In a 2023 study by DBRS Morningstar, it was reported that 44% of leaders of credit unions and smaller financial institutions were women, a notable contrast to the 33% representation within traditional banks. These numbers not only signal progress but also inspiration demonstrating that credit unions are ahead of the curve in creating more inclusive and empowering workplaces in the traditionally male-dominated financial industry.

This International Women’s Day, we’re spotlighting our own inspiring leader — Natalie Ebanks, Director of Treasury Services and Solutions. Her journey, fueled by a passion for banking from the very start, is a testament to breaking the glass ceiling and the opportunities available to women in finance.

A path of passion and progress

“I have banking in my blood, it’s literally in my name!” said Natalie, reflecting on her career trajectory in client service. Starting as a branch teller, Natalie moved on to foreign exchange trading then retail and corporate and institutional clients, and finally to her current role as a treasury and capital markets leader. This journey not only reflects the changing landscape for women in finance but also aligns with the industry’s positive trend.

To thrive in the industry, Natalie emphasizes that “interpersonal skills are the most important to be able to effectively convey complex market dynamics to our clients and teams, fostering understanding and collaboration.” Her words resonate in an industry where trust is built through strong and reliable communication.

Drawing from her tenure at Central 1, Natalie reflects that it’s “provided the unique opportunity to work closely with portfolio managers, traders, risk teams, securitization, lending and commercial lending all under one roof.”

What’s her advice for other women embarking on a career in treasury or finance? “Explore the many facets of the field to find your passion: Is it the technicality of portfolio management, or the dynamism of client interest where you can interact with different types of organizations?”

Embracing challenges with resilience and learning

Navigating corporate culture comes with its own set of challenges. Natalie underscores the importance of resilience, learning and not being afraid to fail. “I take a moment to think of the bigger picture that this hurdle will pass. In the short term, I glean all the lessons and learnings from the experience. I take note while I’m in the thick of it to examine what’s working or not. Be open to different ideas, be flexible to veer from the initial path and try new things.”

Natalie often recalls a quote from her previous manager: “Don’t be afraid to fail. If you do, fail fast.” This mantra encourages her to take creative, calculated risks that often help lead her to success in the end. She says this keeps the job interesting and rewarding when things go well and it gives her an opportunity to learn from mistakes if they don’t.

Building inclusive working environments

While she’s avoided direct gender-based discrimination in her career, Natalie acknowledges its presence in the industry. She champions a work environment built on trust and collaboration, where diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords but are real values.

“I’m lucky within my small team which has a representation of diverse backgrounds and genders,” she explains. “It fosters an open and transparent atmosphere to brainstorm and tackle issues, all while in a respectful manner with each other.”

She also notes that men play a crucial role in advancing gender parity, too. She encourages them to contribute “by speaking up, celebrating and supporting their female peers, as well as participating in initiatives, events and conversations about women in finance.”

Inspiring inclusion for future leaders

The credit union system is a place where women in leadership positions is no longer uncommon. Diversity places a massive role in coming up with innovative solutions. For Natalie, she’s inspiring by younger generations of women coming into the field. “Top leadership roles are in their sights, which is a big improvement from even 10 years ago.”

The impact of diversity on innovation is a theme that Natalie reflects on often. She makes a point of taking the time to “really listen and empathize with different voices and ideas as those voices can easily get lost when you’re faced with deadlines and the business of working in corporate environments.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, these insights and experiences from leaders like Natalie are notable calls to action. They inspire us to push for an increasing inclusivity and equity in the financial sector and beyond.

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