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The Remote Girl Banker: How One Community Banker Took Her Work On the Road

The Remote Girl Banker: How One Community Banker Took Her Work On the Road

I’m happy to have fellow girl banker and friend, Molly Carpenter, VP, Marketing and Public Relations of FNBC Bank, as a guest blogger on the Girl Banker blog! Molly has a unique working situation, especially for a banker, in that she works remotely from her community bank. Here is her story! 

I am a fourth-generation community banker who does not live in a community my bank serves. In fact, I don’t live anywhere near a community my bank serves. For the past year, I have been working from my house in Bentonville, Arkansas, an almost four-hour drive from my bank’s headquarters. I spend approximately 70 percent of my time in Bentonville and 30 percent at our bank’s headquarters in Ash Flat.

I had been with the bank about four years when I made the pitch to work remotely in December 2016. I love my job, but I was at a point in my life where I really needed to spread my wings a bit more. It took my boss about six months to finally give me the green light and another six months for my home to sell. I closed in mid-December, and on December 26, 2017, I made the move across the state and kicked off a new fiscal year in a new town and a new working environment.

I think my boss would tell you today he would still much rather have me in the bank every day, but that this hasn’t been as painful as he originally thought. In our early discussions, he realized this was an opportunity to test remote working for future employees and to retain an employee he and the bank were invested in. We live in a very rural part of Arkansas, and recruiting top talent has become increasingly difficult. While customer-facing roles require you to be on site, there are certainly roles that can be designed with more flexibility. I oversee marketing for our 11 branches, so I don’t have to be physically present every day, but I do need to be hands-on part of the time. Through a bit of trial-and-error, we’ve figured out a schedule that works pretty well for both sides.

I enjoy the flexibility working remotely provides for my life. While I try to be available as much as I can during banking hours, sometimes I hop on early so I can wrap up my day earlier. Sometimes I work through lunch so I can get more done and not be at my computer too late. I believe we do our best thinking in clothes that are comfortable, so not having to put on my “banker uniform” each day is also pretty nice. And on a personal note, I’ve been able to create a social life that wasn’t available to me back home.

Molly on location at FNBC’s main office in Ash Flat, Arkansas.

If I told you the last year has been a breeze, I would be lying. There have certainly been lessons learned and I have seen myself transform as a professional and as a woman. I tied a lot of my identity to my role as a community banker. Working remotely, especially in an area where we don’t have a physical presence, I miss out on having a place in the community. I continue to serve on several boards back home, but in Bentonville, I don’t feel like I’m in a position to contribute in a worthwhile way. It was hard for me at first to feel like I was still a true community banker when I wasn’t there every day and I was wearing leggings and sweatshirts, but over time I have embraced more of who I really am as an individual, and not just a community banker.

Perhaps you have a substantial commute to work each day, or you could use some flexibility to help you be a better parent and employee. Maybe it’s as simple as you just need time away from the noise and distractions to get some things done. Or, maybe you’re in executive leadership at a rural community bank and are struggling to attract the quality of hires you need to sustain and grow your organization. If any of these resonate with you, a remote working opportunity is worth discussing and exploring. Remote work can take on many different forms from something similar to my set up or even just a few days a week.

If you decide to start working remotely, even part of the time, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Communicate with your supervisor. My boss and I committed to one another last year that we would have open dialogue about what was working and what wasn’t as we moved forward with this arrangement. We meet regularly and always work in at least a few minutes to discuss how things are going. It’s important for your supervisor to know and be aware of the good and the bad parts of working remotely. It’s equally important for you to know if there’s an area that your supervisor feels is losing attention because you’re not there every day. Often times, just talking it out remedies things on both sides.
  2. Be as flexible and accommodating as you can to your bank and management team. In my situation, my move was entirely personal. I know I have been given an incredible opportunity not afforded to everyone, so if my boss needs me to be in the bank, I’m there.
  3. Be as accessible to your colleagues as you would be when in the office. I’m a community banker and I am one of only 100 employees. If I am unavailable or unreachable for very long, someone is going to notice. I have been asked if I am tempted to watch TV or take naps during the day. Honestly, I’m not. You might be different. You don’t want to become known as the co-worker who is never available or who is unreachable.
  4. Create a routine early on and stick to it. Rolling out of bed at 7:55 a.m. and stumbling to my computer doesn’t feel great to me. While I don’t have to put on a pencil skirt and heels, or have my hair and make-up done at 8 a.m. when I’m working remotely, I still maintain a routine that gets me up and going as early as I would if I were in the bank. I like to get my workout done in the morning, so I found a workout I love (OrangeTheory Fitness!) and make it to as many 6 a.m. classes as I can during the week. I could write an entire post on the importance of exercise and stamina in leadership – maybe one day I will! Even if you are getting up early to have a cup of coffee and read the news, creating some time and space for you to prepare for the work day ahead is important.
  5. Keep your work space away from your living space. My first six months were spent living in a small, one-bedroom apartment. My living room was my office, and that was really tough. I couldn’t ever really leave for the day. Now, my three-bedroom house allows me to have a room that is strictly my office. When I’m not working, I keep the door closed and the lights off. Even if you’re working from home, you still need to be able to walk away from your work at the end of the day.
  6. Take breaks. It’s easy to look down and it see it’s already mid-afternoon and you’ve barely been up for air. I struggled with feeling guilty if I took too much time away from my computer, but have found that it’s really important to my overall well-being. Get out of your house and take a short walk, run an errand or go grab a coffee. Because you’re in a smaller space, you’re naturally going to be moving less than when you’re in the office. It’s important to move around some throughout the day to keep your mind fresh and focused.
  7. Don’t get too lonely. I am a functioning introvert, so I absolutely miss my people. I miss popping into offices throughout the day, catching up over lunch in the break room, and just being out and about in my community. While my fur child Mabel Louise certainly keeps my company, I do crave human interaction. When this happens, get out of the house and find somewhere new to work for the day. Coffee shops are always great, but many urban areas now offer a variety of co-working spaces you can pay to drop into for the day. I will be honest and say I am really bad to not follow this advice, but I know how good I feel when I actually do get out of the house and plug in with a new view.
  8. Prioritize your time. This may happen naturally for you, but I had to be very aware of how I was scheduling my time in the bank. I usually know my travel schedule one to two months in advance, so I do my best to stack my days on-site with as many face-to-face interactions as I can. That may involve project or leadership meetings, or simply having lunch with some of my co-workers. But I strive to not be holed up inside my bank office the entire time I’m in town. Sure, that means travel weeks are a bit less productive from a tangible standpoint, but don’t forget how valuable relationship building and maintaining is for your career.

If I had to do it over again, I would do it in a heartbeat. I am so grateful for what this opportunity has allowed for my career and my personal life. I’m also thankful to work for a community bank and leadership team that recognizes the value I bring to our organization and took a big leap of faith and allowed me to move across the state.

If you are considering making your pitch to work remotely or would like to chat with me or my CEO about how this arrangement has worked for our bank, feel free to reach out to me at mjcarpenter@fnbc.us.

Molly is a fourth generation community banker at FNBC Bank where she is Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations. A remote-employee of the North Central Arkansas-based bank, Molly lives and works from home in Bentonville, Arkansas. A proud millennial, she is the youngest member of FNBC’s Senior Leadership Team, chairs the Sharp County Community Foundation, is vice chair of the Spring River Ambulance and Paramedic Service Board, is treasurer of the Spring River Innovation Hub and serves on the Ozarka College Foundation Board. In 2015, she was named one of Arkansas Business’ 20 in their 20s: The New Influentials and one of the Independent Community Bankers of America’s Top 20 Community Banking Influencers on Twitter. She is a proud dog mom to Mabel Louise and doting auntie to James Cole.

Bank Marketers Take Note: 5 Things Your Compliance Teammates Want You to Know

Bank Marketers Take Note: 5 Things Your Compliance Teammates Want You to Know

GUEST BLOG POST | I’m thrilled to once again host guest blogger, Shelly Loftin, a career bank marketer and SVP, Retail Banking, Payments, and Lending at the American Banking Association, on the blog this week as she shares with us bank marketers a few inside tricks on getting along with compliance! 

The relationship between marketing and compliance in banking has a storied history.  And while it may not exactly be as contentious as the Hatfields and the McCoys, it isn’t often compared to Charlie’s Angels either.  The truth is that both professions have gotten increasingly challenging and this has been known to lead to polarizing views within an organization.  This isn’t news to anyone.  Marketing has a cool new product and promotion they want to get rolled out as quickly as possible to reach revenue goals and they hold off bringing in the compliance team until the last minute.  Instead of FOMO (fear of missing out) like everyone discusses these days, it’s FOCFO (say that as individual letters please, not one word, and it stands for fear of compliance finding out), so we just don’t talk.  Then it’s time to launch and compliance has to be the bad guy (or girl).  Your sweepstakes isn’t setup right, the disclosures aren’t formatted properly or we really can’t just offer this super cool thing to a few people with internet access who subscribe to Architectural Digest, drink Pinot Noir, collect art and watch CSPAN while disregarding the rest of the population.  The marketer is left deflated, frustrated and with the false narrative in his or her head that compliance enjoyed every minute of it.  You can almost hear the evil laugh from the compliance officer now (muah-ha-ha-ha).

But this isn’t true.  This is the story that we marketers sometimes tell ourselves to make the disappointment easier.  The truth is we avoided bringing our colleagues in earlier because we thought they wouldn’t understand.  And while they might not all understand, I know several of them would – because I have worked with those compliance collaborators.  Before you embark on your next marketing adventure, make sure you have given your compliance collaborator a chance.  In conversations with several experiences compliance professionals at the American Bankers Association Risk & Compliance conference a few weeks back, I heard the same common themes as we discussed their roles within their financial institutions and how to improve their relationships within their organizations. The list was then summarized to reveal the five things your bank compliance team members want you to know.

  • We can help. Goals, objectives, directives or whatever you call your target achievements, we get it.  We want to help you reach your goals while staying in between the ditches.  What is best for the organization as a whole, including reaching profitability goals, is important to us too.  But we are also going to make sure we do it without breaking any rules.  The balance between creativity and compliance is a strength for our organization, so help us make sure it’s not a weakness.  If we can’t open the doors because of a violation that could have easily been prevented — the creativity originally deployed doesn’t get to serve it’s purpose either.
  • Bring us in early and often. People get behind initiatives where they understand the why.  Compliance people are no different.  Bring us in early to strategic discussions so we understand the context and can help brainstorm.  This allows us to hear your ideas, understand the objectives and help you develop tactics that don’t break any rules.  You eliminate the perception of us just saying “no” to your idea because we are allowed to help you brainstorm a better solution from the beginning.  The more we know, the more we can help.  Test us.  We can take it.  Include us from start to finish in the development of an idea, promotion or product to reach a strategic goal and the process will go faster and smoother with us working with you rather than behind you.
  • We have backup. You may stereotype us as quiet, introverted or timid, but we are actually armed with a network of resources that are valuable to our organization.  Bankers think of lenders, marketers or business developers as the well-connected ones, but we have a few resources ourselves. Whether it’s discussing regulatory changes, exploring banking cannabis, a new product idea or the do’s and don’t of digital targeting – we know people.  The compliance community is strong, diverse and helpful, so just ask us.  The National Conversation on Compliance just took place in Nashville in June and there were over 2000 compliance professionals there – how many of you were at your last conference?  To have access to our network, it would benefit you to take #1 & #2 to heart.
  • Our careers have the same challenges. Regulation, artificial intelligence, big data, omnichannel, social media, branch transformation, fin-tech, mansplaining, reg-tech, mar-tech and all those other acronyms.  CRCM, CFMP, PMP, SHRM & GOAT (just kidding on that one), are all designed to showcase to our peers we have a level of education in our increasingly complex fields.  It takes all of us to make sure that we navigate these waters properly and come out stronger on the other side.  And the faster we navigate these challenges together, the more of an advantage we provide to our banks which will translate into more career opportunities for us.  So let’s keep an open dialogue all the time because both of our chosen career paths have grown to encompass more than we could have imagined.
  • We are creative. We know our rules, but we see a lot of things. Ask our opinion.  You might be surprised how we could tighten up some of your copy, suggest a design tweak or two that would improve the customer experience exponentially, or adjust the way a change needs to happen to lessen the negative impact on the consumer.  Compliance, customer service & marketing go hand-in-hand and I want to make sure we put our best marketing foot forward.  We are always willing to help, but it means a lot when you respect our opinion enough to ask  for our advice on others areas too.We also owe it to our organizations and our careers to ask ourselves how we can better understand our Compliance coworkers.  There are several options available to educate us on compliance and how our compliance team members are looking at any given issue.  Help your partners in compliance help you through education and challenging yourself to improve your relationship.  There are A LOT of great educational options available through the American Bankers Association and your Compliance Officer would be happy to point you in the right direction.

BONUS DISCLOSURE:  (We can’t have a piece on compliance without fine print!) We are fun. Everyone insinuates we might not be a lot of fun.  They may not just come out and say it (although some do), but we can hear it and feel the slight sting of not being perceived as not the coolest cats in the bank.  Diversity of thought is what matters and our skill-sets speak for themselves, however, we are fun.  Now, it may be that we have plenty of fun and still show up the next morning because we are responsible with both our time and our resources, but it is still, nonetheless, fun.  Not to mention smart, so maybe you should take a lesson from us instead of the other way around?  Anyway, banking would be more fun for all of us if we work well together.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Shelly Loftin

Shelly is a career banker, currently serving as SVP, Retail Banking, Payments, and Lending at the American Banking Association. She lives in a world of branding, banking, and boys (she’s a boy mom!) and believes banking and education should be fun. She is a cultivator of member happiness, passionate about improving the experience banking business, a brand ambassador, training enthusiast, conference concierge, design fanatic, team builder and infographic nerd, Covey facilitator, creative collaborator, culture advocate, professional learner and happiness sharer. She claims to “kind of” be a millennial and loves solving problems collaboratively as her preferred way to work.

 

A Bank Marketer’s Tool Bag | It’s Up To You If It’s Designer…

A Bank Marketer’s Tool Bag | It’s Up To You If It’s Designer…

I’m excited to host Shelly Loftin, a career bank marketer and SVP, Retail Banking, Payments, and Lending at the American Banking Association, on the blog this week as she shares her wealth of industry knowledge with the Girl Banker readers with her handy dandy Marketing Media Toolkit! 

About Shelly
I live in a world of branding, banking, and boys. I am a banker who was promoted to a customer then turned ABA team member who believes banking and education should be fun, simple and helpful. I am a mom to two superheroes, ages 7 and 4.  My career started in the nerve center of the bank, the proof department, when I was 15.  I learned to run a sorter, key like a champ and became fascinated with how banking worked. After a few years of keying, balancing and counting zeroes, I held multiple retail roles including teller, customer service representative and financial service representative before I transitioning to the marketing side of banking. For the past 14 years, I have worked on branding, marketing and retail in several positions at various community banks.  Prior to going to the American Bankers Association, I was Chief Administrative Officer at Bear State Bank. Connecting brand, culture and customer experiences across channels is what I love. I am a cultivator of member happiness, passionate about improving the experience banking business, a brand ambassador, training enthusiast, conference concierge, design fanatic, team builder and infographic nerd. Covey facilitator, creative collaborator, culture advocate, professional learner and happiness sharer. I’m forever a Bear, as there are always trails to blaze and pawprints to explore. Oh, and a millennial. Kind of. Solving problems collaboratively is my preferred way to work and I am a strong supporter of communication.

A Bank Marketer’s Tool Bag
The pace of change is rapidly increasing and the banking industry is no exception. Data drives the majority of our key business decisions as bankers. Who is my customer? Who should be my customer? What channel does Bob prefer? Where should Sara see my digital ad? How can we best deliver disclosures? How can we distinctly brand our experiences while remaining compliant, growing and making money? Bank marketing strategies should light the path for executing revenue generating activities and the beauty of managing this strategic, creative, and detailed operational balance is that everyone will do it differently. So why don’t we share what guides us? We have a vested interest in our industries success and growth. I am a committed learner, but I know for a fact that my brain cells aren’t always keeping up with technology, innovation and the rapid pace of change.

The projects I have been involved with that achieved the best results were collaborative. In the spirit of sharing, below are a handful of resources that I reference consistently; not just titles, publications, or sound bites I have read or visited, but resources I utilize a lot when solving problems, developing strategies, implementing operational processes, designing experiences, etc. Enjoy!