Celebrating Women Leaders on American Business Women’s Day
First American Bank is proud to have the opportunity to profile these incredible leaders.
Jenny Barsh, President, MBB Enterprises of Chicago
Growing up, Jenny Barsh dreamed of becoming an architect. “I started observing working masons on several buildings in the city and admiring the results of the restorations,” she explained. “Whether it was turning factories into residential lofts, warehouses into event venues, or even just a facelift of a façade, I wanted to do the same.”
Her dream became a reality when she opened MBB Enterprises of Chicago in June 1992, a restoration company that provides a full range of high-quality masonry services. However, the path to business ownership proved challenging. “As a woman in a ‘man’s’ field, you can imagine the struggle just to get a foot in the door,” explained Barsh. “I was very fortunate that the city of Chicago implemented the Minority & Women Owned Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program in the mid-'90s, which created opportunities for women and minorities in construction and other contracts.”
Managing the construction payment cycle also proved challenging for Barsh, because the payment waiting period can last between 60 and 90 days, making it difficult to project capital availability.
Thankfully, her rich relationship with First American Bank allowed her to tap into capital as needed. “They were accessible and attentive to our financial needs at any moment, taking a creative and thoughtful approach to our complex issues at times and making slow processes more efficient when necessary.”
Despite the obstacles, Barsh found that the most rewarding aspect of launching a business has been knowing that she has succeeded in achieving her goals—and her dreams in turn.
To other women looking to start their own business, she extends this success-oriented mentality: "If you're ambitious and you persevere enough to pursue your dreams and desires, everything will fall into place."
Today, the company’s revenue has increased nearly 40% since starting to work with First American Bank nearly a decade ago.
Colette Mann, Executive VP, CIO at First American Bank
Colette Mann is our Executive Vice President and CIO at First American Bank. “I received a BS in Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame and an MS in Telecommunications at DePaul University,” explained Mann. “At the time, I didn’t know my career path would result in me becoming a leader at First American Bank.”
Since getting her start at First American Bank as a Senior IT Manager in 2016, Mann has leveraged her affinity for crunching numbers, budgeting, and investing to make waves. In her current role, she works to ensure that financial systems are operational so that First American Bank branches are able to properly service customers both on-site and online.
“I spend a significant part of each day partnering with our information security and audit teams to ensure First American Bank’s infrastructure is safe and secure,” she explained. “Solving technology problems while providing professional growth opportunities for others is the most rewarding aspect of my role.”
From improving the day-to-day experience for customers to helping First American Bank pivot as the organization transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, Mann has met challenges with a spirit of innovation. “If you want to be a transformational leader, you’ll be challenged daily to find creative solutions to systemic and personnel problems,” said Mann. “My biggest challenge has been creating and sustaining a collaborative and constructive environment, and in overcoming it I’ve opened venues for dialogue and communications using facts and data.”
For Mann, collaboration is key to continually evolving the work environment alongside women’s participation in areas like science, technology, and finance. “Depending upon the level and area of expertise, stereotypes still exist about women and their ability to perform,” she explained.
To make First American Bank a more inviting and inclusive environment, Mann encourages members of the team to listen twice as much as they speak. “When we listen to others, we can really hear their needs to provide solid solutions and advice. I believe that listening is the start to strong and effective communication and collaboration.”
Jean Moran, CEO, LMI Packaging
As a child, Jean Moran watched her father convert the back of a Chicago butcher shop into a printing press. After two years, LMI Packaging (formerly known as Label Makers Inc.) was born.
“To support my mom and their five children, [my father] took a third shift job at the Hostess Plant near our house, which allowed him to work on the press during the day, and make an income at night,” Moran said.
Moran has fond memories of her father during this period, and especially admires the way he always maintained his sense of humor, even during stressful times. With her father’s guidance in mind, taking over the family business with the help of her siblings was the natural next step for Moran, though it wasn’t always easy. “The largest challenge for me was a fear of taking on too much risk,” she explained.
“We enjoyed slower growth that was steady and safer, and we were able to withstand some significant challenges in our industry. That worked for me, but it is clear to me that it does not work for everyone, and that is ok.”
While running LMI Packaging, Moran trusted First American Bank to guide her through tough financial decisions by offering support and sound advice, while also respecting her choices. “They were much more than a lending provider, and for that reason we have stayed with them for many years,” Moran explained. “For me, they exemplified how a supplier can and should be a friend and a partner.”
For Moran, the most rewarding aspect of running LMI Packaging was building its culture. Her goal? To make sure that anyone who walked through the door would leave feeling positive about their experience. “My greatest joy today is watching the third generation, who now owns the company, valuing that same vision.”
As someone who deeply understands the challenges of running a family business, Moran emphasized the importance of allowing each generation to lead in their own style. “An entrepreneur has to lead as they see fit, and when that happens, success will follow.”
Jane Nagel, Executive VP of Wealth Management at First American Bank
Jane Nagel is Executive VP of Wealth Management at First American Bank and was hired in 1985 as the company’s first full-time business development employee in Wealth Management. Previously, she had 13 years of experience working in Trust Operations and Administration at a smaller community bank. “Once I got to First American Bank, we were still so small that everyone wore a lot of different hats,” recalled Nagel.
Over the years, Nagel has specialized in various lines of business from Trust and Estate Administration to Qualified Retirement Plan services. But these days, she spends her time doing things that benefit the department in general. “One day I’ll be working with senior staff to plan or resolve issues, and on another day I might be working with our clients directly,” Nagel explained. “And there are always plenty of meetings and reports to fill in any gaps.”
Working in different roles throughout her years at First American Bank has given Nagel a sharp appreciation for how the company and the people in it have grown—and all they’ve achieved together. “Seeing the results of our efforts in helping our clients and their families plan for their futures has been one of the most rewarding parts of my time here at First American Bank,” she explained.
As a woman leader at First American Bank, in the past Nagel felt challenged by the struggles of balancing family life with her career responsibilities. To improve these circumstances, she worked closely with people in the organization. “I was provided with flexibility and am a proponent of that for our employees, as necessary. I believe that helps us retain the talent we desire and creates loyalty in our workforce. We attempt to create a win, win situation,” she explained.
Her advice to other women looking to work at First American Bank? It's a great place to build a career. “As a privately held corporation, we can focus on what’s best for our clients, regardless of what quarterly earnings reports say,” she added. “Doing so requires a firm commitment to the well-being of our employees, ensuring that First American Bank is consistently a place to work and grow for the long term. If you’re willing to do both, the sky's the limit.”
From Nagel’s perspective, this firm commitment to work-life balance has helped create a stellar team. “There isn’t a group of people more capable of taking care of our clients and their financial needs. I couldn’t be prouder of our team.”
First American Bank Empowers Women Leaders to Succeed
First American Bank is proud to celebrate women business leaders year-round. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace help foster an understanding of the varied needs of our valued customers.