Detra Miller, a local banking executive, has emerged into one of the most influential female corporate leaders in the region.
Driven by a passion to help small businesses fulfill their dreams and a desire to see minorities and female entrepreneurs overcome barriers to success, Miller has contributed largely to the philanthropic efforts of M&T Bank. She serves as the Administrative Vice President of M&T Bank’s business banking division while leading M&T’s Minority & Women-owned Business Banking segment.
Miller, a native Marylander, is a graduate of Towson University, where she majored in business administration with a concentration in finance. And regardless of the career path she took, she envisioned herself helping others.
“I always wanted to help people,” Miller said. “That was kind of my guiding light; I just wanted to help support people and for me, I saw money and finance as a means to do that.”
M&T’s Minority & Women Owned Business Banking segment was created “in an effort to be intentional and proactive, and reaching, engaging, empowering and providing access to resources for small minority and women-owned businesses,” said Miller, who has been with M&T Bank for almost 14 years.
“Our goal and our job is to reach out to small minority and women-owned businesses, and work with them to help them start, grow and sustain their businesses.”
She leads a small team here in Baltimore who works to build various strategies for the bank and work with small business owners to help meet their banking, lending and cash management needs.
In just the past three years, Miller has garnered multiple awards and recognition, including being honored by the American Bankers Association for Distinguished Community Service.
Additionally, she has received the following honors: Baltimore Business Journal 40 Under 40; Greater Baltimore Committee Bridging the Gap Achievement Award for Mentorship; Maryland Minority Contractors Association Honoree; American Banker Most Powerful Women in Banking: Next; The Daily Record: Leading Women; Maryland-Washington Minority Companies Association Black History Hero Honoree; Maryland Minority Contractors Association Honoree; Co-Recipient of the American Banker Foundation’s George Bailey Distinguished Service Award.
For Miller, impacting those who are often overlooked and underrepresented is more rewarding than the extensive list of awards and achievements. “Revenue doesn’t exceed the feeling that you get when you’re sitting across from somebody that’s literally in tears because they feel like they haven’t ever been given the opportunity to be successful,” she said. “It can be a very lonely place – life in general, but especially as a small business owner, especially as a person that’s underrepresented, especially as someone that is often overlooked. That feeling that I get and I know my team definitely gets in sitting with somebody and just seeing the weight of the world lift off of their shoulders, I mean I can’t even measure that.
“I can’t put it into words, I can’t measure it. I just know that what we do everyday, regardless of if we make a dollar for the bank or not, that we truly are impacting generations by helping that person. Because through helping that person, they’re going to go and pay that forward.”
Through ongoing outreach efforts, Miller’s team has “created an ecosystem” for minority-owned businesses to support and guide them through ups and downs, says an M&T Bank release.
According to a company statement, Miller’s team facilitated $4.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program lending for 51 business banking customers in the Baltimore region following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, Miller has partnered with other organizations and politicians throughout the state to launch an accelerator program for 25 business owners.
Miller and her colleagues are acutely aware that communities are built on the back of small businesses, and they work tirelessly to put their clients – whether it be a small business owner or a local nonprofit – on a path to success and sustainability.
“Throughout the #COVID19 pandemic, Detra has helped minority- and women-owned businesses gain access to the resources and capital needed to stay afloat and position for growth,” says a post on M&T Bank’s Facebook page. “We’re proud of her and the work she does for the small businesses that make our communities.”
Inspiring the next young influential Black female entrepreneur or small business owner is what drives Miller to do what she does on a daily basis.
“It’s been really eye-opening to me… Many times there are a lot of barriers. There are not a lot of people who look like you. You look up, you look beside you, you look around and you’re trying to figure out like ‘How could I aspire to be more?,’” Miller said. “For me it’s very inspirational. I’m very humbled by it all and just trying my best to be a good person.”