Feeling unsatisfied teaching high school math and coaching varsity boys basketball, a career she had hoped would fill the void after leaving professional basketball in Europe, Jennifer Bender became inspired by a Realtor to follow a new path.
Bender, a loan officer with Wintrust Mortgage, made a name for herself as a star basketball player in college and by playing professionally after graduation. A top scorer and third for rebounding in Germany, she played for three years, won the German Cup, achieved top player status and had multiple contract offers from around the world before a knee injury ended her career.
Acquiring her master’s in math and teaching in New York gave Bender another opportunity to soar. Recipient of the 2015 Big Apple Award for teacher of the year, she also coached her school’s basketball team to the championship. Still, something was missing. “I wanted a self-sourced job where my input equated my output and how hard I worked would determine my success,” she says. Lending fit those criteria.
New to Chicago in 2016, Bender was introduced to a Realtor who inspired her to take classes. However, she quickly realized that track did not involve enough math and decided lending would be a better fit. Now a loan officer at Wintrust, Bender is educating clients and working as part of a team to help them achieve their goal of homeownership. “I get to be a hero for my clients,” she says. “I love that I am able to take different pieces of the things I have learned through past experiences and put them together to be who I am as a lender.”
A problem-solver and hard worker, Bender never gives up, always finding a way to get the job done. Active in several business organizations, she still finds time to ski the country’s highest peaks, tutor students in math and train kids in basketball.