Kathleen Z. Lepak
2021 Inductee, People’s United Bank
Kathleen Lepak is the Asset Based Lending business director for People’s United Bank, located in Bridgeport, CT, serving middle-market companies throughout the Northeast since 2011. Along with her team, she also established a national Lender Finance business for the bank in 2019, managed in ABL.
Before joining People’s United, Lepak held sales management positions with Wells Fargo Bank and GE Capital, where she built sales and marketing organizations focused on providing ABL financing for target markets on the East Coast. As the business head for Citigroup’s Asset Based Finance team, she founded a national ‘de novo’ group covering Citi’s middle-market and mid-corporate clients.
Complementing her experience in banking, Lepak began her career with a small cap commercial finance company specializing in applying developing technology to risk management. Later, she assisted in a capital raise and re-launch of the successor to that company. Lepak holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Connecticut and Trinity College. She lives in Farmington, CT with her husband, Peter, and enjoys spending time with her children and her granddaughter.
What advice would you offer to someone just starting out in the industry?
It is a privilege to have the opportunity to provide working capital support to companies that are either growing or are in transition – it is the best way to learn how business works. So, enjoy the journey. Start with the basics, develop strong credit and technical skills – take the time to understand the business cycle and factors that influence outcomes. Listen to the more senior professionals in your firm, as well as your clients, and always ask questions – every one is relevant. Be intellectually curious and don’t settle for answers or outcomes that are not clear to you. Cultivate good communications skills. Value the people you meet throughout your career – build a robust, relevant and updated contact list. This will help you develop and maintain real time knowledge of your market and will ensure your success. And lastly, as best you can, in a dynamic and ever-evolving world, do what you say you will do. Credibility is everything.
What role did SFNet play in your career development?
SFNet has been a critical part of the growth and development of my career. It is truly a community of the best and the brightest in our industry, open and willing to offer encouragement, to share experiences, and to provide guidance. The ability to connect with our community through networking continues to enrich my career. Access to education has always been key, especially for our newer professionals. Content mined from industry talent and delivered efficiently is a game changer for many people just starting out in their careers – our teams have taken full advantage of courses in multiple disciplines. Advocacy is so important – as a voice for our community, and as a conduit for the legal framework changes that affect our industry. As I watch the organization evolve to expand its impact on the broader industry, to be more inclusive, and to thrive in a time of deep change, I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of SFNet.
How did you get your start in the industry?
Initially, I had no intention of setting out on a business career – I wanted to teach. However, I took an entry-level job with a local small-cap commercial finance company to “pay the bills” as I was completing a master’s degree in English, with the intent to go on to a Ph.D program. As time passed, I found that I truly enjoyed working with smaller companies to provide them with the working capital necessary to thrive. I loved learning “how things were made,” and I appreciated the risks people took to do what they loved. The stories our customers shared – their successes and their struggles – shaped my view of the world, and my place in it. I felt relevant, curious to know more. So, I stayed in the ABL business, and never looked back. The path has been fulfilling as it has unfolded over the years. I am fortunate to have had “boots on the ground” experience with smart people in the market and an impressive financial community to rely on to mold my skillset. I continue to learn every day.