FinTech Female Fridays: Annie Destefano, Vice President Relationship Manager, Silicon Valley Bank
I have been fortunate to have had a variety of roles and opportunities in my career thus far. It’s been a nice blend of internally and externally facing roles, concentrating on the finance and technology sectors. What has underpinned all of my career moves has been the strength of my relationships. Many former colleagues have helped me in connecting to new opportunities and I’ve made sure to always help them as much as I can. I have always tried to keep an open mind to new challenges and opportunities, and really enjoy having a varied set of experiences which has enabled me to hone new skills.
Can you tell us more about the intricacies of your relationship manager in a specialized bank like Silicon Valley bank? What makes the role different?
The role is one that allows me to go deep on a topic in Fintech but also broadly look at the industry landscape. I work with clients across all different sectors of the industry – whether proptech, payments providers, alternative lenders or wealth management tech companies. Serving a variety of clients challenges me to understand specifics on Fintech subsectors as well as market trends. Every client relationship is truly unique, and my role is to focus our internal efforts on the right outcome for the client, as well as manage our relationship overall. If I’m not asking the right questions or following the right trends, I won’t be able to creatively partner with our client and truly serve their needs from a capital perspective.
What would you say is most unique about a bank that services the technology sector?
I think the unique client set we serve challenges us to be nimble in our approach as a banking partner. Our clients are constantly changing and evolving, so as their banking provider, we are expected to do much of the same. This makes the bank an incredibly dynamic place and I think leads to us partnering with our clients on creative solutions across the board. It’s truly a “no two days are the same” type of situation which is exciting and keeps things fresh.
As we specialize in serving the innovation economy, our focus for more than 35 years, we truly take the time to understand our client’s goals and business models to be able to best partner with them. Our focus is to ensure our client’s success and the time, energy and resources we put into our client relationships I believe distinguishes the bank. In my focus on Fintech, I think this very personal, specialized approach is important as models and subsectors within Fintech can be so varied and have specific capital needs.
We are living through a particularly hard environment for small businesses. What are some of the unique challenges you see with small businesses focusing on technology?
Although there is no denying these are challenging times for a number of reasons professionally and personally, the optimist in me sees this as an important time for many of us to reset and adapt for the long run. I think we are all learning a new way of operating and finding efficiencies we never thought were possible like working remotely across teams and locations. I think many businesses are learning to quickly adapt and pivot which will be a tremendous aid in their long-term viability as we all know the only constant is change. This situation presents so many unknowns which is probably the top challenge right now from a business planning standpoint. You need to truly prepare for so many outcomes and work off of the information you have at hand, which can be challenging for company leadership across the board.
What were your motivations behind joining the Steven Institute of Technology Advisory board?
It was an honor to be asked to give back to my alma mater in this capacity. I’m motivated by our board goal which is to advise the business school Dean on a variety of strategic topics and priorities. We’re a group of professionals serving as connective tissue between the academic and corporate worlds. It’s extremely rewarding to be part of a diverse group of perspectives that will aid in the support of the next generation of business leaders and innovators.
Can you speak a little bit about why Diversity and Inclusion and giving back to an organization like NYC Fintech Women is important to you?
I truly believe the best outcomes come from a group that is bringing all different perspectives to the table. You cannot expect for a group which includes only one perspective, to be able to truthfully represent the best reflection on a topic or solution to a problem.
NYC Fintech Women has provided me the opportunity to broaden my network in the industry and connect with so many powerful female leaders. There is no denying that many industries, including finance and tech, still need to evolve from a diversity and inclusion perspective. Being able to find a support system within the industry that values this, really means a lot to me. I feel a sense of responsibility to support these efforts particularly as the next generation of female business leaders come into the workplace.
Reach out to Annie on LinkedIn.