Lauren Cherry, our Director for ABL Structuring International Clients makes her mark as a Woman in Commercial Finance.
This article was first published in The Secured Lender June 2018 edition:
Lauren is currently a director, structuring in the International Clients team of ABN AMRO Commercial Finance (London, UK), which sits within the Corporate & Institutional Banking division of the Bank, with responsibility for originating, structuring and negotiating bespoke financing solutions for Sponsors and Corporates primarily across Europe. Recruited in 2017 as a founding member of the UK team, she is tasked with growing the business outside of the Netherlands (where the bank is headquartered) and has been extremely successful in capturing market share (ranked no.2 behind HSBC, according to AlixPartners debt survey) as ABN AMRO increases deal activity across Europe. Most recently, ABN AMRO was awarded Asset Based Lender of the Year (2018 Private Equity Awards, Real Deals). During her tenure at Standard Chartered Bank, Lauren developed extensive expertise operating in Europe and Africa as a member of the Leveraged Finance and M&A teams. Lauren has dual US/UK nationality, having grown up in the US (Philadelphia area) but with most of her working experience in the UK. Lauren has a BA in Economics and an MBA in Finance and International Business. Lauren resides in East London.
What advice would you offer to women just starting out in the industry?
Establish yourself as an active member of the group. Focus on learning so that you can lend perspective to complex problems and add value to the team. Collaborate, network and foster professional relationships that benefit the organization and your career. Be a good listener and work hard and smart to earn the respect of management and colleagues alike. Take the initiative to meet with and learn from supporting departments. Do not expect special treatment simply because you are a woman. But do pursue roles in organizations where all employees, men or women, expect to be treated with fairness and respect, the key to feeling engaged, motivated and productive. Be confident that your steady performance and meaningful contributions will be recognised, as today’s professional environment is more open and receptive to diversity leading to strong performance with less hierarchy.
What do you know now that you wish you knew in the beginning of your career?
Change is inevitable and one needs to be flexible and sensitive to opportunities that can elevate your role and development, so be your own advocate. As discomforting as it may be, the dynamics of the marketplace will determine your future direction. In my case, the move from leveraged finance (cash flow lending) to asset-based lending was a natural one, given recent regulatory changes requiring banks to hold additional capital against loans. As an asset-based lender, we can offer increased flexibility and capital efficiency, including more leverage with fewer covenants and also attach a cash flow line to create that bespoke funding solution. In doing so, it’s imperative to be confident in your recommendations, because your proposals must be explainable and justifiable.
What kind of role has mentoring and/or sponsorship played in your career?
The presence of a willing and able mentor has been of critical importance to me. There is so much to be learned from knowledgeable colleagues on a daily basis, but a true mentor can change the trajectory of your career. My mentor, a strong woman and seasoned negotiator, imparted a keen sense of how to navigate a confusing maze of foreign rules and regulations, no easy task, in order to simplify solutions and effectively transact business. This was especially difficult, given my exposure to the emerging market of Africa, where funding solutions were needed for a vast array of investments, such as mining, communications networks, and infrastructure. She not only gave me the latitude to construct deals, but the confidence to negotiate with clients whenever necessary, with appropriate safeguards, in some rather distant and exotic regions. Fortunately, the results were quite satisfying. In fact, we led a US$3.25Bn multicurrency project to construct a refinery and fertilizer plant in Nigeria which was cited as 2013 African Debt Deal of the Year. I am truly indebted to her for recognising my ability and taking such valuable time and effort to foster my growth and development. As a result, I too feel a personal obligation to return it in kind to another junior who demonstrates the necessary desire and commitment to succeed.
What do you think the industry could do to attract and retain the best and the brightest today?
As corporate culture evolves, the industry should afford recognition to the most productive and valuable employees and reward them with well-earned assignments, responsibilities and promotions that facilitate job satisfaction, continued development and most importantly, upward mobility. The gender pay disparity will only lessen if top-performing women receive the recognition they deserve, at every level, and move on and up into the ranks of higher management.