance of thinking objectively about other points of view. It’s hard to argue against reason. I found this mindset often leads to a version of my original position that’s just better than what I had originally contemplated. It requires respect for other business units, open dialogue and the willingness to compromise.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am very passionate about the topic of mental health, as it’s something that has personally impacted me through the mental health struggles of several family members, including my brother. Mental health issues are obviously extremely common and impact a large portion of the population at one point or another, so it’s something that really touches all of us in professional and personal settings. The key is reducing mental illness-related stigma both through making it a more comfortable topic of conversation and by changing stigmatizing language that we use. I’m guilty myself, at times, of avoiding the topic of mental illness because of the discomfort that I think it may bring to others. But at the same time, uncomfortable conversations are often the path to change and bringing more awareness to mental health issues.
For several years, my husband and I have organized a basketball tournament fundraiser, the proceeds of which go to organizations providing help for those suffering from mental illness. There is so much more that we all can do to make a difference, in our daily conversations and interactions and as part of a larger movement, too.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have many, but one that I try to live by is “be where your feet are.” I have a busy, stressful job and I enjoy coming to work, but I also have a family that I adore and want to spend time with, and a long list of other things that I enjoy doing. This quote reminds me to be present in whatever it is that I’m doing, where my feet are and to make the most of what I’m doing at any given time. So, when I’m at work, I’m completely focused on work and the meetings I need to attend, the work I need to complete and the team that I’m fortunate enough to lead. Then, when I’m with my family, my focus is on them, having fun with my kids and trying not to think about the fact that my five-year-old daughter and my three-year-old son just keep growing older and changing every day, but rather just enjoying exactly what it is they’re doing at their current ages.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Hillary Clinton. Despite whether a person agrees with her politics or not, as the first female presidential candidate and someone I think put substantial cracks in the glass ceiling, Hillary Clinton stands for the fact that I can say to my daughter, “you can be anything you want when you grow up” and I can really mean that. As women in leadership roles, it is important that we attempt to pave the way for the women who will come after us.