Colleen Foy & Melissa Govette M&T Bank celebrates its 2017 Executive Women in Business

November 15, 2017

Colleen Foy
Senior Relationship Manager,
VP of Commercial Real Estate 
M&T Bank

Years with company/firm: 5
Years in field: 20
Years in real estate industry: 30
Real estate organizations / affiliations: Former
President and current Board Member,
Real Estate Lender’s Association,
New Jersey Chapter

 

How do you contribute to your company and / or the industry? Outside of my everyday responsibilities as a CRE Relationship Manager, I spend a lot of time at the Bank coordinating and participating in our M&T sponsored volunteer events such as Habitat for Humanity and our Women’s Interest Network. M&T is a large contributor to our communities and I find this work very fulfilling. In the industry, I actively seek out leadership roles and opportunities to represent the Bank, of which there are many. These opportunities allow me to expand my skills in public speaking, help grow the Bank brand and are a key element to business development. 
How do you manage the work/life balance? It’s much easier now that two of the kids are away at college but it was typically “one day at a time” for a very long time when the kids were younger. My husband and I are a good partnership. Planning and organization helps. Working hard and longer hours can be part of our daily lives but we try to manage that by being as efficient as possible or doing some work in the evenings. We prioritize what is important to us to make it all work.
What impact has social media / networking had on your business? Networking is huge! It provides you market knowledge, access and exposure to many people in many different roles and is a key to bringing in new business. Some people are better at networking a large room and others are more comfortable with individual meetings. However you do it, it’s important in any role to make connections to others to learn about new opportunities and to be knowledgeable about the current market. 
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? After I moved out to the East Coast and stayed in the industry, I moved into an analyst/acquisitions and due diligence role. I was sent out to complete due diligence on property acquisitions and found the work very satisfying…..every property was like a new puzzle I had to figure out. Being a commercial real estate banker involves solving a puzzle with every single deal you review and structure. Every transaction is unique and you have to determine if all of the elements of the puzzle (the client, the property, the market, the request, the financial metrics, etc.) fit together to make a coherent financing investment. Also, developing long term client relationships for the Bank is very satisfying. 
What unique qualities and or personality do you feel makes you most successful in your profession? My business is about relationships, knowledge and work ethic. I have spent my entire career in commercial real estate and take the time to keep up with the market so that helps. I am very tenacious and I am really motivated to be responsive to my clients and to perform for my team. I also truly enjoy working with different peoples and personalities. I am one of ten siblings so I think that trait may come naturally to me.
Do you feel being a woman is an advantage disadvantage or no advantage in today’s business world? Why? Why not? I do not feel that there is a particular advantage or disadvantage to being a woman in today’s business world, however, I do think there can be an unintentional bias in hiring and even advancing people who look like or act like ourselves. This can be a disadvantage for women in a male dominated company or industry. It’s also not just about women. Companies are missing a massive amount of talent and opportunities by not having diverse management or enough diversity in their ranks. M&T prioritizes diversity and inclusion on multiple fronts by having a Diversity Council, diversity training and recruitment initiatives as well as numerous resource group programs. I am proud to work for an organization with a strong commitment in this area.
Tell us a little about your family. My husband and I have been married 24 years and we have three children, two of whom are in college and the other is a senior in high school. My husband is a Latin teacher and Dean at a local prep school. I love the fact that he is not in a related field or even business. My interests expand way beyond my real estate profession and we like to talk about politics, history, literature and travel. The kids are funny hybrids of the both of us. n

What outside activities do you enjoy during you free time? I am a foodie and express my creativity through cooking. As my husband says, we never eat the same thing twice. I always have a good book on hand (both classic and contemporary fiction or history) and I exercise usually several times a week: dance class, running, yoga or spin.

 

 

Melissa Govette
Senior Relationship Manager,
VP of Commercial Real Estate
M&T Bank
Years with company/firm: 6
Years in field: 14
Years in real estate industry: 14
Real estate organizations / affiliations: Melissa Govette,Senior Relationship Manager,VP of Commercial Real Estate,M&T Bank.  Years with company/firm: 6 Years in field: 14 Years in real estate industry: 14 Real estate organizations / affiliations: Advisory Board, Urban Land Institute – Philadelphia
Advisory Board, Urban Land Institute – Philadelphia

 

What was your greatest professional accomplishment in 2017? Saying yes to public speaking opportunities. I’ve always really enjoyed the chance to take a point of view and speak to a group, but this year, I resolved to do the work to get more comfortable with it. So, I’ve been a part of a number of panel discussions, MC’ed an event making the Business Case for Diverse Teams and given an economic presentation to an industry group. As with other skills, the more you do it, the better you get at it, the more fun it becomes.
What was your most notable project, deal or transaction in 2017? $30MM Redevelopment loan with a prospect we’ve been talking to since 2014. It’s not scheduled to close until December, so I can’t give specifics. While winning the deal is fun, the real satisfaction is in winning a relationship we’ve been chasing for many years. It’s proof that taking the long view in this business, patience and persistence, focusing on the highest quality sponsors, pays off.
How do you contribute to your company and / or the industry? My clients are my primary focus. I’m passionate about making M&T the best company they ever do business with, growing our lending book, converting new prospects and finding new ideas for clients on how to solve old problems. I am also focused on making time for causes that support M&T’s corporate vision, but don’t relate directly to commercial real estate. I serve on a number of non-profit boards, which underscores M&T’s very real commitment to volunteerism and giving back. I also serve as President of WIN-Philadelphia, M&T’s Philadelphia area resource group for women, which focuses externally on winning business from and making connections for women decision makers in the region and internally, on recruiting and developing high potential women at the bank.
How do you manage the work/life balance? Duct tape and popsicle sticks. Look behind the scenes of any professional woman’s life and that’s what you’ll find. What’s not often said is that it’s OK for it to be messy. I’m constantly reminding myself to take a step back when evaluating competing priorities, do the work to understand what’s most important and schedule those things first. The rest falls in where it needs to or it waits. Some weeks, the scales are heavily tipped towards client meetings and winning business and some weeks, I’m leaving early for a soccer game and or to be the guest reader for my daughter’s kindergarten class. The notion that everything can be in perfect balance all of the time isn’t one I can reconcile. The true test of balance is to be able to look back over the long term and be at peace with your choices. 
Who or what has been the strongest influence on your career? Hands down, my husband, Will. He’s always pushing me outside my comfort zone, encouraging me to take big jumps and there for me when I miss the mark. He’s also a really honest sounding board for those tough balance decisions, making sure I make time for the important things.
What unique qualities and or personality do you feel makes you most successful in your profession? Relationship building is a passion of mine and that dovetails nicely into the culture of M&T, which is a highly relationship-driven bank. I love closing a big deal with a client. I also enjoy getting to know what’s on their mind outside of their next real estate transaction. That can translate into what sports their kids are into, where they’re going on vacation this year or their new favorite bottle of wine.
What was the most defining moment for you in the profession you are currently in? I started in real estate with a freshly minted finance degree in 2003 working for Wilmington Trust. During the first 5 years of my career, I had a front row seat for the biggest rise and fall of real estate in a generation at a bank that had a heavy appetite for real estate loans. Witnessing such a dramatic cycle early in my career taught me the importance of a client’s character. It also underscored the importance of working for a company that I respect, that is financially strong and that has a solid culture capable of holding up during challenging times.
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? Great choice! Commercial real estate offers so many different career paths. As an overall percentage, there aren’t that many women in the industry, so you’ll immediately be different from the rest of the pack and memorable. Treat that as an advantage, as an opportunity to offer a unique perspective. Also, pick a company not a job. That’s advice that was given to me early in my career and it’s helped me a great deal in navigating opportunities as they come up, trying to decipher which ones are worth taking a risk for and which are just a distraction. 


 

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