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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.

So You Want To Be A Banker: the Girl Banker’s Guide To Moving Up the Ladder

So You Want To Be A Banker: the Girl Banker’s Guide To Moving Up the Ladder

One of the most common questions I get from young bankers is “what is the quickest way to move up in banking?” While there isn’t a perfect answer, and no banker is created equal, the list below is a must read for any young woman (or man) interested in a banking career.

1. DO THE WORK | If you take away anything at all from this blog post and refuse to read beyond this first point, then I hope this little nugget of advice sticks with you. DO. THE. WORK. Don’t whine, don’t blame, don’t put down others. Don’t be lazy and don’t expect everything to be rainbows and ponies. Good work ethic seems to be hard to find and those that aren’t afraid to work hard should rise to the top. This includes answering the phone in your branch when everyone else is busy assisting customers, helping your marketing team load the supplies for the big cookout, and putting up the dishes in the break room REGARDLESS of your tenure, title, or gender. I’ve witnessed CEO’s take the time to do things below their pay grade and I’ve seen bank presidents show up late to an event and leave early before the cleanup is done. You can guess which one I respect the most.

2. COMMUNICATE | Remember that your bank management may not be equipped with mind reading skills. If you have dreams and goals, communicate them to your manager and do so often. When I was starting out as a teller, I remember taking every opportunity to tell my supervisor and the bank president that I wanted a future in banking. I was fortunate enough to have a lending position made available to me upon my completion of Grad School. Had I not communicated with bank management on a regular basis about my goals, it’s highly likely that promotion wouldn’t have been waiting on me. Take advantage of annual reviews to discuss your short term and long term goals and if your supervisor isn’t listening, find someone who will!

3. FIND A MENTOR | If you don’t have a mentor yet, get one. Mentors can come in all shapes and forms so don’t pigeon hole yourself to becoming besties with everyone in the C-suite. The best mentors truly care about your development as a banker and want the best for you and can be anyone at the bank. Be sure to find mentors that are leaders with a positive and professional outlook and avoid negative people within your organization that talk badly about others on a regular basis. No one wants to promote a Negative Nancy or a Drama Queen.

4. ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS | Banking is full of acronyms and sometimes has it’s own language. Don’t suffer in silence if you have no idea what the lender in the break room is talking about and don’t feel bad if you can’t contribute to the conversation about DTI, DSCR, LTV, or HMDA. Everyone starts somewhere and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know! If something doesn’t make sense and your gut is telling you there is a better way, don’t settle for “it’s how we have always done it.” That phrase can kill an organization dead in its tracks and sometimes it takes a new perspective asking “why” to push progress.

5. LEARN BANKING AND DO ALL THE THINGS | If no one at your bank is offering you continuing education opportunities, research what classes and training is available with your state’s banking association or at ICBA. Gather the costs associated with the training and present the opportunity to your supervisor and be prepared to explain why the bank would benefit from sending you. Additionally, I feel that it should be a prerequisite for all bank management to have at some point served their time on a teller line. Regardless of your position, make an effort daily and show enthusiasm about being cross trained in ALL areas of the bank. Spend time learning your bank’s products and services. If you haven’t already, sit on the teller line and interact with customers to gain and understanding of what they truly need. Spend a day or two (or month) with loan operations and ask questions about the process behind originating, processing, and booking loans. Dive deep with deposit operations. Go on a call with your business development team. And by all means, when an opportunity presents itself to be more engaged with the bank, do it without expectations of incentive. Build that resume and show everyone you have what it takes. Success doesn’t happen by accident. Do the work! (See Item #1).

Confessions of a Recovering Grammar Queen

Confessions of a Recovering Grammar Queen

Have you ever cringed reading an email from a coworker that was full of improper grammar and thought to yourself, “Seriously? How is this a problem in the corporate world?” Unfortunately, it is a problem and it doesn’t discriminate in terms of the corporate hierarchy. I have recently been approached by a handful of bankers asking me for advice on how to handle this issue without completely offending the perpetrators. I knew the perfect person to address this problem! Read Lori’s suggestions below!  

At a young age, I became a tyrannical member of the grammar police. By high school, I knew the difference between affect and effect and knew that there are no comparative forms of “unique.” And during those days before social media and email, I became a one-woman vigilante, hell-bent to save the world from sentences that end in prepositions.

After college, I learned that the “real world” doesn’t always adhere to the rules of the classroom. Sure, I may be embraced as the office editor of all external communications, but most of my coworkers didn’t appreciate my efforts to improve their grammar, no matter how well-intentioned. So, I often suffered in silence, watching my peers misuse apostrophes and misunderstand basic subject-verb agreement.

When I became a bank marketing director last year, I had to re-embrace my inner grammar queen. I’d been chosen to be the guardian of the Bank’s brand, and part of that responsibility included protecting how we’re viewed by the outside world.

I still struggle with knowing when it’s appropriate to correct someone else’s writing, so when in doubt, I ask myself one question: Could not correcting spelling or grammar errors damage the Bank’s brand and/or impair someone’s ability to understand the communication? If either answer is yes, then it is my duty to correct and clarify. If both answers are no, sometimes it’s best to let it go and choose a different hill to die on. (Notice that I just ended a sentence with a preposition; that’s personal growth.)

There are also situations where the Bank’s brand may not be in danger, but the perpetrator’s career could be at risk. It can be difficult to just stand by and let someone lose credibility by sending unprofessional emails or giving poorly worded presentations. More importantly, if it is an individual that has a lot of potential but just needs a little guidance, my suggestion would be to address it sooner rather than later and do so privately to avoid public embarrassment. Make your points with sincerity and agree to help them going forward if your role allows.

How about you? When do you correct your coworkers’ grammatical errors, and when do you ignore them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

About the Author
Lori Walker, CFMP, is VP/Director of Marketing and Communications at Chambers Bank. She’s new to banking, having spent more than 20 years in higher education marketing and enrollment management prior to joining the Chambers Bank team in November 2017. Occasionally, she teaches small business communications and marketing courses through the Workforce & Economic Development division at NorthWest Arkansas Community College.

The Girl Banker’s Guide To Dominating An Interview

The Girl Banker’s Guide To Dominating An Interview

I have a confession. In fact, I’m not even sure some of my closest friends or coworkers know this about me. It is rather embarrassing too. Ok, here goes: I chewed gum in my first interview with a bank and I didn’t get the job. Whew! There, it’s out in the open!

It is important to note that I had no business getting that particular job. I was only 16, had zero time for a job between school, cheer and basketball, and I simply wasn’t mature enough. In fact, I’m not really sure why they even agreed to interview me! Regardless, I gained experience… and an embarrassing memory.

The interview process, while intimidating, is obviously an important piece in getting the job of your dreams. It also requires practice, preparation, and skill. I’ve been a part of the interview process on both sides of the table and one thing is for certain: practice makes perfect. I wish I could go back and tell my 16 year old self that chewing gum was basically the easiest way to get thrown out as a top contender, but I learned it the hard way and I was sure to never made that mistake again. Since that fateful day, I have interviewed for scholarships, college organizations, committees and jobs and with each interview, I got better and better.

One of the most captivating interviews I have ever been a part of was when I sat on an interview panel for a new Executive Director for a non-profit of which I am a board member. The gentleman that landed the job was by in large, the most prepared candidate I have ever seen. He came in, addressed each panel member by name, shook their hand firmly, and went on to nail the interview. His answers proved he had done his homework and as far as I know, he had been preparing for months. At the end of the interview, when asked if he had questions, he got out a notebook, asked a series of incredibly well planned out questions and took notes. When he left the room, the panel and I all stared at each other in awe. I said, “did we interview him or did he interview us?” It was an easy decision for the panel to select him for the position.

The Girl Banker’s Guide To Dominating An Interview

In order to compile this list, I combined my own interview experiences with those of community bank CEO’s, COO’s and managers that have interviewed prospective employees for front line, mid-level managerial, and executive positions. We’ve all experienced amazing interviews similar to my story above, and terrible interviews where we wanted the floor to open up and swallow us so we could end the awkward encounter. Here’s my guide to dominating your next interview:

1. Prepare | Would you run a marathon without training for it? Would you take an important exam without studying? Preparation for an interview is an incredibly crucial piece that may often be overlooked. If you retain anything from this post, it needs to be this tip!

  • Get your resume in tip-top shape. Check out Get Landed for resume tips.
  • Talk to the people you list as references so they will be prepared for a phone call and won’t be caught off guard or put on the spot.
  • Do your homework on the company and the person that is interviewing you. The company’s website or LinkedIn is a great place to start. If you find a connection that works there already, reach out to them so they can put in a good word for you.
  • Understand the company’s history, mission statement and core values. Not only will this help you in the interview but it’s a great practice to ensure they align with your own personal career goals.
  • Clean up your own social media profiles. It is 2018 people! If you think your future boss or HR representative isn’t combing through your social media feeds, think again!
  • Review possible interview questions and be prepared with genuine answers.
  • Prepare your own questions. This could include questions about your potential career path and the company’s future plans. When the question “Do you have any questions for us?” is asked, most interviewers are put off with the response, “no, I can’t think of any.” This shows disinterest or the desire to get out of the interview!
  • Have an answer for why you want the job. Prove that you are the best person they could hire!
  • Gain an understanding of what the job is worth and be prepared to negotiate salary and benefits. This is often when women unintentionally hurt themselves because they undervalue their worth. Do your homework on pay, talk to your mentors and be ready and confident for this discussion.
  • Reference a book or article that you have read that compliments your potential job. This shows that you are current with industry trends.
  • Plan your day so that you know you won’t be late and will make your interview on time! Avoid scheduling other appointments prior to the interview. Arriving 5 minutes in advance is a no-brainer, but don’t be so early that it inconveniences the interviewer. These days, more and more interviews are taking place out of the office and in a coffee shop or restaurant. Know where you are going and give yourself plenty of time to be there.

2. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have! | While most of you are probably muttering to yourself, “duh!” you might be surprised at how some people dress for an important interview!

  • Avoid trendy looks and stick to the basics. My go-to interview outfit is a blazer, button-up top, dress pants, and heels. (Flats are fine too!)
  • Try it on in advance in case something doesn’t fit or look right so you have time to find something that does. If you have any inkling that your outfit may not be the best choice, opt for the safe route.
  • Don’t let your outfit be a distraction. Whether it be a crazy print or pattern, cleavage or short skirt, your outfit should compliment your professionalism, not diminish it.

3. Check Yourself! | No one likes arrogant, cocky or unhappy people.

  • When being interviewed, show your confidence and compliment those that helped you get to where you are.
  • Smile! People like happy people!
  • Talk positive about your previous coworkers and jobs and show that you work well with others. It’s a red flag when an interview turns into a bash session.
  • DO NOT CHEW GUM!
  • Shake hands firmly. A wimpy handshake is the worst!

4. Sell Yourself | Anyone can look like a rock star on paper but an interview is what determines a hire or a pass.

  • Highlight your strengths by giving experiences from previous jobs. Experiences can be good or bad, just discuss how you overcame, grew or learned from them.
  • Minimize your weaknesses. No one is perfect and we all have weaknesses, but an interview is not the time to personally assess them!
  • For upper level jobs, have a plan that you will initiate on Day 1. Be prepared to explain the plan and discuss why you feel it is important.

Now, go dominate that interview and get the job of your dreams! And remember, don’t chew gum.

Why You Need A Passion Planner In Your Life in 2018

Why You Need A Passion Planner In Your Life in 2018

A new year means so many things- a fresh start, 365 more days to be achieve your goals, and most importantly, a new planner! I’m a “paper” planner kind of gal. You know, the kind where you actually write down appointments, events, to-do’s, etc on paper. You might be thinking, “why use a paper planner when you can use an iPhone or Outlook calendar?” Keep reading!

Full disclosure: I use both. However, there is something fulfilling to me about filling out a planner at the beginning of the year or writing down a week’s worth of to-do’s that simply can’t be replaced by typing appointments into an iPhone.

My love for planners began in college. It was easily my favorite part of a new semester. (Remember when I mentioned in My Girl Banker Story post that I am obsessed with filling things out?) I couldn’t wait to fill in the birthdays of my friends and family and scheduled school assignments and penciled in sorority functions. I’m the same way now with my professional planner and I don’t go anywhere without it.

Over the years, I have experimented with a variety of planners which had their own pros and cons. A few years ago, I had a lovely Erin Condren planner that was leopard print. While I appreciated the fabulousness of the leopard print, it didn’t exactly look super professional in a board meeting or loan committee and usually brought about a few comments from coworkers. Then one day, my pal Allyson Dyer, owner of The Twiggs Group, introduced me to the Passion Planner and I have been a fan ever since. No offense Erin Condren. I am sad I didn’t know about your planners in college or we would have been best of friends.

I recently received my third Passion Planner and over the years have convinced several of my friends and coworkers to get one of their own as well. (Additional disclosure: I was not commissioned in any way by Passion Planner for this post. This is my opinion and my opinion alone.)

Here are the reasons I’m passionate about my Passion Planner:

  • Yearly Goal Setting: At the front of the planner there is a section where you can outline Your Passion Roadmap for the year and it even expands to your 3, 5 and 10 year plan. Pro Tip: The end of the year can be so hectic with the holidays and finishing up projects. When I fill mine out, I love to set aside some quiet, alone time, grab a glass of wine, my favorite pen(s), and map out my goals for the upcoming year. It also serves as a tool to refer back to throughout the year to see how you are progressing. 
  • Weekly Personal & Work To-Do List: In my pea-sized brain, a project or task isn’t complete without marking it off a list so I love the weekly to-do lists. Plus, because there are separate columns for personal and work to-do’s,  I can keep all of my lists in one place.
  • Monthly Recap: The Passion Planner is laid out with a full monthly calendar, followed by weekly pages that allow you to schedule based on date and time, and ends the month with a recap. The recap asks questions like, What was the most memorable part of this past month? and Name three things you can improve on this upcoming month and ends with From 1-10, how do you feel overall about this past month? What a great way to evaluate how you spent your time and energy and focus on ways to improve! Some people may want to skip this section or see it as one more thing to add to your to-do list. Take it from me, don’t skip this section! Schedule an appointment to fill it out if you have to! This section actually helped me make a career move after reading back through my notes from the previous year! Fill. It. Out.
  • Mid Year Passion Roadmap: Sometimes its good to take a look mid-year at your goals and see how you have progressed. Perhaps you have strayed or taken a different course. The Your Mid-Year Passion Roadmap gives you a chance to redirect your goals and keep yourself focused through the end of the year.
  • Lots of extra note taking space in the back: This space is why I never leave my home or office without my planner. You can customize this space any way you like and it’s great to keep all of your meeting notes, project ideas, etc. handy all in one place.
  • The amazing weekly quotes: The Passion Planner is stocked full of quotes and are placed on each weekly schedule. I like to highlight my favorite ones so I can go back to them when I need motivation.
  • Passion Planner’s Social Media Presence: I love following them on Instagram for ideas on how to spruce up my weekly schedule. They show lots of great photos of other Passion Planner users that have decorated their schedules. Let’s just say my planner won’t likely be making it onto the Passion Planner Instagram account because of it’s creative drawings. But it’s cool to see what others do with theirs.
  • They are philanthropic! For every Passion Planner purchased, they donate one. How nice is that?

Side bar: filling out your planner can be even more fun with good pens, motivational stickers and tape! I get most of my planner accessories at Hobby Lobby. Did I mention how important it is to have good pens? Check these out from Amazon.

Do I have you convinced yet? While you may not get it before 2018, at least get one ordered! They have a variety of colors, sizes and even offer a non-dated version so you can start your new planner anytime during the year. Happy planning and Happy New Year from the Girl Banker!