Employee Highlight: Melissa Swan, Senior Loan Officer
Akiptan is proud to bring you the team of people who are helping to make a change in Indian Ag Finance. This month we are highlighting our Senior Loan Officer, Melissa Swan.
Melissa has been a part of the Akiptan team for three years, she started as a Loan Officer and is now the Senior Loan Officer. Melissa Swan is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She resides in a small native community within the reservation boundaries with her husband Lucas and three children, Zanden, Shayde, and Addisyn.
Melissa attended college at Saint Paul Community College where she received her Associates Degree in Business in 2020, then went on to graduate from Metropolitan State University with her Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management in 2022.
Melissa found her true passion working in the financial industry in 2011. With her professional and personal experiences, she understands the integral role that Native Ag. Producers play in the Tribal Nations economies and has seen firsthand the impact that it can have within Native communities.
How did you start in the Native Ag Lending Industry?
I started my financial career back in 2011, where I worked for a private lender. After that, I went on to work for a traditional bank, but that was not suiting me. I knew there was something out there for me to help better serve my own community. The deciding factor was seeing a relative of mine struggling with his cattle operation dealing with horrible winters, droughts, and unrealistic bank terms on his loans. It was then that I realized that traditional banks (not all, but most) will lend you money, but won’t support you in the ways that they could during a bad year - they expect to get paid no matter what. Seeing my relative in a bad financial position, knowing he had to sell down to make his loan payments. After hearing about what Akiptan had to offer, I jumped on the opportunity to serve producers in situations similar to my relative to be able to give them a fighting chance. Three years later, I am in a position where I can help those struggling producers with their operation; not only with patient capital, but with technical assistance.
What is your favorite part of working at Akiptan?
"I have always wanted to be a part of change in Indian Country and now I have the perfect opportunity to do so."
Working for a non–profit organization, it is not just about being a lender, it’s about building relationships on a professional level and helping those that are striving for success that do not have all of the resources available to do that. Akiptan has allowed me to not only grow as an employee, but also as a knowledgeable individual. I have been able to continue my education far beyond just a business degree. Akiptan has opened many doors for me and I am truly grateful for all the support I have received and continue to receive.
What would you say about the Akiptan team you work with?
Working with my Akiptan team has been interesting and very rewarding to say the least. My team members have contributed different perspectives and the synergy between all members have produced creative and productive solutions. We all draw out unique skill sets of different backgrounds and challenge one another to continue building those skills. It has been great working with my team and I couldn’t ask for a better group of well-rounded individuals to work with.
What do you think makes Akiptan Unique?
Akiptan has very patient and flexible terms that other lenders do not. Since Akiptan is not regulated, we can do a lot more than traditional lenders can which makes it very unique. We are able to go outside of the box to better serve our clients which I think we need more of. Since working for Akiptan, I’ve seen borrowers get turned down by banks because they are too risky, but we don’t see them as a risk. We see those clients as opportunities that have potential to become successful. Another part of Akiptan that is unique is the technical assistance that we offer to each client.
"We go far beyond as a lender with our clients; as a loan officer, I also learn new ways of operating from my clients and provide suggestions, advice, and feedback to help better support them."
How has your passion for assisting those in Native Agriculture financing developed in the past 3 years?
Working for Akiptan over the past three years, being able to track my client’s success has been one of the most rewarding experiences thus far. Knowing that I have helped open doors for my previous clients has pushed me to continue moving forward. Since I am able to serve clients all throughout Indian Country, I understand the need for our program. I want to do more for our people knowing that there are very little resources available to them. I have been able to help guide new/beginning farmers and ranchers start up their operations. I have been able to help support already established farmers and ranchers continue their current operations at a more sustainable pace. Knowing that I am helping make a difference for many Native Ag. producers is rewarding enough for me.
What are some of the successes that have happened while in your role at Akiptan?
The biggest success that has happened here at Akiptan is our significant growth. When I started as a loan officer here at Akiptan, there were only two employees and a small loan portfolio. As time went on, we have grown to seven employees, have three departments, and an immense loan portfolio. Knowing that Akiptan is continuing to grow means that we have the ability to help more producers throughout Indian Country. Another success that I am most proud of is seeing my clients flourish with their operation.
What are your goals for the next few months or years in your role as senior loan officer?
My short term goal is to be able to become a more knowledgeable lender by attending as many trainings, conferences, and webinars as possible. This will help me help my clients on a higher level. My long term goal is to be able to incorporate my skills and knowledge into my work here at Akiptan to better serve my clients.
I truly believe that helping Native Ag. Producers become successful is very important especially since Ag. is the root to where it all started."
What is one thing you would like people to know about your job?
As a loan officer, some see me as just that, but what others don’t know is that I am not just a client's loan officer. I am their biggest supporter, I see myself as a partner rather than a loan officer.
"A client’s success is my success, so instead of seeing clients as numbers, I see them as investments. I invest my time, efforts, and do what I can to support all of my clients.
For more information about Akiptan, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org