The success story of Suzanne Shank

How does Suzanne Shank build America’s top-ranked minority- and women-owned non-bank financial company, funding billions of dollars in projects each year from her downtown Detroit office?

By working hard, by shedding blood, sweat and tears, and, amazingly, accepting rejection.

Shank, CEO of Siebert Williams Shank & Co., said last week when discussing her burning career, “For all the ‘yes’ I’ve heard, I said I probably faced 10 nos early in my career. her way as one of the most successful African-American women on Wall Street.

“I told my younger self to learn from victories and defeats because defeats made me as much as victories did,” she added.

Her story shows how talent, hard work, the ability to embrace change, and having a great team can yield great results. Her Wall Street footprint is well known, as is her commitment to Detroit and helping the next generation seize opportunities.

Her company successfully swims with sharks while competing for business with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and others. Her firm has helped finance billions of dollars in projects for local governments such as Michigan, Detroit and Wayne County, as well as Fortune 500 companies such as GM, Penske Automotive Group, Ford, Stryker and Kellogg’s. .

Unlike many companies that have struggled during the pandemic, Siebert Williams Shank & Co. has seen record growth, Shank said.

“She is one of the true pioneers in this business,” said Daniel Hartmann, CEO of PFM, the municipality’s top advisory firm, who has known Shank for 20 years. “She has stood the test of her time as she has done a great job navigating many market cycles and challenges.

Shank was honored at a ceremony in Washington DC on November 15, where she was inducted into the first-ever Bond Buyers Hall of Fame by the financial publication Bond Buyers. Six of her others were inducted into the Hall of Fame (two posthumously).

Shank has received dozens of accolades throughout her 35-year career, including being named one of USA TODAY’s Georgia Women of the Century in 2020.

In 1996, she founded the company with Muriel Siebert, the first woman to break the glass ceiling on Wall Street by owning shares in the New York Stock Exchange with Napoleon Blandford.

After many years of growth, the company, now known as Siebert Williams Shank & Co., following its merger with Williams Capital Group in 2019, has become MWBE (Minority Women Business Enterprise) leader in underwriting municipal and corporate bonds, according to Thomson Reuters. Ranked top. , Shank told me.

Numbers help tell this compelling story. SWS clients include his 74 Fortune 100 companies, and last year he traded 65 bonds worth $8.1 billion, Shank said. According to Shank, the size of SWS’s recent municipal bonds ranged from $3 million to $1.75 billion in California, which he said was the largest deal ever senior managed by MWBE. Yes, Shank said.

Keeping up with Shank has proven to be a job in itself because she moves so quickly. We work relentlessly to pursue opportunities that involve a lot of “airtime” to do so. “I am a member of her 3 Million Miles Club at Delta Air Lines,” she added. Far from Savannah, Georgia, where she grew up in a middle-class family.

A gifted child who could read by the age of three, she excelled in math and science and was encouraged by her teacher to become an engineer. “I had no idea what the engineers were doing,” she said.

After graduating from Georgia Tech, she joined General Dynamics to work on a nuclear submarine project. She wanted to advance her own career, but she decided that her path wasn’t certain. So she shifted gears and earned her MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It was there that she learned about Wall Street.

She was smitten when her career took off.

She met Siebert and they started Siebert Brandford Shank. Siebert passed away in his 2014, Brandford retired two years after him, and the company grew under Shank’s leadership.

Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio, Texas, signed on as principal in 2015. Today, Siebert Williams Shank & Co. has his 140 employees in his 20 offices and his four satellite locations nationwide.

In 2021, her company partnered with Apollo, a $500 billion private equity fund. Siebert Williams Shank will now provide Fortune 500 clients with additional financing options.

“I have been blessed with pioneering partners and hard-working, dedicated employees who have made my journey possible,” Shank said.

At the pinnacle of her profession, Shank makes giving back to her community a top priority.

“I can’t believe how down-to-earth she is,” said Rachel Eubanks, a Michigan state treasurer who has known her for years. “She has been incredibly successful, a pioneer, and has built this incredible company, but she still takes the time to connect with people and help them in their careers.

“I benefited from her efforts,” said Eubanks, the first woman to take the job and the first woman of color. “The industry is relationship-based and she’s great at building relationships.”

Shank serves on numerous for-profit and non-profit boards, including CMS Energy, Rocket Mortgage, Spelman College Board of Trustees, Wharton Graduate Advisory Board, The Kresge Foundation and Skillman Foundation. assumed the chairmanship).

When I asked her how she learned to juggle, she mentioned her biggest challenge: time.

“I was recently asked to serve on a board. I met all of them before agreeing,” she said. “Because we’re going to be together for a long time, it’s good to know if there are any issues before agreeing to participate,” she said.

She and her husband Sean Werdlow, senior managing director and partner of SWS, are empty nesters with four grown-up daughters and a mixed-race family building careers.

Having talked a lot about DEI’s work, I asked her how she’s progressing in her work to embrace and encourage diversity, equity and inclusion.

“There is more progress,” she said.

She shouted at NASDAQ and NYSE. NASDAQ and NYSE encourage diversity on public company boards and C-suites.

“I don’t know of a large company that hasn’t discussed its commitment to DEI,” she said. “My hope is that we will continue to be responsive to needs and recognize that diversity is good for companies. That is why investors want diversity in companies.”

While talking about the next generation of Wall Street leaders, she took a moment to reflect.

“When I started, I was often the only person of color and the only woman in the room,” she said. , by supporting our efforts to create a diverse talent pipeline in the financial services industry, our clients are ultimately driving diversity on Wall Street.”

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Carol Kane: 248-355-7126 or contact She is the Senior Producer/Host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs on CBS 62 at 8:00 am on Sundays. See James Holcomb, Joe Spencer, Amyre Makupson, and Greg Kelser on this Sunday’s show.

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