Female Leaders in Mortgage | Elite Women 2023

Women on their way

The 2023 MPA Elite Women awards celebrate 50 of the top female leaders in the mortgage industry across the US. To determine the prestigious list, nominations were submitted for strong contenders, who were then reviewed before the final selection was made. MPA asked the nominees, “What do you think makes a woman of influence?” 

The responses reiterate the level of excellence required of 2023’s Elite Women and what’s expected of them: 

  • “strong, present, teachable and has a desire to grow” 

  • “someone who makes an impact, changes society and leaves a legacy”

  • “an ambitious individual thinker who has experience, drive and a true passion for her craft” 


“I believe in setting up my team as a primary goal for the day. If they are running successfully with a full understanding of the capacity of the day, then my tasks will fall in line”
Stacy CaprioliNationwide Appraisal Network 


Elite Women creating change 

MPA asked all nominees if there was a lack of female leaders in the mortgage industry. The results are displayed below. 

However, 2023’s Elite Women are changing this dynamic with their outstanding abilities, which have earned them recognition among their peers. 

“There is no job that is beneath me,” says Erica LaCentra, chief marketing officer of RCN Capital. “I find that as people get into positions of management or upward levels like the C-suite, there are a lot of folks that take the mentality that ‘this is beneath me’ and ‘other people can do this work.’ 

“I also have a willingness to be vocal as far as advocating for other women in my space and really calling attention to the disparity between how women are treated versus men in the space.” 

LaCentra has distinguished herself by winning the following: 

  • 2017 AAPL Member of the Year 

  • 2017 NMP Magazine Most Influential Mortgage Professionals Under 40

  • 2018 MPA’s Hot 100 and MPA’s Elite Women 

  • 2019 NMP Magazine Mortgage Banking’s Most Powerful Women 

  • 2020 MPA’s Mortgage Global 100 

  • 2022 Women of NACLB 

Industry expert Kathleen McSharry, senior director of tri-state debt and equity finance at Avison Young, puts forward her rationale for shaping the mortgage sector. 

“A woman of influence puts the clients’ needs first, works diligently, pays attention to detail and shows a willingness or ability to think creatively,” she says. 

Melissa Cohn, regional vice president and mortgage banker at William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance, describes how she is driving change and offering a role model for other women to follow. 

She says, “I think I work harder than anyone else. I don’t have a 9-to-5 mentality. The first thing I do when I wake up is check my emails and the bond market, and I work as long as it takes every day to get the job done. I’m not afraid of challenges. I don’t just take the easy loans.” 

After graduating from Smith College in 1982, Cohn got into the mortgage business, launching The Manhattan Mortgage Company in 1985. Since then, she has: 

  • grown her business into the no. 1 residential mortgage broker on the east coast with over $5 billion in yearly volume

  • been nominated as a leading LO by Mortgage Women Magazine in 2023

  • been nominated as a top LO in the Scotsman Guide in 2023  

  • attained the top-producing LO for William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance 

To make the most of her talents, Elite Woman Stacy Caprioli is guided by her team, even though she is chief appraiser at Nationwide Appraisal Network and has 17 years of industry experience. 

“I believe that my ability to lead with a strong focus on not only where we are but also where we are headed is a trait that has set me aside from peers. I am also always available to assist in any of the roles I lead,” says Caprioli. “There isn’t a day that I do not pivot to assist one of my team members and often start my day with, ‘Where do you need me the most?’” 

Underscoring her ability to add value across a range of operations, Caprioli is:

  • a certified residential appraiser in the states of WI and VA 

  • a real estate sales agent in the state of WI 

  • a candidate for accreditation with the Appraisal Institute  


“We have amazing women working in this industry, and I believe now more than ever is the time for them to push into that uncomfortable zone and take the risks they know they need to”
Cristy WardMortgage Connect 


Words of wisdom from 2023’s Elite Women

Illustrating the breadth of talent and skills in the industry, MPA asked the nominees, “What do you see as your biggest strength?” 

Feedback ranged from perseverance to loyalty to honesty: 

  • “hard work, knowledge, patience and diligence” 

  • “grit and integrity” 

  • “having a huge book of business and placing myself in the purchase account” 

  • “a great communicator with my clients” 

The Elite Women 2023 are not only leading by example but are also keen to share their advice with younger females following in their wake. 

“Find a mentor and allow them to guide you as you continue to grow professionally,” says expert McSharry. “Form alliances with people you admire and never pass up a chance to learn. Take credit for what you accomplish and don’t apologize for doing so.” 

This theme resonates with Cristy Ward, Mortgage Connect’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer and president and founder of the non-profit organization Women Empowering Women. She admits to a lack of belief in the early stages of her career. 

“My advice would be to stop second-guessing yourself. I see so many women at the highest ranks still second-guessing themselves,” she says. 

Ward’s driven attitude has enabled her to achieve success, and she illustrates that mindset. 

“Be certain of your talents and what you can bring to an organization. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve; if you don’t get it, you have your answer. Make whatever move you need to so that you are valued for what you bring. Be fearless and, most of all, be kind to everyone along the way,” she says. 

To foster more female leaders in the mortgage sector and create mentors, LaCentra also feels it’s important to raise awareness about the achievements of others. 

“Women naturally downplay their achievements because that’s often what we’re told to do,” she says. “We’re not bragging or appearing too headstrong. That mentality needs to go out the window. And I think the more we highlight that, the more women will see that and want to come into this space.” 

Going a step further is Cohn, who agrees that being proactive is the best path to recognition and bringing about meaningful change. 

She says, “Men do not like to be challenged by successful, smart and aggressive women in business. My greatest struggles have been when I have come up against men that are challenged by me and want to hold me back, so they don’t have to showcase their shortcomings.” 

Cohn also shared solutions that would change the face of the sector and create more female leaders. 

“There are really two things that can be done: one is to promote more women, and the other is to work harder to recruit more women into the industry,” she says. 

Obstacles conquered by 2023’s Elite Women
in their mortgage careers 

MPA asked all nominees, “What’s the most difficult thing about being a woman in the mortgage industry?” 

 A selection of the responses was: 

  • “Women like to cut other women down, thinking this helps them succeed.”

  • “Managing work-family balance.” 

  • “The Boys’ Club.” 


“Women naturally downplay their achievements because that’s often what we’re told to do. That mentality needs to go out the window”
Erica LaCentraRCN Capital 


The Elite Women of 2023 have endured their own challenging situations where their gender has unfairly worked against them. 

Caprioli openly reveals her own struggles. 

She says, “As a woman, I have faced hurdles with unequal pay, scheduling demands and inadequate communication.” 

Caprioli recounts her strategies for overcoming these issues: 

  • open, honest and direct communication 

  • being logical and factual 

  • increasing knowledge

“The key to growth is expanding your knowledge base and having a supported basis for advancement,” says Caprioli, who actively participates in her firm’s mentorship program. 

LaCentra recounts facing discrimination, harassment and being discounted. 

She says, “There are going to be those people, typically men, who think women don’t know as well as they do, and one of the things that has allowed me to overcome it is just proving these people wrong and working hard. 

“Sometimes that means working twice, three times or five times as hard as one of my male counterparts to get to where I need to be.” 


Female Leaders in Mortgage | Elite Women 2023 

  • Abby Polin
    Senior Vice President of Residential Lending
    Draper and Kramer Mortgage
  • Alicia Brisbane
    National Business Development Director
    Stronghill Capital
  • Allycyn Bennett
    Loan Manager
    Sandstone Financial
  • Anne Nauts
    Managing Partner and Senior Loan Officer
    Arbor One Mortgage Group
  • Annmarie Edwards
    Founder and Chief Executive Officer
    AVE Mortgage
  • Ashley Wood
    Vice President, Mortgage Verification Services
  • Candice McNaught
    Senior Vice President of National Sales
    Supreme Lending
  • Coco Ke
    Toorak Capital Partners
  • Corrina Carter
    Owner and Chief Executive Officer
    CMS Mortgage Solutions
  • Dawn Van Nieuwenhuyzen
    Senior Mortgage Banker
    Plains Commerce Bank
  • Deborah Robertson
    Director of Sales
    PowerHouse Solutions
  • Denise Panza
    Senior Mortgage Banker
    Total Mortgage
  • Heather Devoto
    Vice President and Branch Manager
    First Home Mortgage
  • Helda Saad
    Assistant Vice President, Executive Project Manager, and Director of Mortgage Lending Operations
    First Independence Bank
  • Jackie Studdert
    Chief Operating Officer
  • Jamie Veight
    Senior Vice President, Operations
  • Jane Mason
    Founder and Chief Executive Officer
  • Jane Floyd
    Loan Originator and SE Regional Manager
    NFM Lending
  • Jennifer Vallinayagam
    Chief Operating Officer
    Sun West Mortgage
  • Katie Sweeney
    Chief Executive Officer
  • Kim Krick
    Vice President, Eastern Region Wholesale Division
    Freedom Mortgage
  • Laird Nossuli
    Chief Executive Officer
  • Lana Izgarsheva
    Chief Operating Officer
    A&D Mortgage
  • Laura Brandao
    Chief Growth Officer and Partner
  • Leah Goldmintz
    Senior Vice President, Capital Markets
    CoreVest Finance
  • Leah Sommerville
    Senior Account Executive
  • Lesley Alli
    Chief Investor and Industry Relations Officer
  • Linda Davidson
    Branch Manager and Senior Loan Officer
    Fairway Independent Mortgage
  • Lori Lewis
    Branch Manager
    CrossCountry Mortgage
  • Luisa Bedoya
    Vice President and Senior Mortgage Planner
    MSA Mortgage
  • Maria Moskver
    Chief Executive Officer
  • Martha-Rosalind Stainton
    Co-Founder and Partner
    Potomac Point Group
  • Megan Marsh
    Co-Founder and Loan Originator
    Co/LAB Lending
  • Melinda Wilner
    Chief Operating Officer
    United Wholesale Mortgage
  • Melissa Wright
    Chief Sales Marketing Officer
    American Pacific Mortgage
  • Melissa Cohn
    Regional Vice President and Vice President, Mortgage Banker
    William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance
  • Natasha Robinson
    Vice President of Renovation Lending
    Guaranteed Rate Affinity
  • Patty Arvielo
    Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer
    New American Funding
  • Serene Vernon
    President and Shareholder
    LoanStream Mortgage
  • Shana Jones
    Vice President
    The Federal Savings Bank
  • Shannon Johnson
    Program Manager/Business Architect
  • Stacey Maisano
    Director of Business Development
    Polunsky Beitel Green
  • Stacy Caprioli
    Chief Appraiser
    Nationwide Appraisal Network
  • Tawn Kelley
    Taylor Morrison
  • Tiffany Searcy Wright
    Vice President/Mortgage Banker
    Regions Bank
  • Valerie Saunders
    National Association of Mortgage Brokers


As part of our editorial process, Key Media’s researchers interviewed the subject matter expert below for an independent analysis of this report and its findings.
  • Kathleen McSharry 
    Kathleen McSharry 
    Senior Director, Tri-State Debt
    and Equity Finance
    Avison Young 


Applications are now open



Mortgage Professional America invited industry professionals from across the country to nominate exceptional female leaders for the seventh annual Elite Women list. Nominees had to be working in a role that related to, interacted with, or in some way impacted the industry and should have demonstrated a clear passion for their work. 

Nominators were asked to describe the nominee’s standout professional achievements over the past 12 months, initiatives and innovations, and contributions to the mortgage industry. 

After a thorough review of all the nominations, the MPA team narrowed down the list to the final 50 Elite Women who have made their mark in the industry.