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Meet The Female Leaders Of Finance: “It’s very difficult to enter an industry or a company where you don’t see successful people who look like you” with Kathryn Petralia and Tyler Gallagher

I have had the privilege to meet and get to know many women who were investment bankers in the 80s and 90s when it was a much more male-dominated world. These women shattered that perception and sacrificed untold time and energy to make that industry a place where everyone was welcome. As they became more […]

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I have had the privilege to meet and get to know many women who were investment bankers in the 80s and 90s when it was a much more male-dominated world. These women shattered that perception and sacrificed untold time and energy to make that industry a place where everyone was welcome. As they became more visible and powerful, they sent a signal to other women that it was a world where they, too, could be successful. It’s very difficult to enter an industry or a company where you don’t see successful people who look like you, whether that is gender, ethnicity, age or sexuality, and as these barriers have been broken in almost every industry we have seen a shift in the demography of most companies.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Petralia. Technology has played a role in Kathryn Petralia’s life since her parents gave her a TRS-80 computer at age nine. When Kabbage CEO and Co-Founder, Rob Frohwein shared his idea for Kabbage with Kathryn, she immediately saw the value in using technology to reexamine lending. They founded Kabbage to automate funding decisions based on real-time data access rather than a lengthy, manual process. Before co-founding Kabbage, Kathryn spent nearly 15 years working with large and small companies focused on credit, payments and e-commerce. An English major (and Kabbage’s resident grammar expert), Kathryn returned to her interest in technology to launch a number of successful startups. As someone who camped her way down the west coast to launch an e-commerce startup in the mid-90s, Kathryn can appreciate the lengths to which small businesses have gone to access capital. She also served as Vice President of Strategy for Revolution Money, an Internet-based credit card startup, and was a corporate development executive with CompuCredit Corporation, where she was responsible for entering new markets, developing products and establishing strategic alliances.


Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that happened to you in your career so far?

Not long after we launched our website, Kabbage.com, our site went down. Fortunately, we didn’t have many customers but we couldn’t figure out what happened. We called our ISP, checked our network connections and still couldn’t identify the problem. We were subleasing space at the time comprised of a few offices and a few cubes, and we had put the servers in a cube. As it turned out, the cleaning woman for our space had plugged her vacuum cleaner into the same power strip as our servers, and blew the circuit. We learned a bit about redundancy that day (and power strips).

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

At Kabbage, we are working on something we call Cash Flow as a Service, which is intended to help small businesses manage cash flow more effectively and efficiently. Most small business owners don’t start their companies because they want to manage cash flow, and we want to help them get back to their passions and stop worrying about when and how they need to manage their capital.

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

Kabbage has more than 2 million live data connections with its customers. Those connections allow us to give small businesses a funding decision in minutes, saving them time to focus on their business instead of their books. We have an internal saying that is “Let the baker’s bake.” We understand that business owners didn’t start their company to manage their finances, take countless trips to the bank or wait months for a lending answer. Our commitment to providing financial services based on the real-time data of businesses lets us give them a great experience and our customers get to focus on what really matters. We have a host of customer stories on our site: https://www.kabbage.com/customer-stories/

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 have had the privilege to meet and get to know many women who were investment bankers in the 80s and 90s when it was a much more male-dominated world. These women shattered that perception and sacrificed untold time and energy to make that industry a place where everyone was welcome. As they became more visible and powerful, they sent a signal to other women that it was a world where they, too, could be successful. It’s very difficult to enter an industry or a company where you don’t see successful people who look like you, whether that is gender, ethnicity, age or sexuality, and as these barriers have been broken in almost every industry we have seen a shift in the demography of most companies.

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?

Individuals: Ask for what you want. You’ll be surprised how often people forgo opportunities because they’re afraid to ask. It’s a 50/50 chance so take your chances.

Companies: Hire people dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Change won’t happen without specific intention.

Society: Understand that we all are stronger, smarter and more successful when we accept more diverse thoughts, cultures and ideas. It’s our strength, not our threat.

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.

Save early, even just a little. Saving is, frankly, a habit. Creating positive, early habits builds a feedback loop that can be of service later in life. Saving earlier in life means more time for investments to compound, and more experience making strong financial decisions.

Get a credit card at a young age, but use it strategically. Make small purchases and pay it off every month to build credit that will be needed when the time comes to purchase a car or a house. I applied for an American Express card when I had just turned 18 and was a freshman in college. I was shocked that I received it, but learning how to spend carefully was an important lesson.

Learn about the stock market. Robin Hood makes it accessible for amateur investors to learn the basics of purchasing and selling stocks. Start small and understand the dynamics of how market shifts impact values. It’s a valuable lesson to learn early.

Make a budget for everything. Budgeting for a new bike today will help prepare them for budgeting for their first house in the future.

Volunteer at organizations that support those less fortunate. Developing a sense of gratitude can satisfy the constant itch we all have to buy stuff.

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?

I am grateful to my co-founder, Rob, who called me when he had the idea for Kabbage and took a leap of faith when he asked me to join him on the journey. I often say that Rob is a bigger feminist than I am, and his encouragement over the years has given me not only experience, but also confidence to do almost anything.

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

I’m not a religious person, but I’ve always loved the serenity prayer. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. I’ve never been afraid to share my view or try something difficult, in fact I have found that the hardest things I’ve ever done have been the most rewarding. Having said that, being able to concede defeat has saved me countless hours of frustration and allowed me to focus on more productive pursuits.

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. 🙂

We ask a question in our final interview process that is intended to give us a window into how people view themselves. The question is “Complete this sentence: Most people I meet are _______”. My answer to that question is “More alike than they think they are”. As I’ve grown older I have trained myself to see the other side of things, and the 2016 presidential election highlighted the fact that we are increasingly insulated from views that are different than our own. If I could inspire people to take time to evaluate their own views, to ask questions of people who they think are different, and to constantly seek “the other side” of a person or a story, I think we would all see how alike we are. At Kabbage, we say that we embrace peoples’ differences, not just tolerate them. Tolerance implies that we simply put up with something we hate, but truly understanding and embracing our differences allows us to harness our collective strengths and truly achieve something powerful in this world.

Thank you for joining us!


About the Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and United Arab Emirates focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. Prior to founding Regal Assets, Tyler worked for a Microsoft startup led by legendary tech giant Karl Jacob who was an executive at Microsoft, and an original Facebook board member.

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