Andrea Petro is a managing director at Waterfall Asset Management, LLC, where she leads the Specialty Commercial Finance Group for the firm. Andrea began her commercial lending career with First City National Bank of Houston. Andrea began lending to specialty finance companies at Transamerica Business Credit in 1992, and in 2000 established the Lender Finance Division of Wells Fargo Capital Finance, which she led for 17 years.
Andrea is the past president of the Secured Finance Network and is a member of the SFNET Board of Directors. She is currently a member of the Secured Finance Network Education Foundation Board of Directors. She is also a member of the M.S. Advisory Council of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
Andrea graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree from Kent State University and received a master of business administration from The University of Texas at Austin.
What advice would you offer to women just starting out in the industry?
Learn everything you can about different disciplines and functions within the asset-based lending industry. Don’t be afraid to take on positions that may be lateral moves if they provide the opportunity to explore and develop in-depth knowledge that could enable you to become an expert within a role or an industry that appeals to you. At the same time, develop quality relationships within your organization and also with colleagues in the industry. Volunteer for projects and committees in which you can learn to work effectively with teams.
Studies have shown women are more reluctant to tout their accomplishments in the workplace. What advice would you give to help women be more comfortable with speaking up?
To become comfortable you need practice, preferably with an audience that you know will be supportive. Work with your mentor and/or sponsor to develop a message which you believe will be well received. If you have strong, positive relationships within your work environment, a manager or colleague can set the stage with public, positive feedback, providing you with a solid platform to acknowledge and expand on your achievements.
What do you know now that you wish you knew in the beginning of your career?
Everything is connected and each step builds momentum for a successful career. You may walk out of a meeting with a prospective borrower and think it was a failure or a waste of time.
However, it’s highly likely that the people attending that meeting will eventually move to different organizations and other roles during their careers. If you impressed them at the initial meeting with your knowledge about the subject matter, and you presented a positive attitude and genuine interest, they will remember you and could present you with attractive opportunities down the road.
What is your advice on change in the work place?
Change in financial services has been rapid and intense during the last decade. If you see the wisdom in your organization’s responses, and can embrace those changes, you will remain a valuable asset. If you reject such change, then it is important to move on. The time spent criticizing new policies and procedures undermines your attitude, effectiveness and reputation. If you are no longer a fit, the best path forward is to find a different path.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Working with committed, enthusiastic team members to successfully meet clients’ needs. Building and efficiently managing a business can be both challenging and rewarding. The shared goals and successes make the difference between a job and a career.
How can commercial finance organizations offer meaningful professional development and career advancement?
The SFNET has served as a solid foundation for my career. When I first became an asset-based lender, my management team encouraged me to become a member of the SFNET. The formal and informal educational resources available through the SFNET have proved to be invaluable and have helped me to establish a comprehensive understanding of how to lend to higher risk obligors and seek to avoid losses. Just as important are the relationships established which have been instrumental in many employment opportunities that were made available to me throughout my career. Additionally, being an active member of the SFNET provides experience working on committees and offers insights on how to effectively manage teams to achieve shared goals.