Girl Banker in the Making: Alyssa Hermann

Girl Banker in the Making: Alyssa Hermann

Welcome back to one of my favorite blog series, ‘Girl Banker in the Making’! The purpose of this series is to highlight young women just getting their start in the banking industry as a means to motivate other young women to consider banking as a career path. The best part about ‘Girl Banker in the Making’ is that the post is authored by the young woman being highlighted in an effort to journal her own girl banker story. 

Alyssa Hermann | Commercial Lender | Presidential Bank

My name is Alyssa Hermann and I am a Commercial Lender at Presidential Bank in Bethesda, Maryland just outside of Washington, DC.

I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. I graduated from Saint Louis University with a BSBA in finance in 2013 and an MBA with an entrepreneurship concentration in 2014. As a Billiken, I had the chance to study abroad in Rome and Hong Kong, work in the Office of Admission and for the Institute of Private Business and serve as a member of Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity.

Throughout high school and undergrad my plan was to get involved with the local construction company that my grandfather started in 1972 and my dad was running at the time. I grew up around this business and worked there for seven summers during 2005 – 2012. I saw it as a great opportunity and was confident I could be successful in the male dominated business.

In the middle of my MBA program, my family decided that my dad would sell his interest in the business and exit the company. I had a front row seat to the challenging dynamics of family businesses while I worked to put “Plan B: Financial Advisor” in place.

After a financial advising internship followed by a year in an internal accounting position at a wealth management firm, I was recruited to fill a commercial credit analyst role at Parkside Financial Bank & Trust. Parkside is a community bank that was founded in 2008 and caters to the privately-held middle market commercial and industrial lending space. It was a privilege to begin my banking career surrounded by top talent and incredible mentors in an engaging culture of collaboration and transparency. I spent three years at Parkside and ultimately advanced into a Commercial Banking Officer position before relocating from St. Louis to Washington, DC in May 2018.

The DC market is heavily focused on real estate, government contracting, and non-profits compared to St. Louis which is more manufacturer, distributor, and service provider centric. My current focus in DC is continuing to learn the nuances of the market in an evolving banking climate while building out my local network.

Commercial lending was never promoted as a career path to me. I was fortunate to stumble into it and very quickly realized that it was the perfect fit for me. It gives me just the right balance of numbers and people, and it allows me the opportunity to work with businesses like the family construction company I grew up in. I love having the chance to look at a wide variety of industries. Even more, I enjoy building relationships with business leaders and working with them to structure financing that will help them achieve their goals. Serving as a strategic banking partner is exceptionally fulfilling, especially when I see the results in my local community.

While the industry is still male dominated, progress is being made toward inclusivity thanks in part to platforms like The Girl Banker. I am highly committed to the professional growth and development of young talent and women in the industry and would like to encourage anyone interested to reach out and connect.

From the Desk of a Male CEO: We’re Trying Harder Than You Think

From the Desk of a Male CEO: We’re Trying Harder Than You Think

Recently, I had a male bank CEO reach out to me regarding his frustration in getting his high performing female employees to consider promotions or accepting additional responsibilities. He emphasized that he recognized the need to promote women  within his organization and identified three specific women who, based on their skill sets, work ethic, and knowledge, were perfect for the positions he had available. I was shocked when he revealed to me that they weren’t interested in the positions and ultimately turned him down. I asked him to put his experience into a guest blog post but he requested to remain anonymous in an effort to protect his employees who turned down the opportunity. 

From the Desk of A Male CEO | We’re Trying Harder Than You Think

I grew up in a Christian home with a family of 4 in the south.  We didn’t have lavish vehicles or fancy homes, but we didn’t go without.  We lived about 10 minutes outside of town on 5 acres.  My parents kept me busy with chores, sports, and homework.  Every summer beginning at age 12 I would work for my father’s construction business mostly cleaning jobsites and doing chores that didn’t require much technical skill.  But I was extremely pleased to make the $3/hour I was paid.  He always let a friend work with me, so we had fun while we worked and learned some technical skills along the way.  I attended college at a university and continued to get my master’s degree with intentions of going into the construction business to follow my father’s footsteps.

But, like many of us in this industry, somehow, I ended up in the finance industry.  I was asked to join a group that was starting a bank.  This was an opportunity I could not turn down, and I jumped on it.  Fifteen years later, I am a 42-year-old CEO of a $1.5 billion institution with 260 employees.

Every day I turn on the news and see reports on discrimination, disparate treatment, and much more against minorities, females, and those classified due to their selection of sexuality.  For so long, I could not believe there were so many cases where powerful wealthy men took advantage of the less fortunate that belong to these categories.  First, there are some truly evil people in this world and they absolutely disgust me despite their political views or life choices.  But nowadays, the news is now so politically driven depending on which cable channel you’re tuned into that its difficult to know the actual truth.  Having said that, these news reports have seemed to give some of us REALLY bad reputations.  Do you feel like if you’re a non-racist, non-sexist, middle aged white male that you are under attack?  Often, I do.

In banking, you hire for job qualifications and attitude.  Not race or gender.  You want people that smile, say “Good Morning” when customers walk in the door, offer help to others, and do things to help people that may not be on the job description.  At our Bank, we have a lot of these people of all genders and all races that have these qualities.  In our culture, we recognize these individuals quarterly with awards (monetary and non-monetary), recognition on the Bank intranet and on social media, and once a year our big winners make it in the paper.  We run ads promoting our community bankers in local newspapers and publications to show the community how special we believe these people truly are.

So why do I feel attacked?  At every conference I attend for any specific purpose, diversity is discussed in some way.  I, as well as my management team, strive to promote females as well as minorities.  Not to check a box on our affirmative action plan, or to simply appease the Department of Labor or the EEOC, but because having diversity allows for different points of view.  We value those opinions because they help us in so many ways.  It increases our Bank’s exposure to different kinds of people.  People we manage, people we would like to obtain as customers, and people we wish to employ.  It opens our minds to different cultures that we may or may not be familiar with and in turn fosters creativity, innovation, and overall better decision making.  Sounds easy right?  I thought so until I began the search to seek out and promote high performing individuals that I thought should be challenged with more responsibility.

When I became CEO, I identified positions I felt our Bank needed.  Positions of leadership where I believed I’d identified the most qualified people in our Bank to take the reigns and lead the charge with me into the future prosperity of this Bank.  These individuals happened to be 3 females that I knew were the perfect fit for the positions.  They had been in their respective areas anywhere from 5 – 15 years, and I had heard several times that they were excited about growth opportunity.  Confidently, I approached my first star.  She was a loan officer with an abnormally large portfolio, was extremely active in the community, and volunteered to help with most anything that was needed by the Bank.  As we chatted, I began discussing a void I had discovered in the lending function.  After the explanation, I asked, “So… what I would like to do is offer you this position as well as management training including a graduate school of banking opportunity.  This will build on an already strong foundation and give you insight into not only lending, but other areas of the Bank!”.  She wanted to think about the opportunity, which I understood, and would let me know that week.  After consideration, she wanted the job, but did not want to attend any training or travel.  I simply did not understand.  So I asked, “If this position requires management training, you would decline the opportunity?”.  The answer was “Yes.  I feel like being in this job for as long as I have, that I know just about everything there is to know”.  I was shocked.  I still am, shocked.  I respectfully explained why I hoped she would embrace this challenge and explained I would continue my search.  She understood.

Over the next few weeks I approached another female with a job opportunity in a different area of the Bank.  Again, I was met with resist to change.  This time because the individual did not want to be held to sales expectations.  “What is going on?!” I thought.  Was it my approach?  Were we too tough on our expectations?  Do these people not like me?  Maybe it’s someone in their departments?  Believe it or not, the questions continue to swirl.

Finally, a few months later, I approached an African American female to take the reigns of a market and grow the customer base in the town she grew up in and currently resided.  After the previous meetings, I made the delivery of the opportunity as attractive as possible.  Even relaxing the standards that I believed she could achieve.  Again I was met with a firm, no thanks.  This time, she simply enjoyed what she was doing and wanted to remain in her current role.

Now every year I attend a meeting where groups of 20 bank CEOs, classified by bank asset size, sit around a round table and discuss issues, opportunities, specific strengths, the future of the industry, and much more.  These bank CEOs are from all over the country.  While talking to the group during a break, I brought up my recent experiences.  Most of the people in this group are 55+ in age, and I ended up getting many life lessons in what to do and what to avoid in management.  But the summary of all the discussions were that they experienced the same too some extent.  Many had succeeded in promotion of women and minorities but were adamant in explaining it had nothing to do with their gender or race, only their qualifications and attitude.

Then a thought hit me.  We have two brilliant women on our executive management team.  Let’s have them start a mentor program and begin a “Women of Banking” group.  We’ll send different groups to conferences, have get-togethers, and grow this intelligence in our Bank.  The woman I approached did not feel confident to lead this endeavor.  Her response was “I prefer not to be thought of as female, but rather as a hard worker that is part of this team”.  While disappointed, I understood her response.  But I still wanted to form a group and train for future leadership roles and show appreciation.  So often, men build relationships playing golf, hunting, or fishing and this is an opportunity to create something fun and possibly even attract customers at the same time. I approached three different females at the Bank and pitched the idea.

“What if we invite a few female business owners, or even wives of business owners and fly you all to an event, featured speaker, museum, or anything you can think of that would be entertaining and begin a women’s group that will hopefully grow.  We could hold quarterly breakfasts/lunches/dinners and update them on community activities or Bank initiatives.”

While they seemingly liked the idea, I asked for suggestions of places or events to begin the group.  To this day, even after a follow-up I have not had one suggestion.

These are problems CEOs run into much more than people think.  There is no doubt there are sexist, racist, and overall disrespectful leaders out there that give the majority of us a very bad reputation.  But for those of us that want to diversify our leadership, the majority of us, well…  we’re trying harder than you think.

This article was written as a guest blog post for the Girl Banker. The opinions of the author are his own. He has requested to remain anonymous. 

Rise With Renasant: How A Girl Banker Implemented a Women-Focused Leadership Initiative At Her Community Bank

Rise With Renasant: How A Girl Banker Implemented a Women-Focused Leadership Initiative At Her Community Bank

GUEST BLOG POST | Previous GIrl Banker of the Week, Liz Lancaster McIntyre, Director of Social Media and PR at Renasant Bank, has been busy. She recently helped launch a women-focused initiative at Renasant that was essentially her brainchild. Her passion for this project deserves recognition and I’m proud to host her as a guest blogger on the Girl Banker! 

My background isn’t in banking. Although I grew up with a father who has worked in the banking industry for more than 20 years, I never knew what he actually did for a living. Exactly a year ago, March 2018, I joined Renasant Bank as Social Media Manager. After attending ABA Bank Marketing School, I called my dad and said, “Guess what… I know what you do for a living! We can now talk ‘bank lingo’ together!”

When I told friends and family that I would be working for a bank, they were all pretty surprised because my experience had been in hospitality marketing. They were all curious if working for a bank would be as enjoyable for me as working for restaurants and hotels had been. I was curious about this as well, which is one of the reasons I took the job. I was eager to learn something new. And not to mention my now boss, John Oxford, Director of Marketing for Renasant, had an insane amount of energy while talking to him on the phone. I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical bank job experience.

Within the first six months of working for Renasant, I had several conversations with my marketing team and others in financial marketing about women and diversity in the banking industry. John called me into his office one day and said “I’ve been hearing you have these conversations. I hear you… and I think you’re the one who needs to take this, do something with it, and drive it home.” Since given the green light, we have been tirelessly working on creating a program that would not only influence the women in the bank, but also the women that we serve every day. That is how our new initiative, Rise with Renasant, was born.

Rise with Renasant is a women’s professional leadership program that consists of three initiatives – 1) internal professional development for women who work at Renasant, 2) promoting external professional development and opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and 3) outreach to young women to promote leadership and careers in banking and business. This program was developed with the idea that it would be powered by women for women.

The first initiative, internal professional development, is for women who work for Renasant Bank. More than 70% of Renasant associates are women. We, the banking industry, need to create opportunities to help develop professional growth, which will in turn help women grow professionally. Why not kick this off within our own organization? Thus our first initiative is internal.

With the help of HR, we are developing a women’s professional development series that will feature programs focused on professional growth, success, and peer networking. We are also planning to have a Rise with Renasant conference in the future that will give our women employees all over our footprint the chance to network and grow internal relationships.

The second initiative is developing and sharing external professional programs to benefit women entrepreneurs and women in business within the communities we serve. Tracey Morant Adams, Chief Community Development & Corporate Social Responsibility Officer for Renasant (who I like to call Wonder Woman), has developed a program series called ‘The Nest’ – a platform geared towards effective business development and financial technical assistance for women-owned business leaders. This program will aid in the professional and financial development of women entrepreneurs designed to educate and encourage women to intentionally plan and prepare their financial well being. Get it? “Nest egg?”

Other external programs we hope to get involved with are women leadership conferences and women in business seminars all over the Renasant footprint. We want Renasant to support women’s voices and give our associates opportunities to get out in their communities and find success.

Lastly, the part I am most passionate, is a plan for Renasant women to visit schools to speak with girls about their futures. We want girls to see that women can work in banking, business, and finance in so many different positions – marketing, human resources, analytics, technology, customer service, etc. Along with talking about their professional futures, we also want to encourage girls to transition from the popular culture idea of “mean girls” to the idea of “girls supporting girls” culture. Let’s get rid of cyber bullying and negative social media by encouraging and supporting one another online instead. When Renasant women visit the schools together and show support for one another, we can influence their ideas of supporting one another instead of being competitive and jealous. When one woman succeeds, we all succeed!

I am so thankful to be part of a company who vocally supports this initiative. Stepping into the banking industry, I had no idea what to expect. Instead of experiencing the bank stereotypes of being old-fashioned, stuffy, and boring, I have been blown away at Renasant’s passion to drive forward and grow. My boss, our marketing team, and the entire Renasant family have been supportive of this idea every step of the way.

The trend of ‘banking on women’ is just the beginning of something great happening within the banking culture. We still have so much work to do. What can you do to support your fellow girl bankers in your company? Let’s rise together!

Liz Lancaster McIntyre serves as the Director of Social Media and PR at Renasant Bank, a $12.8 billion community bank with over 190 banking, lending, wealth management and financial services offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

 

 

the Girl Banker 2019 Travel Schedule

the Girl Banker 2019 Travel Schedule

When I started this blog last year, the last thing I expected to happen was the opportunity to travel around the country advocating for women in our industry. Nevertheless, here we are and WOW! I have some incredible opportunities to meet women in banking all over the country this year and I couldn’t be more excited. One of the most rewarding pieces of this platform has been meeting girl bankers in real life and hearing their stories. If you are planning to attend any of the below events, please be sure to come say hello!

Last year’s trip to the Financial Brand Forum in Las Vegas.

 

March
3.6.19 Kansas Bankers Association Ag Convention, Breakout Session Speaker | Manhattan, KS
3.21.19 American Bankers Association Webinar, Presenter | Building Your Personal Brand
3.27.19 Empowering Women Conference, Breakout Session Presenter | Grove, OK
3.28.19 Oklahoma Bankers Association Women In Banking Committee Lunch N Learn, Keynote | Oklahoma City, OK

April
4.15.19-4.17.19 Financial Brand Forum, 7-in-7 Case Study Presenter | Las Vegas, NV
4.23.19 Wisconsin Bankers Association Women In Banking Conference, Keynote | Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

June
6.20.19 Bank Beat Webinar, Presenter | Developing Social Media Skills as a Banker

July
7.22.19-7.26.19 Graduate School of Banking Colorado, Faculty: Effective Use of Social Media | Boulder, Colorado

October
10.3.19 Missouri Bankers Association Young Bankers Leadership Conference
10.9.19 First PREMIER Bank, Motivational Speaker | Sioux Falls, South Dakota
10.10.19 South Dakota Bankers Association Women In Banking Conference, Presenter | Sioux Falls, South Dakota

November
TBD Georgia Bankers Association Women In Banking Conference, Presenter | Braselton, GA

Stay tuned for speaking updates!

Sincerely,

Natalie

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.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Cathy Owen

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Cathy Owen

In April of this year, I was honored to witness what I consider the shattering of an incredibly longstanding glass ceiling at the Arkansas Bankers Association Convention. Cathy Owen, Chairman of Eagle Bank & Trust based out of Little Rock, Arkansas, was the first woman in 128 years to be elected chairman of the board of directors of the Arkansas Bankers Association. Let me say that one more time… first woman in 128 years! In other words, Cathy is the first woman EVER to hold this position in Arkansas. I sat in the conference room literally fighting back tears (hey, this is a big deal to me) as she received a standing ovation from the crowd which was perhaps made up of 90% men. I’m certain I heard the sound of shattering glass as she approached the stage.

I have been itching for months to get a chance to talk to Cathy about a post on the Girl Banker and feel incredibly fortunate that she took the time out of a very busy schedule to answer a few questions I sent her way.  Cathy had no intentions of being a banker but started her banking career at her father’s suggestion in 1974 and hasn’t looked back. Her Girl Banker story is so inspiring and I have no doubt that her words below will leave a lasting impression on all of the Girl Bankers who read this blog!

What was the biggest challenge you have faced in your banking career?
Being a female in banking, combined along with being the majority owners/founder’s daughter, and being “given” a leadership role in our bank at a very young age have been my biggest challenges. It also didn’t help that I am petite and looked younger than I was when I started in banking. I began my career at 16 years of age, as a summer job, because my father wanted someone in the family to learn about banking. On my first day on the job, the Bank President informed me he didn’t want me there. He said he wasn’t going to “babysit some spoiled child all summer” and I was only there because my father wanted me there. He told me not to go home and report what happened each day to my father. I knew immediately I could either quit, walk out, and prove him right, or I could work hard and prove him wrong. I chose the latter option. The Bank President placed me in a closet-sized room with a shredder and piles of old documents stacked floor to ceiling, with the intention it would take me all summer to shred all of the documents. I shredded everything within a month. Then he gave me several bushel baskets of purple hull peas to shell, which I had never seen, much less shelled, but I figured it out and accomplished it in short order. He then decided, maybe I was okay to work with the rest of the staff. He let me start answering the telephone and learning about other positions within the bank. By the end of the summer, he wanted to know if I would be able to return to during Christmas break and the following summer.

For seven summers I returned to the bank to work under his tutelage. Then in 1980, at 22 years of age and less than a month after graduating from college, I received a call from my father that the Bank President had a massive heart attack and died. My father told me he needed me to run the bank. I then obtained my first loan from one of the big banks in downtown Little Rock to purchase a large block of bank stock that had belonged to the Bank President. I continued to live with my parents and nearly every penny I made went to pay down this loan. It was one of the scariest and best decisions I’ve made in my career. Through the years, I found myself continually and quietly proving myself and my role to those inside and outside of the bank. My father taught me how to think, stand tall, and present myself with confidence. Confidence doesn’t mean you know everything, but it does mean you are smart enough to recognize what you don’t know and to reach out for help when you need it.

Karen E. Segrave | KES Photo
Cathy Owen, Chairman of Eagle Bank

Have there been any other women in banking that have had a direct impact on your career or who have served as role models or mentors?
There is one female in my banking career that has served as a role model to me.  I have since shared this with her, but at the time I am sure she had no idea of her impact on me.  Betty Wilkinson, Chairman of Farmers Bank out of Greenwood, Arkansas.  She served on the Arkansas State Bank Department Board, which was the highest role I was aware of that was filled by a female banker. Early in my career, in order to open a new branch, we had to plead our case in front of the ASBD Board. It was apparent that not only was she very knowledgeable, but also when she spoke, the men listened. Watching her showed me that it was possible for women to hold the highest of roles in banking. I have been very fortunate to have many additional people serve as mentors, but they are primarily men and not within the field of banking.

If you could give women in banking one piece of advice, what would it be?
It is difficult to only come up with one piece of advice, but if I have to pick one, it would be to “treat others as you want to be treated.” This time-tested golden rule has never failed me. As people move up in their career, they often forget these basic rules. I believe this one goes beyond how you treat people. It encompasses how you think of others and how you want them to think of you, how you speak of others and how you want them to speak of you, and how you feel about other and how they feel about you.

What lasting impacts do you hope to leave on the Arkansas Bankers Association as a result of your leadership?
I hope to serve our association well and be recognized as having been a good leader during my term. I want to be a good role model for other females and hope I am able to encourage banking leadership to give more females opportunities for higher ranking positions within our industry.

For more background on Cathy’s career, check out this article in the Arkansas Banker by the Arkansas Bankers Association!