Carrie Dolan
Chief Financial Officer, Lending Club
No. 11 on the 2015 Most Powerful Women in Finance list

When Carrie Dolan told her friends and colleagues that she was quitting her job as Charles Schwab's corporate treasurer to join a money-losing startup occupying a shared office space in the San Francisco suburbs, the news was received with a degree of skepticism and puzzlement.

"Most people thought I was nuts," Dolan says.

She wasn't entirely sure, when a headhunter first called to recruit her for the Lending Club job, precisely what peer-to-peer lending was. But she did her research, met with the chief executive, Renaud Laplanche, and was sold. "My gut feeling was that this business model would change financial services," she says. "So I decided to take a risk."

Five years and a $1 billion initial public offering later, Dolan's decision to take the job as chief financial officer looks like a pretty good call. The staff of 40 she joined has grown to nearly 1,000, revenue has increased from about $5 million a year to nearly $100 million last quarter, and the company has long since become profitable.

Best of all, Lending Club ditched its Redwood City office space — and a commute that was Dolan's only real misgiving about taking the job — for San Francisco proper.

Dolan doesn't linger on the achievement of the IPO, focusing instead on all that is left to be done. "The IPO was a great milestone for the company, but we're still in the first or second inning," she says. "We're not just about unsecured lending and credit card refinance, we want to take on all credits."

Figuring out how to expand into other loan types is a big part of Dolan's job, and Lending Club plans to announce its entry into a new type of consumer lending later this year. It began this past year to make small-business loans and bought a company that offers loans for education and medical procedures.

A key challenge with shifting to a startup like Lending Club is learning to improvise and make mistakes — a major change in mentality, Dolan says.

"In a small company you have to iterate, because you're testing and learning," she says. "In a bigger company when you make mistakes, it can cost you your career."

However, Dolan sees more resemblances than differences between her roles at Lending Club and at huge corporations earlier in her career. "Even though I was working for big companies, a lot of my experience was about starting and growing," she says. The difference is that now "there's no mothership."

Dolan's first mothership was Chevron, where she spent more than a decade after getting her undergraduate degree in finance at the University of California at Berkeley.

In the mid-'90s, Dolan was recruited by Patricia Yarrington to help the energy company start a bank, as a way to simplify the regulatory regime for Chevron's credit card company. They managed to secure a de novo license and launch Chevron Credit Bank. Dolan loved the work, and describes Yarrington, now Chevron's CEO, as her first mentor.

But two years later Dolan was shifted to a managerial role dealing with oil-and-gas finance. So she took a risk to stay in financial services, making what she called "a lateral step, or almost a step back," by joining Charles Schwab, in a job working to securitize margin loans.

Schwab also gave her a second taste of de novo banking, when she helped set up Charles Schwab Bank. In 2007, she was promoted to treasurer of Charles Schwab, the parent company, but her ambitions lay elsewhere. "I wanted to be a CFO," she says.

And so she is.

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