Jane Allerman-Rey, Spencer’s President and COO, has been an integral part of the growth and success of Spencer Savings Bank, one of New Jersey’s leading community banks. She started her career at Spencer almost 30 years ago and has helped build a strong team, taking the bank from a $900 million company, at the time, to an almost $4 billion organization today. We recently sat down with Jane for a chat, including her thoughts on women’s history month.
Can you tell us a little bit about your early professional years?
In the late 1980’s I began my career with the Federal Home Loan Bank of NY as a Bank Examiner and went on to become a Field Manager, responsible for a group of institutions. After a few years, the regulatory group was spun off into a new agency under the US Treasury Department called the Office of Thrift Supervision (which has subsequently merged into the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency).
I spent a total of 8 years in the regulatory arena in very turbulent financial times. There was a banking crisis during the late 1980s and early 1990s which caused many bank failures. It ranked as one of the worse global credit disasters in history. The crisis was a great lesson in learning what not to do, very early in my banking career. I spent about 6 months in Texas, which was the epicenter of the crisis in the country. I considered it my baptism by fire!
What inspired you to get into a career in banking and continue at Spencer for almost 30 years?
As a Finance major, I enjoyed my classes in banking and corporate finance which started me on this career path. I never expected that I would spend the bulk of my career at one company, as I did with Spencer. But they were challenging times and I love a good challenge. Spencer successfully achieved great growth over the years and that kept me engaged, while the expanded responsibilities kept me challenged.
At Spencer, I enjoyed working with my colleagues and always felt we had a strong team here. I am very proud of all our achievements. I’ve also always been a strong advocate of community banking. I saw early on in my career the difference that community banks make. Their mission, values and purpose were aligned with mine. All of this continued to motivate me to get up, come to work and keep striving for excellence every day.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career trajectory at Spencer?
I joined Spencer Savings Bank in 1993 as a Vice President and was responsible for the areas of Loan Review, Compliance, IT and Corporate Services. After being promoted to Senior Vice President and later Executive Vice President, my responsibilities increased to include overseeing the additional areas of Lending, Retail Banking, and HR. Along the way, I also became a member of the bank’s key management committees.
Aside from my work at Spencer, I’ve always been very involved in the community throughout the years. Currently, I serve on 3 boards of directors: The NJ Bankers Association, The UCEDC, an economic development company (CDFI), and The Westfield Area YMCA. It is work that has been very fulfilling for me, in a variety of ways.
What factors do you think led to your professional success?
I think a strong desire to learn new things and an internal drive to take on new challenges propelled me on my career path and has been the key to my growth and success. Of course, working for an organization, like Spencer, that affords you these opportunities is crucial. It’s been a journey I am very proud of.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
I believe it is important to learn from and honor our past, for many reasons. This month is a time to reflect on the many contributions made to society by women. As you climb the mountain and strive for more, it is important to occasionally take a pause, look back and see how far you’ve come. While it is true that women executives in the C-suite still have a long way to go, we sure have made great strides and progress along the way!
Do you have a favorite mentor or role model?
Very early on in my regulatory career I had a situation where I needed to meet with the organization’s chief counsel. I was intimidated, to say the least, to meet with such an important and high-ranking person in the C-Suite. Much to my surprise, it was a woman. She was incredibly sharp, quick thinking and obviously very successful in her career. But just as importantly, she was kind. I recall walking out of her office after our meeting thinking – I want to be just like her!
Can you share some tips for women aspiring to leadership roles?
I would say to take chances. Seek out new opportunities, and don’t wait for them to come to you or wait to get noticed. Set personal goals for yourself. Identify a strong leader (male or female), see what they do to be successful and ask them to mentor you.
Why is it important that more women are represented in C-suite roles?
I think that diversity in an executive team is crucial to bringing different perspectives to the group. Better decisions are made when different perspectives are considered. I’m not just talking about gender, but people from all different walks of life and the diverse and rich experiences they bring to the table.
How can women be supported more in their organization?
At times, women may need more flexibility at work because of family demands and the role women traditionally play in most of the household and familial duties. Flexibility in juggling various responsibilities is key. Things like work-from-home options can help women by allowing them not to leave the workforce and lag behind in work experience, but rather continue to excel in their profession and careers by providing them with the flexibility to juggle both.