Longtime industry lenders Melanie Krinsky and Charlene Paling have experienced enough globe-trotting, movie-worthy plot twists in their careers — and in their friendship — to be called “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Banks,” including bonding on the festival circuit. And now they’re joining forces at Western Alliance Bank.
Last fall, the duo landed at the institution to establish its Los Angeles-based Entertainment & Media group, which officially launches this spring. The two have already posted more than $300 million in loans, with another $100 million in pending deals — a large slate to greenlight for a new banking group in entertainment, an industry that’s traditionally been relationship-driven.
Citing a 2021 study conducted by Women In Film and Pepperdine University, Krinsky and Paling underline the obstacles women have commonly faced in bringing stories to the screen. In fact, the study showed that nearly 90% of female entrepreneurs who obtained outside investments for their projects did so thanks to the power of networking.
Looking to use their perspectives as veterans in the field to flip the script on representation, the pair say they’ve found a powerful partner in Western Alliance Bank.
“Many people we talk with in the business haven’t heard of Western Alliance,” Krinsky explains. “I love having a chance to tell them who this bank is. The first thing to know is that this is a national business bank with more than $50 billion in assets — and everyone here, up to and including the CEO, is excited to be getting into entertainment and media lending.”
“It’s true,” Paling agrees. “I feel like we’re the first to discover a great new restaurant on the west side, and we get to tell people about it. Then they owe us one!”
If Western Alliance is less well known on the red carpet, the financial industry has taken note. The bank was named by S&P Global Market Intelligence as the second-best performer among the 50 largest public U.S. banks in 2021, and it ranks high on the Forbes list of America’s Best Banks year after year.
Clients already see the promise, according to Robert McAuslan, the Western Alliance Bank executive vice president who oversees the new group: “Just six months in, the list of top entertainment companies doing business with us, combined with the bank’s capabilities and rising commitments in the space, is promising.”
When Krinsky and Paling first met more than a decade ago on the festival circuit, they were both working for different international banks — Paling for a Canadian bank and Krinsky at an Israeli institution.
“I think we really became close the first year I was attending that iconic film festival in France in 2007,” Paling recounts. “We knew each other professionally, and we were friendly, but we hadn’t yet worked together,” she says.
In an effort to adhere to her strict travel budget, Paling invited Krinsky to go in on lodging together (“a fantastic apartment, just steps from the Croisette,” she recalls) — and a fast friendship formed.
“There’s just something about being women in entertainment finance, especially as we’ve both grown in our careers and traveled to international events, that’s definitely helped us bond,” Krinsky said.
When they first met, Paling had recently pivoted into entertainment banking from a career as an attorney, while Krinsky had years of experience after launching her career with a revered L.A. entertainment bank. The two have worked together since 2017, and Paling was excited to join Krinsky at Western Alliance Bank to build a new group together from the ground up.
One thing that inspired them to join Western Alliance, Paling and Krinsky agree, is that even as the bank keeps growing and entering new markets, it maintains its entrepreneurial culture. Western Alliance bankers have deep expertise in myriad industries and lines of business, from tech and innovation to commercial real estate lending. This spring, the bank introduces its Blockchain & Digital Assets group to provide blockchain-based solutions for fintech and digital assets innovators.
The opportunity to work with a forward-thinking bank that sees opportunity in the entertainment space — and is as enthusiastic as the two bankers are about helping great companies bring great stories to life — was “an offer they couldn’t refuse,” the two joked, in a nod to the recent 50th anniversary of “The Godfather.”
“I’ve been impressed with the depth of expertise across the bank’s national footprint, in addition to international banking capabilities and all the resources and sophisticated products and services our clients need,” Krinsky says. “Senior management wants to learn more about this business, understand our clients and our deals — they actually want to say yes. It’s a bank that has a prudent approach to credit, of course, but everything is tailored. The bank supports our desire — and our clients’ desire — to move quickly.”
“There is nothing ‘cookie-cutter’ about how this bank approaches deals,” Paling adds. “Everything is customized, which means we have the flexibility to make changes, even at the last minute.”