Lendio SVP Denada Ramnishta: “Gender equality is not a male issue or a female issue; it is a societal issue and a people issue”

Gender equality requires banding together. It is not a male issue or a female issue; it is a societal issue and a people issue. Men and women need to lean on our leaders who are paving and supporting the path to parity. With better alignment and more willingness to collaborate, we can change the equation. […]

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Gender equality requires banding together. It is not a male issue or a female issue; it is a societal issue and a people issue. Men and women need to lean on our leaders who are paving and supporting the path to parity. With better alignment and more willingness to collaborate, we can change the equation.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Denada Ramnishta. Denada is Sr. VP of Lender & Partner Strategy at Lendio, the largest small business financing marketplace in the U.S. As a fintech executive, Denada has led strategic partnerships with U.S. and international corporations, executing business strategies across borders and under challenging market conditions. Prior to her role at Lendio, she acquired and managed partnerships for American Express’ non-card lending division. A native of Albania, Denada received an MBA from Columbia Business School. She resides in New York and is a proud mother of two.

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

I always wanted a career where I could use creative problem solving and negotiation. I honed in on sharpening those skills while in school getting my MBA, and after that, I entered the world of entrepreneurship where I felt confident I could put them to good use. As I started down the entrepreneurship path, I needed capital to fund my ventures, so I started a financial services consulting firm. Once I began gaining exposure to different career paths in a more tangible way, I knew I could apply my negotiation and creative problem solving skills most effectively in the field of financial services.

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

I’ve had a few personal epiphanies that have helped me get to where I am today. My biggest aha moment came when I was regularly traveling back and forth from New York to California for work. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs, all of whom were running themselves ragged trying to get initial investments. I watched a lot of young innovators going through the grind of trying to hire their first employees, access the initial capital they needed, and evolve into the household names they are today. Witnessing the evolution of these businesses opened my eyes to the power of access to capital. These are businesses that have added real value to the world — economic and otherwise. Nothing could be more inspiring to me, and that has catapulted my quest to make it simpler for all small businesses to get access to funding.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am working on several exciting, innovative, thought-provoking, and disruptive projects. One of them is an initiative to leverage the Lendio platform to empower women business owners through access to growth capital. In all of my entrepreneurial adventures, I’ve met many women who’ve founded businesses. For most all of them, access to capital was constricted and a major pain point — there wasn’t enough empowerment for female entrepreneurs and they didn’t feel supported. I’m excited to begin collaborating with social media platforms that cater specifically to this demographic, and to use my experience to empower women and address this major pain point.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Lendio special is that every day we all come to work with a very defined and common goal to help small business owners achieve the American dream. This is not simply a motto that hangs on the wall, but rather something that shapes our goals and how we work to achieve them. One of my favorite authors, Simon Sinek, talks about the why. The value of a company lies in understanding why they do what they do. You don’t often see young companies with well-defined cultures, but Lendio’s mission and values are woven into the fabric of everything we do.

One night while dining in a prominent New York City restaurant, I learned the manager of the restaurant is from Albania like me. We started talking and he asked me what I do for work. I told him I work for a platform called Lendio that helps businesses get access to capital. At first, he didn’t believe me, and then he told me that 9 months earlier, Lendio had helped him during a busy season when his kitchen equipment broke down and he needed quick access to funds. It was one of those remarkable times when I’m able to see our mission and values in practice; what we do really does make an impact on business owners’ dreams.

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?

I don’t know that this has changed “a lot,” but I do know it’s changing in the right direction. We still have work to do! As far as the cause of this change, I would say there are multiple reasons. Women and other underrepresented groups are finding their voices. They’re no longer accepting the stereotypical conditions of society that used to determine what they should do when they “grow up.” Additionally, more men are understanding that their daughters, sisters, and wives deserve an equal chance to pursue what they wish to pursue. The business world as a whole is learning slowly that diversity is not only fair and just, but it ultimately has bottom line benefits as it creates an environment of diverse ideas.

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?

As a mother of a strong and opinionated young daughter, I believe the solution to this problem starts very early on. As a society, we need to do a better job of empowering our girls to take an interest in fields such as financial services, science, technology, engineering, and others. We’ve made some good strides, but have more to do. We need to consciously educate children equally and encourage them to pursue what is attractive to them. This goes for boys too, not just girls.

Gender equality requires banding together. It is not a male issue or a female issue; it is a societal issue and a people issue. Men and women need to lean on our leaders who are paving and supporting the path to parity. With better alignment and more willingness to collaborate, we can change the equation.

Both men and women need to be conscious of the long-standing bias toward men in financial services. We need to acknowledge women as an integral part of the financial industry. And we must band together for the benefit of workplaces, of what is right and fair, and for our bottom lines. As companies, we need to make sure we help all people to advance in their careers, without bias in tow. When we work collectively to remove gender bias, equality will more naturally unfold.

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.

This question hits home as I think about the financial skills I want to give my 8-year-old to help her through life. It’s hard to come up with five separate ideas because I believe so many of the concepts of financial literacy are woven together. Here are my top three:

  1. From an early age, every child should be taught how to manage a budget, however big or small. The concept of how to manage money in and money out is not only a practical skill for life, but also one that encourages forward thinking. When it comes to empowering people to pursue entrepreneurial ventures, this critical skill provides a strong foundation on which to build.
  2. My next piece of advice would be, when you first move out on your own, truly support yourself on your own, no matter how meager your income may be to start. This could result in some difficult times financially, but will help you learn how to hone those budgeting skills and how to get by with less. This will be one of the most empowering and confidence-building experiences one can have. It will teach you the invaluable skill of taking smart, calculated risks, as well as how to make bold career choices without fear of losing out on a comfortable salary.
  3. My last piece of advice would be whenever possible, and I know it’s not always possible, try to live below your means. This is easier to do when you’ve mastered budgeting and managing money in and money out (see №1 ). It will also make it easier to successfully support yourself on your own (see №2).

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 people to whom I attribute much of my success — and by success, I don’t just mean career achievements but also my ability to be confident and happy — are my parents. My parents instilled in me that my opinion matters and that they will always love me. It was being accepted for who I am from a very young age that encouraged me to venture out and pursue a career which was non-traditional for women in my home country and in the U.S.

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

One of my favorite quotes is, “Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.” I like to believe that with enough desire and effort, everything is achievable, and this quote encapsulates that. I find this to be relevant often in both life and career.

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. 🙂

This may be the best question I’ve ever been asked. I have so many desires around this. The one I’m most passionate about, and I feel is within my reach, is to help more people become financially self-sufficient and self-sustaining. I would love to inspire a movement that helps people feel confident and courageous when it comes to their finances. Financial literacy sets people on a strong footing; it helps them put forth the best versions of themselves. When that is the case, everyone benefits. It may seem abstract, but as I said, I do believe it’s achievable. I feel that a large part of that responsibility falls on financial institutions and businesses, including Lendio, and that companies need to invest in and be a resource for promoting financial literacy for all.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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