FinTech Female Fridays: Christine Chang, CEO, 6th Avenue Capital
Can you speak about your career path and what brought you to become the CEO of 6th Avenue Capital?
My family owned Chinese restaurants so I grew up in the small business world. However, I started my career in tech and finance and evolved into building institutional operational and regulatory infrastructure to help businesses scale. Graduating from Cornell during the tech boom, my first "real job" was Project Manager at Charles River Consultants - not a traditional path for an English major. I moved on to Credit Suisse and spent six years on the trading floor in Emerging Markets Fixed Income in New York City and London.
Upon returning to New York from London, I helped a college friend start his FinTech consulting firm MPI Professionals. From there I took on the Chief Operating Officer/Chief Compliance Officer (COO/CCO) role at New York Private Bank & Trust where I launched their Wealth Management division. My interest in alternative investments drove my decision to join Alternative Investment Management, an adviser investing in hedge and private equity funds, also as COO/CCO. Then, while serving as an outsourced COO/CCO for alternative investment vehicles, I helped a family office build 6th Avenue Capital. When they asked me join the company full-time as CEO, it brought me full circle back to the small business world, combining finance and technology. I am proud to be CEO of a company that truly understands the importance of alternative credit with a high touch, high tech approach to help entrepreneurs grow their business.
What is one piece of advice you wish someone had told you about being a female CEO in the finance space?
As an executive in finance, it is common for me to be the only woman at the table. I do not spend a lot of time worrying about the reasons for that, rather, I spend my time understanding what it takes to get the job done.
However, allowing women and minorities equal access to opportunities through mentoring and education has always been important to me. Both women and men can be the greatest proponents of female leadership, and it is necessary to have both women and men at the table. As the only female CEO of a cash advance technology company, I also have a deeper appreciation that diversity in our workforce on all levels allows us to understand and better serve a diverse client base. Fostering a global culture of inclusivity is not only the right thing to do, but essential to being successful.
As someone who is very knowledgeable about the FinTech space, how have you seen it change with regards to the strategic aspects and with regards to the demographics of the companies?
FinTech, for the last several years, has been focused on using AI and machine learning to automate, accelerate and reduce costs. I believe this will evolve to an “applied technology” approach, where technology is the engine, rather than the driver, of the car.
For 6th Avenue Capital, client relationships remain paramount. What resonates with our demographic is our marriage of high tech with high touch: high tech for speed and efficient risk management AND high touch for complex decision-making and long-term relationship building.
How have you been able to build and develop your network as well as maintain these relationships?
One of the things that I ask in every meeting is, "What’s on your wishlist?" I make sure that I actually follow through quickly to help. That goes a long way. People want to help people (and stay in touch with people) who help them.
How do you balance your personal life and work life?
I previously ran an algorithmic trading strategy, which some days, seems simple in comparison to managing logistics for my three children 5 and under. I try to employ best practices to balance my personal life and work life, which means, at time, outsourcing - I am not shy about handing off things like house cleaning which can be done faster and better by an expert, to leave more intentional, quality time with our family. And, I use cool tools like Class Dojo to keep abreast of what is happening with my kids when they are at school. It helps to keep a pulse on what is going on.
Finally, staying involved in philanthropy such as with my board role at Bottomless Closet, a not-for-profit empowering disadvantaged NYC women to become financially self-sufficient, gives me perspective and balance outside of my daily personal and professional life.
Reach out to Christine on LinkedIn.