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  • Barbara Bergman, Customers Bank

How do you manage the work / life balance? Time management is key

Barbara Bergman SVP, Credit Officer Customers Bank Years with company/firm: 3 Years in field: 20+ Years in real estate industry: 13 Real estate organizations / affiliations: REBNY, RELA

How do you contribute to your company and / or the industry?

In my role as a Credit Officer at a commercial bank, I approve or decline CRE loans. Much of my time is spent working with the CRE lending team to make sure the deal is structured in a way that the bank has reduced its risks in the transaction, and at the same time getting the customer what they need. How do you manage the work/life balance? Throughout my career, this has always been a challenge. Time management is key, along with a flexible work schedule, a spouse that can help balance the home schedules, and outsourcing chores as much as possible. While raising my children I worked for banks, was self-employed part-time, and started a financial services business out of my house. I eventually had the good fortune to work for a bank that found value in providing me with the flexibility to work from home often, so I could be with the kids when they needed me. I returned the favor by being the top support person for their lead lending team, and the go-to person for almost everything. After the kids were old enough to drive, I was able to focus more on getting back to advancing my career and to transition to where I am today. Tell us how and when you began your career in the profession you are in, about your current position and why you choose the field/profession you are in today? I fell into banking, having been raised by a father who was an Agriculture Lender in upstate New York. I quickly learned that I did not enjoy the sales side of the business (ie, a lender); rather, I enjoyed the analytical side, which is more aligned with credit. Most of my banking career has been on the credit side, with sales thrown in. While I do enjoy meeting customers and negotiating deals, the credit side (digging into the numbers and structuring) is more my level of expertise. What unique qualities and or personality do you feel makes you most successful in your profession? In my work as a Credit Officer, I have to know where to draw the line. I don’t like to decline loans, and would prefer to negotiate to a YES with the customer. But if we can’t get to the YES, I know when to walk away; in the end, my job is to protect to the bank and its shareholders. I have had many credit colleagues throughout my career that are much more cut and dry about the NO. Do you feel there are any differences in the way that men and women develop business relationships and if so, what activities or venues do you participate in? There are definitely differences in how men and women develop relationships. I’ve noticed that women tend to be more relationship builders. Most women are not as willing to reach out for information from somebody that they have met only once or twice; it translates to a lack of knowledge. On the other hand, men tend to be more transaction oriented. Most men have no qualms about picking up the phone and talking to somebody they just met the day before to pick their brain; it’s considered resourceful. What inspiring word of advice would you give to a young woman about to go into the field of commercial real estate or your allied field? When you are at the same meeting or working on the same project with the guy in the next cubicle, just remember that you are both at the same job, doing the same work. You are not male and female; you are both individuals collaborating on a project. You are both equally capable. If you approach work colleagues this way, the differences between male and female should fade away. If you present yourself as an individual at the table with your peers, your colleagues will view you this way, as well.


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