The Women to Watch: No. 23, Bank of the West's Michelle Di Gangi

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Head of Small & Medium Enterprise Banking, Bank of the West

Michelle Di Gangi has already seen tremendous success in running small and medium business lending for $91.5 billion-asset Bank of the West. Small business banking has grown at a 6% compound annual growth rate since 2008, and the larger unit accounts for 30% of Bank of the West's pretax net income, with a portfolio topping $13 billion.

But this year she stretched even further. Among other things, she spearheaded the launch of WE Source, an online tool that helps women entrepreneurs with insights into funding, networking, strategy and other business essentials.

It's part of Bank of the West's larger Women Entrepreneurs Initiative, which Di Gangi leads. As part of the project, Bank of the West has made strategic investments in Grameen and a number of community development financial institutions in its Western U.S. footprint, leveraging tens of millions of dollars in microloans to entrepreneurs, especially women-owned businesses.

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Di Gangi also introduced a digital express-lending portal where small businesses can access as much as $100,000 in as little as two days. But her biggest initiative may have been implementing a new organizational structure that allows for remote interface through secure video conferencing as well as screen and document sharing. That technology was layered atop Bank of the West's existing customer-contact infrastructure and allows for even deeper client relationships.

Di Gangi has used her growing prominence inside Bank of the West as a platform to raise awareness of unconscious bias. She's worked closely with documentary filmmaker Nora Poggi, sponsoring screenings of Poggi's film, She Started It, which chronicles challenges faced by five female tech entrepreneurs.

"I created a safe environment for team members to share their views and experiences," Di Gangi said. "The obvious bias is the easy one to deal with, but so often we don't realize what we're doing. "As a woman moving up the ladder in business, I have experienced unconscious bias over the years. I want to see that challenge removed for both myself and for others."

Bank of the West recognized Di Gangi's contributions by appointing her to its executive management committee in July 2018.

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