As CEI’s Chief Credit Officer, Sarah Matel is primarily responsible for providing oversight and direction of the credit function, as well as credit analysis, loan structuring and underwriting support to the Loan Group. She comes to CEI by way of the traditional banking industry and joined CEI in October, 2013. Previously, she worked as a commercial lender/regional manager and senior credit officer, overseeing a wide variety of deals, from micro loans to multi-million dollar projects.
What was the biggest surprise transitioning from a traditional banking background to a community development finance institute like CEI?
I think I was most surprised about the vastness of the CDFI industry and the solid role they play in providing financing opportunities for multiple sectors of the economy. The perception of our borrowers as “unbankable” is only true from the perspective that in many cases banking regulations don’t allow the kind of flexible underwriting and patient capital that CEI can provide. CEI takes a holistic approach to financing which is so significant and beneficial to our borrowers. Loan discussions are comprehensive and include multiple CEI perspectives including sector specific expertise, work force development, small business counseling, traditional credit analytics, and mission or triple E criteria (equity, economic, and environment). Our borrowers reap the benefits of having so much expertise at their disposal.
What aspect of CEI’s Platform do you see as most innovative?
The innovation in CEI’s Platform, in many ways, is the sector-specific targets which form the foundation of the lending platform. It’s a unique illustration of the way CEI integrates various fields of expertise in order achieve a unifying goal – providing a sustainable living within the context of a sustainable economic model with low impact to the environment all within sectors which are the underpinnings of Maine’s economy.
What aspect of CEI’s mission has the greatest impact on your daily work?
The attention to social mission and support of our borrowers are now fully integrated into how I approach loan discussions within the Loan Group. We really dig behind the numbers to understand the technology behind a renewable energy deal or the dynamics of how many gallons of milk per cow per day in a dairy farm deal – to make truly informed decisions and create loan structures that make sense for our borrowers.
A non work related “fun fact” about yourself?
I spent five weeks on a game ranch in Kenya when I was in college. I participated in an ongoing study of the ecosystem in an effort to help the Kenyan Government understand the advantages of farming indigenous species versus farming cattle. I was a business major at the time and this was far from my usual course of study. It was a fantastic experience and made a life-long impact on me and the way I view the world. Kissing a giraffe and sitting next to a cheetah – probably the highlights!