A Leadership Legacy 30 Years in the Making

by Monica Harper
As the AACFB celebrates its 30th Anniversary, Executive Director Monica Harper reflects on the association’s history and the women who took on challenges and assumed leadership roles to help shape it.

Monica Harper,
Executive Director,

Two themes for this year’s International Women’s Day at the American Association of Commercial Finance Brokers are “Choose to Challenge” and “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” These both seem fitting for the women who have helped shape the association over the past 30 years and continue to pave the way for future female leaders.

In 2004, I was introduced to the AACFB (formerly the NAELB) when FSA Management Group began to manage the association’s day-to-day operations. I was fortunate enough to join the association as executive director at a time when the indomitable Donna Cole was president of the board. Cole was followed by Heather von Bargen, the youngest member to ever hold the office and who brought with her great enthusiasm and passion. However, Donna Cole was not the first female AACFB president and I was not the first female executive director. In fact, in the male dominated world of finance, women were at the very heart of the newly forming association in the early 1990s.

Prior to becoming the first female president of the AACFB, June Sciotto and her daughter-in-law, Angie Sciotto took active roles in the formation and management of the association by tracking memberships, addressing legal issues and assisting with the planning of the conferences.

“Looking back, I believe that having women taking charge and making decisions, organizing the details and communication probably was better than expected as women have been doing that all their lives,” Sciotto reflected. In addition to the women who would serve as president of the board, others would become directors and treasurers, including Rosanne Wilson, Dee DiBenedictis and Angie Sciotto.

As the AACFB grew, Cindy Spurdle was enlisted to handle daily operations. She served the association for many years before becoming the long-standing executive director of the CLFP Foundation. Spurdle’s involvement shaped a decades-long relationship between the AACFB and the CLFP Foundation, whereby the ideals of education and a standard of excellence continue to be promoted by each.

In 2010, the AACFB ushered in its fourth female president, Sonia VM Stoddard. Stoddard was followed by Joan Modes in 2013 and Sheri Bancroft, daughter of founding member Charlie Bancroft, in 2018.

“Over the past three decades, many women have served on the AACFB Board of Directors as well as chaired and led national committees,” Bancroft said. “What I am most proud of during my tenure on the AACFB Board of Directors is that when I completed my term as president, the board had its first female majority.”

As it stands, the AACFB Board of Directors has five women and three men. When the board rotates in May of 2021, it will consist of six women and two men.

Current AACFB President, Cindy Downs, stepped into a board position during a very turbulent time.  “As I assumed the role of president, along came COVID-19,” Downs said. “So, what did I do? I continued, like my mother always told me — do something you aren’t ready to do and begin. The rest is easy.”

As Cindy wraps up her tenure on the AACFB Board, incoming president, Carrie Radloff is looking ahead to her term. “It is wonderful to be surrounded by so many smart, enthusiastic, passionate, and fun women,” Radloff said. “The industry will only improve as we continue to bring more women into leadership roles and focus on everyone’s strengths and differences.”

I look forward to continuing my work with the exceptional women leaders who make up a majority of the AACFB Board of Directors, including Cindy Downs, Carrie Radloff, Laura Estrada, Teresa Thacker, Amanda Zeken and Kalah Sprabeary. This group, along with AACFB Treasurer Roderick Knoll and soon to be Director-at-Large Michael Hong, will make a great team for the 2021-2022 term, with the support of myself and Natasha Pitcock, director of membership and programs. I am proud to serve an association that is working toward a more gender equal world where women’s achievements are celebrated.

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” – Author Unknown



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