Banking is in her blood.
But Lara Hernandez would say she landed in equipment finance by chance.
We sat down with Hernandez, a vice president of credit with Ascentium Capital (a subsidiary of Regions Bank, which acquired the equipment-lending business in 2020), to learn more about her impressive career.
You were recently interview for the ELFA’s Ask a Leader column and shared that you landed in equipment finance by pure happenstance. Tell us about your early start in banking and equipment finance.
Living in Chicago in the 1990s, I got a part-time job as a bank teller my senior year in high school. A job transfer in my family moved us to Springs, Texas. I began working in a local branch of a large money center bank. From there I moved to a small mortgage company where I wore many hats – originating, processing, and closing residential property loans.
As I shared in the interview with ELFA, I ultimately landed in equipment financing after a chance meeting with someone in Human Resources in an elevator of the First Sierra Financial building.
I was working for a mortgage company and, while visiting my mother for lunch at her office building, was explaining in an elevator what I didn’t like about my current role. It happened that someone from Human Resources was riding with us, and I was asked if I would be interested in talking about an open position at First Sierra. It was entry-level within the credit department, but an opportunity to do more of what I enjoyed. So, I took a step back in hopes it would result in a more rewarding path forward.
First Sierra Financial leaders eventually went on to launch Ascentium Capital, correct?
Yes. Tom Depping and many of the senior leaders that had been part of First Sierra, which went through several acquisitions, came together at Main Street Bank. I was contacted by the head of credit and capital markets to get their credit department going and I moved over. Eventually the branches of Main Street Bank were sold and Ascentium Capital was born in 2011. The predecessor company moved to its current location in Kingwood in 2005, and the rest is history.
What advice would you give someone about building their career in banking and finance?
Work hard. Be approachable. And never underestimate the value of emotional intelligence. Professional development is key, as is finding a mentor in your industry.
You’ve seen a lot of evolution in the industry. Tell us about the best and most challenging aspects of this evolution?
Our leaders invested in a strong internal IT development team early on and never took their foot off the throttle. Ascentium Capital’s proprietary processing platforms and scoring models have kept us on the cutting edge over the years. Advancements in technology have absolutely been the best change.
The challenge with that is technology has made it easy for our sales force and customers to conduct business at hours outside the traditional workday, and without boundaries it can be easy to let your work and life fall out of balance without intention. This technology also requires operational teams to move very efficiently to keep up with the speed the of the finance industry.
What key characteristics do you credit with your success?
A strong work ethic, healthy emotional and communication skills, and the joy of sharing information have been important for me as an individual; however, great leaders have been key in the longevity with Ascentium Capital.
What advice would you give to working parents navigating a full-time career in equipment financing or banking?
Decide what is most important for your family’s circumstances. When my first daughter was very young, being close to home was important. I did not want to be dependent on a commuter bus with a limited middle-of-the-day service hours if I needed to get home unexpectedly, so a local bank branch was right for me at the time.
It became more comfortable to work further away from home when my daughters were school-aged. The last few years created unprecedented flex schedules, so working parents have more options than ever to navigate working full-time and raising a family.
Your kids are adults now – how would they describe your job and what they’ve learned from you about work-life balance and success?
Both my daughters enjoyed occasional visits to the office over the years and were aware I worked for a company that helped businesses obtain financing, in simple terms. They were not aware of extra time I may have put in while they were sleeping so they didn’t have to fight for attention. We try to hang up and hang out while together, so there was visible work-life balance.
A positive impact of having a parent in banking/finance was a general understanding of credit and its purpose. My kids learned early about having a checking account, the responsibility of a credit card and the importance of maintaining good credit.
Ascentium Capital is highly regarded in our family, so it wasn’t a big surprise my oldest daughter gravitated to it and spent a year working at the company before ultimately pivoting to another industry.
Ready to build your career in equipment financing?
Associates are Regions’ most valuable resource. When they succeed, Regions succeeds. Looking for a place to chart your personal career course? Visit the Careers page on regions.com to search current equipment-financing or other job listings, and to learn more about working at Regions.
Bring Your Whole Self to Work
We have a passion for creating an inclusive environment that promotes and values diversity of race, color, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sex, pregnancy, and many other primary and secondary dimensions that make each of us unique as individuals and provide valuable perspective that makes us a better company and employer. More importantly, we recognize that creating a workplace where everyone, regardless of background, can do their best work is the right thing to do.
OFCCP Disclosure: Equal Opportunity Employer/Disabled/Veterans