First Vice President and Vice Chair,
Export-Import Bank of the United States
Networking, preparation and a willingness to take a risk landed Wanda Felton in “the position of a lifetime” as first vice president and vice chair at the U.S. Export-Import Bank. She was so excited about the chance to work for the first African-American president that she dashed off a letter and résumé, not expecting the White House to respond. To her surprise, President Obama nominated her to the post and she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Ex-Im Bank, the country’s official export credit agency, steps in to finance exports for American companies when commercial banks withdraw financing. Felton votes on transactions of more than $10 million and on major policy issues. She leads the effort to promote U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa and speaks at forums targeting small businesses and middle-market companies to encourage them to tap overseas markets to grow their businesses through exports. More than two decades of financial industry experience positioned her well for her role at Ex-Im, where she began her career as a loan officer. “I would not have imagined holding this role. I do work that I really believe in. Promoting U.S. exports creates jobs here in the U.S.,” she remarks. Felton spent the previous 15 years in private equity as an adviser to institutional investors and raising capital for private-equity firms. She led transactions that steered capital to emerging markets, including postapartheid South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. Prior to last year’s appointment to Ex-Im, Felton headed her own firm, MAP Capital Advisors.
Felton holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Although she networked successfully in pursuing her Ex-Im position, she regrets not having developed broader relationships with classmates at Harvard. “Harvard has a large network and I didn’t take full advantage of that.”