Key Equipment Finance Senior Vice President, Corporate Credit Officer Margaret Gutierrez is part of the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association’s Women’s Council. ELFA recently featured Margaret in their spotlight Q&A series. We sat down to talk to Margaret about the Women’s Council and to hear the advice she’d share with other women in leadership positions.
How did you get your start in equipment finance?
By accident. I don’t think anybody says, “I’m going into leasing.” Many of us in the Leasing Industry ended up here through a roundabout way.
I’ve been with Key for 23 years and have held several roles in that time. When I initially joined Key Equipment Finance Inc., they had acquired an unregulated vendor leasing company and I was hired to assist in the efforts to transition the unregulated leasing company’s risk management activities, specifically risk reporting and review, into compliance with banking rules and regulations. Prior to that I was a commissioned bank examiner for the FDIC.
What are your hopes for your position on the ELFA Women’s Council?
I hope that we can continue recruitment and encourage more women and more young people to join the industry. All industries now have an increased need to get people into mid-level positions so that they can grow into senior positions. As an industry, we really need to start succession planning and begin to think about the generational shift that is happening. The pandemic highlighted some of these changes, where people weren’t necessarily thinking about retiring beforehand and now, they’re moving their timelines up. I’d like to be able to share with future leaders the sense of fulfillment that the Leasing Industry can bring to finance professionals and help usher in the next generation.
What advice would you give to other women in the equipment leasing industry?
Know that you can do more than you think you are capable of doing. Have the confidence to know that your skillset is highly transferable to different positions and opportunities. For example, you might work in asset management and the skillset needed to excel in asset management can transfer over to credit or originations. Understand that your skillset is fluid and can bring you other opportunities.
Years ago, I learned that women had a lot of opportunities, but they weren’t taking advantage of them because they didn’t think they were qualified. An Executive Leader at KeyBank shared with me that she wasn’t seeing female applicants for higher level positions and was only interviewing men. She noticed that men would go for an opportunity, whether they "check all the boxes” or not. Whereas women think they need to “check ALL of the boxes” to be qualified for the opportunity. We (women) need to start applying for jobs where we may not necessarily have 100% of the required skills, because we have the ability to learn and grow. The concept of applying for a position where I didn’t meet all of the qualification had never occurred to me before she had mentioned it to me. Now, I share this story with all the women who I have worked with and/or have reported to me. I let them know that they don’t have to “check all the boxes” to be qualified for an opportunity and they should throw their hat in the ring.
How has Key supported your professional growth?
The equipment finance industry has been dominated by men, but I don't feel that at Key Equipment Finance. There have been many women in positions of influence and power at KEF and KeyBank and Key has always been a strong supporter of women in leasing. I’ve had some wonderful, inspiring and strong female leaders in my time at Key. Key has actively recruited and recognized women in leadership positions and because they do that, they have highly qualified people in executive positions.
What’s next on your list for your time on the Women’s Council?
Focusing on those mid-level managers who are behind the scenes getting the job done. I’d like to bring to the forefront those women and people who are the “tactical implementers” of progress and productivity. A lot of times we recognize the "strategic visionaries" and do not focus on the people implementing the vision. The realization of a strategic vision is impossible without tactical implementation. It’s the tactical mid-level and senior managers who do their jobs quietly and effectively, making the strategic vision possible, and many times we don’t even know that they are there. I’d like to recognize them.
For more information about the Women’s Council, visit the ELFA Women’s Leadership webpage.