Attracting Young Talent To Your Bank
In this week’s show, we sit down with Kevin Scott, founder of ADDO Worldwide, and Neil Stevens, CEO of Oconee State Bank in Athens, GA. They discuss the importance of investing in your bank’s younger leaders, attracting them to your organization, and how to cast a vision that inspires both them and your entire bank.
Learn more about ADDO Worldwide at www.addo.is
Intro: Helping community bankers grow themselves, their team and their profits. This is the Community Bank Podcast.
Caleb: Coming to you from Atlanta, Georgia this is the podcast by bankers for bankers. Thanks for joining the conversation today. My name is Caleb Stevens. I work in our business development group here at CenterState, and also serve as a producer of this podcast. Our usual host Eric Bagwell is out of the office this week, but will return soon, but Tom, we’ve got you with us in the studio again today. It’s good to see you. How are you?
Tom: Caleb, I’m doing well, and it’s good to get you on this side of the microphone for once.
Caleb: I’m honored that you let me go on the air. I’m usually the guy behind the scenes.
Tom: You are, you’re sort of the guy behind the box and [crosstalk 00:48] the sound halfway [crosstalk 00:50] and maybe a little bit entertaining once in a while.
Caleb: That’s right. Well, I appreciate it. We’ve got two great hosts, but I’m honored to fill in today. Thank you for joining us for our six episode and thanks to all who have become regular listeners. Seriously, we really appreciate it. We’ve enjoyed creating conversations that bring value to you, the community banker and whether that’s culture and leadership or digital banking or your bond portfolio or funding, whatever the topic, the goal is always to help you become a better community banker. If you’re listening to us on iTunes, Spotify, or our website, and you haven’t subscribed, it would be easier for you and better for us if you made us part of your regular feed.
So hit that subscribe button, so you never miss an episode and if you like what you hear, we would be honored if you gave us a five-star review on iTunes. This helps us get the show out to more bankers like yourself. Well, Tom, we are right in the middle of earnings call season for our friends who work with publicly traded banks, and I’m sure on these calls, there’s no shortage of questions regarding forbearance, referrals, credit quality issues, the outlook for the economy. So, give us a little bit of context for what’s going on right now in the banking industry and the economy as a whole.
Tom: Well, you’re right, Caleb, with the earning season’s coming out, everybody is really focused on, you know, what are going to be the loan loss reserves and the provisions for that and how the whole loan book itself looks. You know, well, we did talk about some challenges earlier in the commercial real estate field in particular. That’s going to flow through, into some of these calls and the outlook you know, for banking as we move into the third quarter, into the end of the year. We’re recording this right now after the fed meeting of yesterday, which was Wednesday, and so you can never say a fed meeting is boring or sort of run of the mill, but this one probably fits the definition as close as anyone did. It was really kind of a placeholder meeting, no change in policies.
The fed basically said, and chairman Powell said, you know, we’re going to continue to be all hands on deck and do what we can to support the economy. A lot of concern from the fed as far as just the public health crisis, you know, with the virus, you know, they’re as much concerned about that now as they are about inflation or about full employment. So it seems like, you know, as long as we have these spiking viruses, they are going to be full on as far as providing the accommodation they can provide, and that leads to sort of the second issue that’s kind of driving the market right now, is the political football that the latest stimulus bill has become, and so you’ve got a lot of expiring benefits one, namely being that 600 dollar a week, supplementary benefit for unemployment that essentially is expiring this week and so, you know, there’s going to be a real drop off in kind of benefits, you know, to the consumer if some of that is not renewed in some form or fashion, and so it’s going through into the Senate right now.
The house already passed a three and a half trillion dollar measure. The Senate is looking more at about a trillion dollars. So there’s obviously a big difference in the two houses, and so, you know, even in the best of times, this stuff is hard to come to an agreement, and I think, you know, with the environment that we’re in now is going to be even more difficult, but, you know, the longer it goes on without a bill, without something kind of renewing these expiring stimulus measures, I think that’s just going to create another headwind for the economy, and so that’s why you see, I think the treasury market’s rallying again today to the lows that it’s a kind of through the lows that kind of established the range over the last three to four months.
So, to me, it’s just going to be a real challenge that V-shape recovery is probably, you know, going to go by the boards. We’re looking more to, you know, just kind of a, more of a struggling rebound at this point, and you know, that’s a benefit to treasury, benefit to rates, but it’s going to be a struggle for our, you know, all manner of industries and it’s certainly especially banking.
Caleb: That next round of stimulus. I mean, do you see that jostling period between the Senate and the house taking a little bit of time? I mean, it’s funny you say once proposing 3 trillion give or take one’s about a trillion and those numbers are so large, our brains can’t quite get our heads around it. You know, one and three doesn’t sound like a huge chasm, but 2 trillion dollars difference is enormous.
Caleb: So, do you see that debating period going on for a while? I know it’s probably hard to forecast at this point, but any thoughts on that?
Tom: Well, and just sort of how the process works. The Senate first has to pass a bill, and so let’s say that trillion dollar bill that they’ve been banding about gets passed, and then it goes to a conference committee where they try to hash out the differences with the house, and like you said, three and a half trillion versus a trillion there’s going to be a lot of hashing out that has to be done to get that accomplished. So, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a speedy process, and so I think you’re going to see some of these measures that were passed under the cares act expire, you know, obviously July 31, a lot of them expire, and so I think we’re going to go by that. It’s just a matter of, you know, how long it takes to sort of renew some type measure. You know, it’s probably going to be more than a trillion. It’s going to be less than three and a half, you know, where it falls in the middle, you know, that’s going to be, you know, all negotiated in the next couple of weeks.
Caleb: Excellent, and for folks that don’t know, you send out a market update couple of times a week, three times a week. If folks haven’t subscribed to it or don’t know where to get that how can they find that and hear from you your updates more often?
Tom: Well, they can go onto our CSP correspondent, you know, website. There’s a link there where you can subscribe. You can drop me an email at tfitzgerald@centerstatebank. I can sign you up as well. So yeah, please do that. Like you said, I kind of put out three days, you know, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, put out a piece that kind of gives an outlook for where we see the economy and where we see rates going. So, try to keep it short and sweet so you can guys can get on with the rest of your day. So, you know, I think it’s very topical and certainly, you know, subscribe either at those two venues and we’ll get you on the newsletter.
Caleb: Yeah. It’s a great update, and so head over to our website, if you haven’t signed up for that. Well, folks, you’ve heard the word time and time again, millennials, and depending on who you are, you probably have different feelings about that word. Millennials give or take we’re born from the early eighties through the late nineties, and for the most part are all now in the working world. We were talking earlier, Tom, about how Gen Z is kind of the generation coming up behind the millennials who are now in college and about to enter the working world as well, and so we have two guests on today that are going to help us think through the big question, how do you attract them into community banking?
It’s an issue that many community bankers are facing today, but then even more so once you get them into your banks, how do you lead them and how do you inspire them? So, our first guest today is Kevin Scott. He is the co-founder of Addo Worldwide, a leadership consultancy based here in Atlanta and Kevin’s an awesome guy. He works with some of the biggest brands in the country, home Depot, Chick-Filet the Baltimore Ravens, helping them develop their younger leaders, and he himself has been named one of Atlanta’s top 40, under 40 leaders by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s an author, I want to say three books, and he was a wealth of knowledge, Tom. We really enjoyed that conversation.
Tom: Yeah, that was a great interview, and you know, sitting here as sort of a late arriving boomer it’s interesting to, you know, you sort of look at millennials and say, boy, they’re just you know, they’re an unknown quantity in a lot of ways to the bankers that are making the hiring decisions. So, I think Kevin provides a lot of interesting insight and some tips to kind of help navigate that process as smoothly as it can be.
Caleb: Yeah, and our second guest today is my own father, Neil Stevens. He’s the president of Oconee State Bank over in the Athens, Georgia area, and he’s really passionate his bank about culture and specifically developing younger leaders, and so after we talk with Kevin, we’re going to play an interview I did with my dad about a week ago, and just getting his thoughts on, at a street level on a day-to-day basis. What does it look like to develop the younger leaders in your bank and give them opportunity and to challenge them and to have them be part of your organization’s overall vision and mission. So, without further ado here is our conversation with Kevin Scott. Kevin, Scott, how are you? It’s good to be talking with you today.
Kevin: Hey Caleb, good to see you.
Caleb: How long have we known each other? Five years or so. I think I met you when I was interning at Chick-fil-A in college, and I got to sign to work with your company for the summer. I learned a lot, and man, that’s hard to believe that was, I guess, 2015 or something like that.
Kevin: Yeah. There’s so much fun. Are you getting the chance to impact students across the country and help build Chick-fil-A brands. So, a lot of fun.
Caleb: Well, tell us everything that you do at Addo, maybe a little bit of your backstory and what do you do, and by the way, Addo, your company name, what does that mean? How do you spell it? Give us a little bit of that context as well.
Kevin: A great question. So, Caleb Addo is A-D-D-O it’s the Latin word for inspire, and that’s our goal. We want to inspire people today to impact tomorrow. Sounds like a nonprofit mission statement, but we’re a for-profit company that wants to help organizations build leaders and fuel purposeful growth, and it’s interesting because Caleb, that growth for them happens internally with their people, with programs like corp custom corporate universities employee training, but it also happens externally as a brand building our employee recruitment mechanism.
For example, we create a Chick-fil-A Leader Academy in partnership with Chick-fil-A. It’s a program that’s been in over a thousand high schools across the country that helps Chick-Filet attract talent. We do a program with the Baltimore Ravens called the Baltimore Ravens Leadership lnstitute, that partnership with T. Rowe Price, and it allows T. Rowe price and the Baltimore Ravens to build positive brand affinity and also help recruit talent. So generally, because we’re developing leaders, most people only think internally, but we’re also doing it externally as well.
Tom: Kevin, let me ask you, it’s kind of funny we were talking before we started recording and, you know, Caleb sort of is at the leading edge of the millennials. I’m sorry, at the tail end, you’re at the leading edge, I’m sort of at the tail end of the boomer generation. In fact, I’ve just kind of, you can see, I kind of succumb to reading glasses during this quarantine. So, it’s interesting we sort of kind of cover several different generational aspects in this conversation today, but you know, when you speak to bankers, what are some of the common mistakes that you see them, you know, making in terms of culture and trying to millennials into their organizations?
Kevin: Yeah, it’s interesting because there are a lot of stereotypes people think of Tom, when they think of millennials. They think of people that they’re driven by purpose, which is true. They think of a group that can often be entitled or have these high expectations. They also think of people that want a ping pong tables and beer fridges and these kinds of elements in an office, but it’s interesting, the UNC Kenan-Flagler School of Business studied millennials and they asked them, what is the number one thing you’re looking for in a job? Number one thing, and it’s not flexible time. It’s not more money.
It’s not a lot of things you’d expect. 67 percent said the number one thing they’re looking for is the opportunity for personal development. Meaning when they’re looking for an employer, they want somebody that’s going to invest in them. That’s going to pour into them. Tom, I know you’ve been in banking for a while, but for those who’ve done that let’s go way back. Traditionally the bigger larger banks used to have these very robust training programs. They offered a lot of things, you come out of college, you go to the big bank, you goes through the program and through different downturns and also the fact that, you know, they were training bankers who ended up going to competitors.
A lot of those programs have gone away and I believe banking has lost in a lot of ways that competitive edge, because as individuals coming out of school are looking for somebody who’s going to develop them. Most of the time, they’re not seeing that at a bank. They’re looking at somebody who may give them a good check, make them some good opportunities, but they really are starving for that development.
Tom: Right, and I kind of wonder when you’re recruiting millennials or, you know, obviously the banking industry is not, you know, one of the sexiest ones out there, and so you’re sort of trying to kind of compete with, you know, more of those high-tech industries, some of the you know, more of those industries that are kind of really more relevant to millennials. So, do you see a banker sort of, kind of struggling to bridge that gap to try to make their industry a little bit more enticing to a millennial versus that kind of that stereotype of the stayed working environment that, you know, banking seems to have?
Kevin: Yeah. I’m going to be a little bit bold here and those that I actually believe that bankers have to quickly thrown in the towel and raise the white flag and said, well, banking just not going to be exciting. We’re just not going to make it exciting if people want to do it. Okay let’s use a company that we’re all familiar with, Chick-Fil-A. How many people are really excited about working in fast food? How many people want to go fry chicken, yes. I know a lot of colleges specifically around the Southeast, if you’re in a business school around the Southeast, like the ultimate job is moved Atlanta and get a job at Chick-fil-A corporate, yes.
They’re in an industry that really shouldn’t be exciting, but what they figured out how to do is to connect often mundane activities to more meaningful outcomes, and I think for bankers, they just have to do a better job at connecting the dots. You know, banking, well, number one, it’s a really important industry, but it matters everybody has to have a bank. Everybody is trying to build wealth and prosperity and they want to do it for their families, and bankers have the opportunity to participate in that. They just aren’t really good at telling that story. They’d much rather show you a spreadsheet than tell you a story about life they’re impacting. So, it’s a mentality shift that bankers have to go through to try to remake that image to recruit top talent.
Caleb: I remember Kevin hearing you speak last fall at one of the GBA events here in here in Atlanta and you made this analogy, you said to a group of CEOs. All right. How many of you guys, when you were in college, took a class that you thought was a waste of time, and everyone’s hand went up because you know, we’ve all had that one class that would just like, man, why am I doing this? Like, this is not related at all to my major, or what do I want to do with my life? So, this is just silly, you know, I’m wasting my time here, and then you asked a follow up question.
You said, how many of you guys pass the class? Pretty much everybody’s hand went up again, and you made this example of you pass that class not because you were passionate about it per se, but because you knew there was a bigger meaning envisioned to why you were in that class. In other words, your aim was to graduate and to graduate that was one of the classes you just had to make it through, and you said this really, really powerful statement, you said when the vision is clear, the mundane becomes meaningful and then you said, notice, I didn’t say fun.
Every job is going to have moments days that aren’t fun and millennials, we can often get wrapped up into, well, I’m just not passionate about this or I’m just not making an impact and it’s like, well, yeah, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re still in training. You’re still learning, you know, you’re only a few years into your career. So, talk about the importance of having a vision, and if you’re a leader and you’re leading millennials, casting that vision and connecting those dots like you were just talking about.
Kevin: Yeah. I mean, we work with a lot of especially specifically smaller banks. We’ve worked with one out of West Virginia that has 13 branches about a billion dollar a year, a billion dollars bank, and they’re all trying to come up with a vision, and what happens, this is really bad in banking is that visions are made by committees who then want to water it down and the it department wants to say, well, we’ve got to include our digital offering and our vision statement, and the marketing group says, we want to do this, and the retail group says this, and what happens so often is we end up with a vision statement that is not very compelling. Here’s what I have learned.
The companies with a clear and compelling vision. They outkicked their coverage. They in a lot of ways end up having disproportionate market share because they have got both their customers and their employees to champion this thing as if it’s their own and I think so it’s the first thing you got to do is have that clear vision. The second thing you have to do is then connect the dots and that’s really the hard work when it comes to leading millennials it’s not that you have to do everything differently. You just have to say, hey, this is how your task plays into the overall goal of what we’re trying to accomplish here. Yeah, you may be auditing files. You may be cold calls. You may be doing whatever you’re doing. This is how it plays into our overall vision as a bank and as an organization.
Tom: Let me ask you Kevin too, about just millennials in general you know, in the banking industry, there’s some stereotypes about millennials, you lead a team of millennials and so you obviously you’re around them on a day-to-day basis and technically you are one yourself. So, can you just talk about some of those common stereotypes and are they true or is there some kind of misconception with some of those stereotypes that we know?
Kevin: They are true. Let me take one step back as Tom, you said you’re in the boomer generation, is that correct?
Tom: Yeah, the tail end of the boomers.
Kevin: So, here’s the thing. If you take a whole step back, I’m going to do this really quickly, but you notice that what happens in each generation, these like stereotypes they have, they usually come as a reaction or a course correction from a previous generation. All right, really quickly. The greatest generation, the silent generation, that generation, this is world war two, this is coming out of the depression. They’re all about survival, just surviving. So, what the boomers wanted to do outside of that is we don’t just want to survive. We want to thrive, and that was a positive. The downside for boomers is they became workaholics because they were trying to climb that corporate ladder, trying to move up.
All right. So, then they become workaholics. What is gen X want to do? gen X wants boundaries. They want work-life balance, and so they begin to try to carve out these times, but what they ended up having is in an effort to do that, they were trying to say, I’m going to do work at this time, and I’m going to do things that are purposeful at a different time. All right, let’s get to millennials. Millennials said, if I’m doing purpose outside of work, I don’t want 40, 50, 60 hours a week of my life to be something that’s not purposeful, and so what millennials begin to do is blur the lines. There’s a famous song a few years ago called blurred lines. They’re trying to say, we want purpose and work together.
We want them to come at the exact same time, and that is where we’ve had to do this harder work with millennials of connecting these activities to the purpose, because what can seem as lazy or entitled or disengaged is really millennials just saying, okay, I’m unwilling to do this until I understand why it matters, and here’s an interesting thing though, because millennials have been all about impact and maybe they haven’t chosen some of the more traditional professions. We’re actually seeing a course correction in gen Z. Now gen Z is born like think like 1997.
So, some gen Z is entering the workforce now, they’re saying, you know what? I don’t want all this purpose. I actually want to move out of my parents’ house before I’m 40 years old. I will hike to actually be able to afford to have a home and do these things, and so they’re actually looking a little bit differently than millennials, and so it’s really interesting to see that each of these stereotypes usually comes as a rejection or a correction of what’s happened in the generation before.
Tom: Wow. That’s really fascinating, and like you said, you know, we were talking earlier about how the, you know, this is sort of a focus on millennials, but really, it’s gen Z that is now in college and they’re the ones that are sort of looking around, you know, what industry, what, you know, what do I want to do with my life after college, where the millennials are pretty much already into that, into that work generation.
Kevin: Yeah, and Tom, I’ll just see that this is just one thing I think is key. I don’t love when these millennial experts come in and tell us, we’ve got to totally change everything we do to accommodate millennials. I believe we have to change some things we do, but not everything, and if any industry specifically banking runs so hard to make a course correction, that is just going to completely accommodate millennials 5, 10 years later, they’re going to be having the same challenge because then they’re going to be saying, well, now how do we reach gen Z?
So, one of the things that’s clear for banks is to, a great communicator, Andy Stanley says it this way, Marry the mission and date the methods, and so what are the missional pieces of our bank that we’re not willing to change? What are the things that we are going to stay true to, and then what methods are we willing to adapt to make our bank more millennial friendly, and this is not just as employees. This is as customers as well.
Caleb: That’s great. Well, Kevin, talk a little bit about what you guys are doing for us at CenterState, and then give us just some info. If folks want to get in touch with you, bankers who are listening, and they’re saying, wow, you know, you’re speaking my language, I’m having some of these same challenges. How can they reach out to you for some help and for some training in terms of developing their younger leaders.
Kevin: Yeah, that’s great. So, we love CenterState we helped develop CenterState University, like the branding around that, what it looks like or helping supplement what’s already happening, which is really great in the area of what would traditionally Caleb, be called soft skills development, but it’s those intangibles. By the way, I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this or not, but survey after survey CenterState has always been a best place to work. One of the biggest areas that CenterState employees were looking for is that personal development. Okay, you’re teaching me how to do my job.
Well, you’re supporting me, help me develop as a person. That’s what we’re coming alongside and doing helping with this leadership at central courses. Caleb, here’s what we’re doing different for CenterState and for other banks is right now, life is different. So normally training is I’m sitting face to face and I’m looking in a room and we’re developing people and that can’t happen the way that it used to, and so we’ve got a lot of online courses we’re offering now to around a couple of my books.
You can go to kevinpaulscott.com, or you can go to our Addo website at addo.is and we’re pivoting. So that groups either in person or remotely can go through content together over 7,8, 10 weeks, and really help become accountability groups, challenge each other and we’re seeing that become really important specifically for the retail branches as a way to continue their development.
Caleb: That’s great. We appreciate all your time today, Kevin, thank you for sharing a little bit of your experiences as a millennial, but also leading them as well, and I know there’s a lot of bankers who listened to this podcast, and I hope that they’ll reach out to you for some advice, tips, training in ways to continue to develop the younger leaders, especially in a crazy world where we’re all having to adapt and work remotely embrace the digital life. These are all hard things, but necessary things, and it’s kind of where we were all going, but this has kind of accelerated know that transition to more digital formats and you know, it’s hard cause you lose that relational piece and that’s really important, but it seems like you guys have done a great job of adapting and pivoting your business to fit what we are today. So, we appreciate your time and it was a blast.
Kevin: Hey, thank you so much, Tom. Good to be with you guys and hope to see you in person soon.
Caleb: Well, that was a great interview from Kevin. Like we said earlier, wealth of knowledge, really interesting conversation. I think Tom.
Tom: It really was, and like I said earlier, you know, you’ve got, you know, a lot of the boomer types that are making these decisions. So, I think any type of, you know, insight that they can get in into how to motivate, you know, millennials and how to attract millennials into the banking industries is so useful for us right now.
Caleb: Well, they land plane for us on this episode here is my conversation with my own dad, Neil Stevens, president of Oconee State Bank, in Athens Georgia. Well, dad, it’s great to be sitting down with you today. Never thought I’d be interviewing my own father on a bank podcast. Fact, when I was in college banking was the last thing I said, I’d be doing. I thought I’d be in the startup world or marketing world, and four years later here, I am working at CenterState and having my own dad as a client with the correspondent relationship, and so want to start with this you know, you’ve been in banking your whole career since you were 22, 23 or so coming out of Mercer, and when you were my age, 25, 26, or even into your mid 30’s what was it like coming up as a young banker trying to make it, you had big aspirations, you inspired to at least be a commercial banker, but maybe even run a group or a bank one day and which you are. What was that like, and what were some of the attitudes toward younger folks when you were just coming up in banking?
Neil: Yeah, a really different world today than it was when I started back in 1989, when I graduated, they had training programs at two or three of the larger banks, and the real key to upward mobility was to try to get into one of those training programs, and I was blessed enough to get into the CNS Bank, Citizens and Southern National Bank. It was an Atlanta headquartered bank. I was able to get into their training program right out of college and it was stodgy. It was suits, it was ties, it was not ask a lot of questions if you want it to be moved up into, you know, the next rank you had to really give a lot of hours a lot of time spend you know, a lot of your working hours doing what you may not really enjoy doing and not asking a lot of questions.
There was not a lot of meaning behind it. It was more your manager saying, you know, don’t ask questions, just do what I tell you to do, and that’s the way you moved up, and if you were really good and got noticed and built good relationships with those superiors got in, good with them, did a good job. That’s many times where you would get the opportunities, but a little bit different today than it was then.
Caleb: Yeah. One company you work with where you had to wear your jacket just to get up and like use the restroom, something like that.
Neil: Well, one institution that was downtown, Corporate Banking World, and if you left your office, not only did you have to wear a suit and tie, but you had to have your coat on when you left your office, that was what was expected.
Caleb: Well, that’s a good segway into what I want to ask you about with you now being CEO of the County State Bank and culture and leading many millennials inside your bank. There’s a misconception that, well, if you want to attract millennials, you just got to get out bean bags and have free lunch now, flexible work hours and have coffee available, and while none of those things are necessarily bad and maybe those are attractive in some cases it’s more cosmetic and I like the approach that your banks taken where you’ve said, we want to start with our vision and our mission and our values and what are we about and what are we trying to accomplish, and just as how you were coming up, when you were a young banker those things really weren’t shared with you.
You didn’t know the vision; you weren’t really inspired. It was just sort of put your head down and do what you’re told, work hard, build relationships and kind of climb the ladder. Today many millennials that I know are looking for that meaning and that purpose and wanting to be a part of something, and that, for us, that’s really inspiring. Talk about how you’ve tried to implement some of those things at your bank.
Neil: Well, you’re right about the fact that cosmetics are important to a degree just like the suit and tie, I don’t think we could attract many millennials if we required them to wear a suit and tie and leave their office and put their jacket on every day. So certainly, the look of the building, the feel, the way things are presented, the culture pieces the hip cool things, all that is good if you can do them, but they’re not lasting. They’re very superficial over time, those wear off, and what we have found as millennials, as you mentioned earlier, the ones that worked for us really get behind a vision and a mission and something where they feel that they can bring value and create meaning and there’s purpose in what they’re doing.
We even see that; I think one of the big keys is to give millennials the opportunity to serve outside of the organization. For instance, there’s a number of nonprofits around the Oconee Athens area, whether it’s extra special people or Mercy Health Center, several opportunities where our millennials find their passion to be and we allow them to have work time off, you know paid time to go volunteer in those organizations.
Not only does that help our community, that’s one of our values this community, but it also allows them the opportunity to feel like they’re giving meaning back. So, I think it does start with the vision and mission of the company, because they want to work for a company that they feel like they are aligned with from their personal vision and mission and values, but it also extends beyond that to giving them the freedom, to serve in the community and find their meaning and purpose there.
Caleb: To backtrack with when you were coming up, would you say there’s still probably some value though, too? I mean, there are weeks where you, you know, maybe you just have to put your head down and work hard and you know, I would imagine you wouldn’t want to slingshot so much to the other end of the spectrum where it’s, ah, you know, we’re just real chill and, you know, flexible, and none of those things are bad, but there is an element when you’re in banking, and when you’re in a competitive landscape that you do have to work hard, you do have to grind it some days.
There’s some days where you’re working, you know, past when you normally might be. Talk about that tension of how do you hold both of those things together. If we’re not, you know expecting you to wear a suit and tie and have your jacket on to go to the bathroom and shut up and do what you’re told, but at the same time you know, we’re not just, hey, do what you want and we’re flexible and purpose, and all those things are good, but there is an element of, hey, we will also want to have a culture of discipline and a culture of focus and resiliency and toughness because, you know, we’re here to grow and we’re here to win. How do you as a leader, try to inspire your millennials to kind of carry both of those things, purpose, but also real focus and relentlessness and toughness?
Neil: Well, I believe that it really starts with the hiring process. It starts with selecting those millennials who we like to say that have three things. Number one, they love their work and love what they do, and sometimes you don’t know as a millennial, what you love yet until you get in and do it, but loving what you do, secondly, excelling at your role and number three, serving humbly, and I think you’ve got to find individuals who have drive, who have ambition, but they are still, you know, have a degree of humility, and so it starts with the hiring process, and if you hire right, what you find is you find millennials who don’t mind accountability, and then when you set you know, a high standard, and we have a high standard of excellence in our company, we expect a lot we set that standard, but then we give the flexibility to meet those, meet that standard, the way that that millennial feels that they can meet it.
So sometimes that might mean they leave at two o’clock on a given day and, you know, go work out if they need to, but the next night they may be working until 9 or 10 o’clock in the evening to get the job done because we hold them accountable to a standard, but at the same time, we really ask them to bring solutions to the table, and that means giving them the autonomy to figure out those solutions, and so, you know, if you just chill every day and you, you know, come in and it’s just a kind of a fun place to work, but we’re not hitting standards. You can’t last very long, but I believe all of that starts with hiring the right people on the front end, who have that drive, who have the love for their work, who have the ambition to excel, but at the same time want to serve humbly and that align with the vision and mission of the company.
Caleb: How do you find those folks, because when I was coming out of UGA I knew a few friends that were going into banking, but it wasn’t into community banking. It was to Chase Bank in Manhattan or it was, you know, Deutsche Bank or City Group, or one of those big, big banks you know that’s in Atlanta or New York or Chicago or some big city, and a lot of times millennials feel like, well to get my start, I got to go work at one of those really big banks, get some good training work there for a few years, you know, really work my tail off and then I’ll find something else down the road, and that works for a lot of people, but I remember I was at a GBA conference back in October, and one of the CEOs down there in Statesboro raised his hand and asked a question when there was a session that we were having on millennials and how to keep millennials local, and his issue was, he said, I have plenty of young people in my town that want to go into banking.
They just don’t want to go into banking in Statesboro, Georgia. They want to go to Atlanta or Chicago or New York, and, you know, they’re coming out of Georgia Southern and they’re not really planning to stick around. You’re kind of in that same boat being here right next to Athens with UGA and the Terry College of Business, And I know firsthand a lot of folks coming out of the Terry college want to go to the big city, have the big city opportunity, the big city experience, and while that is certainly a great path for a lot of people there’s some that it may be better to stick around locally and to go into community banking right off the bat. Talk about the advantages of starting your career or spending some early years of your career at a smaller institution, like Oconee State Bank or many of the community banks around the country.
Neil: Well, you’re right. I think particularly the University of Georgia and you know, some of the great programs they have many times they, they really tout and push the big consulting firms and, you know, the Atlanta big city type experience, and honestly, if you have an individual who’s mind is set on that and that’s what they want to do. Many of the millennials we hire is not necessarily out of college is after they have tried that experience, and then they determined this life is not for me.
They determined that, you know, focus on you know, their quality time is better because a lot of the larger firms, I’m not trying to say anything negative about them. It’s just the facts that they will work you 70, 80, 90 hours a week, and it can lead to the brink of burnout, and many times we can find millennials who have been with the bigger institutions in the big cities who are looking to get back into a community type environment, but for those many of them, they don’t want that to begin with, but I think what you have to do, what we have to do as bankers and the industry in general, and as a whole, we’re talking about this regularly and that is attracting, you know, young talent for the future and giving them the opportunity because we have to be thinking about our successors and we want good solid successors so you have to make it attractive.
I think you have to make the opportunity attractive. It does help, the area you’re in does help. The Athens Oconee community happens to be one of those areas that a number of even young people want to live. It’s a great place for, for millennials, for young families. There are some places in the State that’s probably harder to attract or retain young people, but a sense of community I think is important, and to emphasize to them the importance of being part of the community, building relationships in the community, and as time goes on, they can use those relationships to be the building blocks to their career as they gain business, and who knows over time become the local community bank CEO as time goes on we’ve seen that happen a number of times, but I think it really boils down to making it attractive to them doing some of the things we talked about earlier in terms of vision and mission, but also realizing some you’re just not going to get, they’re going to go to the big city and try to spread their wings and some that’ll stick and they’ll continue down that path.
Some will get tired of it. I mean, I can tell you for me personally, I did that when I worked for Wachovia Bank for a while in their corporate division, and it was great for a few months, but after a while it got really old having to, you know, all the travel and everything else that came along with it, and that’s how many of the millennials today feel, and then were able to get them early and get them back into the community.
Caleb: I’ve heard you say before that the stereotype, another stereotype in here, but the silly circus talk about community bankers is they’re stale, frail, male and pale.
Neil: That’s right.
Caleb: You know, and you talk about finding young people, and I guess my question is why to you is banking fun? I mean, what makes it attractive to you personally? What gets you up every morning and you say, wow, like this is fun, and I’ve learned this over the past year being at CenterState. I think a lot of people don’t truly know how fun banking can be until you get into it because you’re helping different companies. You’re seeing how the economy works. You’re getting to dive into different decisions. Business owners are trying to face every day, especially now with COVID. I mean, how do you navigate a pandemic? How do banks play a role with PPP and helping the local economies thrive? So why is banking fun for you? If there’s a millennial out there, who’s thinking, I don’t know, maybe banking, maybe not, you know why is it truly a fun industry to be part of?
Neil: Well, number one you get exposure to a wide range of industries. Not only do you get a lot of exposure to banking and a lot of individuals just think about a bank and they just think of the place where you go get a check cashed and they have this of this person sitting in the bank, just waiting for someone to walk in and cash a check, or to ask for a loan, and that was the case years and years ago they would line up to come see their banker today. It’s a whole different world. You have to learn how to sell well. You have to build relationships. You have to go out and find new customer opportunities.
So, it’s building your sales skills, but also you learn about the inner workings of the bank and how a bank actually operates, and there’s a lot of moving parts to a financial institution. In addition to that, you have the opportunity to see a variety of industries, small companies, but for me, and I think for a number of people that I know that are in banking, particularly from me, the actual business of banking is a means to an end. It’s no different than if I were in manufacturing.
I thought a long time, you know, years ago that I would get into hospital administration, whatever the role may be that you play and whatever industry, I think that’s a means, at least from me to help mark the lives of other people and change and have an impact on the lives of others, through the business of banking, and that’s what we teach at our institution is not just about cashing that check or making the loan or building that relationship to say I’ve got a new customer, which is all great, but it’s what you do for that customer that literally can make or break their business or their financial future, and so you mentioned PPP.
We had a number of companies in the PPP process that came back to us just with notes and with testimonials about how they would not be in business had it not been for us moving as quickly as we did. Many banks couldn’t move as quickly as we did. We happen to move quickly, and so that was served as motivation to the people within our company who worked for us, and so that was fun. It’s a sense of reward when you gain that sense of accomplishment by helping someone else accomplish their financial goals and dreams.
Caleb: That’s great. So just to wrap up here, we mentioned at the beginning, the importance of vision and mission, and really explaining to the millennials the why. You know, they’ll work hard, but they want to know why they’re doing it, and then what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish? Talk briefly about the vision and mission of Oconee State Bank and what you guys are trying to accomplish here in Georgia?
Neil: Well, many of you know, Jim Collins and a book he wrote Built to Last, he talked about big, hairy audacious goals, and our goal for Oconee County state bank is to be Georgia’s most remarkable community bank. Now, there are a lot of definitions that you could put to that as how do you accomplish that? What does that mean? We have three basic things that we’ve outlined, and if we accomplish those three things, we feel that we will be Georgia’s most remarkable community bank, but that’s like the scoreboard that is the end result. That’s a lag indicator.
What we focus on every day. It begins with charting our course, and that is where we’re going and making sure that there’s clarity around where we’re going and that every single team member knows and appreciates that clarity and knows exactly where we’re headed, and that allows you to select the right team members who want to go in that direction, and we call that it’s charting our course, and so that’s our vision, mission and values, and for us, the vision of our bank is to be essential to the lives, businesses and communities we serve, which means that we want to create such an experience that they view us as an institution, a financial institution, a bank that the community just can’t live without that essential, and how will we accomplish that is through what our mission statement is, and that is to create remarkable experiences that significantly mark the lives of others, and so when you wake up every day, knowing you have the chance to go mark a life in a significant way, and this could be a life of, we have six stakeholders.
It’s customers, you can mark the customer’s lives. What about the team members that you work around or close to, fellow team members, people that work for you, with you. Our vendors, we feel like, you know, making a difference in a mark in the life of our vendors is a great way to bring value to them. Our shareholders of course, is a big part of that. Got to have a return for our shareholders, but also bringing value to our regulator, our regulatory agencies as well as our community, and when we take that holistic approach to bringing value and making a difference that’s what we’re about.
That’s the vision and mission of our company, and when it starts there and you have people, millennials, and even, you know, those who are well in their career, when they believe and get on board with that, and they align with that vision and mission, then some great things can be accomplished. Otherwise, I think you can get off course easily. There’s no why behind what you’re doing. There’s a lot of confusion, a lack of clarity and that can lead to a less optimal results in the long-term. So, we feel that vision, mission and our values, we have seven values, which are our code. That’s the things you just don’t violate, and that’s what you use to make your decisions where we feel like those three areas as a starting point of creating and charting the course.
Caleb: That’s great. Well, that gets me really excited and really fired up to be part of the banking industry here in Georgia, and I’m excited to see how the bank continues to grow and hopefully be successful here in the years to come. So, I appreciate you and being on and sharing some wisdom with us.
Neil: It was an honor to be here and even more of an honor for you to interview me. So, thank you so much.
Caleb: Well, thank you, Kevin and my dad for being on, we really appreciate you guys sharing your insights on developing your younger leaders, and that was really fun. Two conversations and we hope you got something out of it. So, Tom, tell us the next few weeks here, what else, what else do we have coming down the pipeline as far as our shows?
Tom: Well, Caleb, I think it’s time we get Joe Keating back on you know, we’ve kind of gotten the second quarter GDP numbers. We’ve got the FOMC meeting behind us. So, I think everybody wants to take a look at what Joe sees going forward as we move through the rest of the summer and into the fall. Probably we’ll also be talking about online account openings, obviously with, you know, the COVID situation and not able to, you know, going into a branch to do a lot of the typical banking activities trying to smooth that type of process and make it more efficient, I think is going to be interesting, and then also we’ll have Jack Hubbard on to talk about the sales effort, and so again, kind of reflecting that in our current environment and how we can make the best of our social distancing situation.
Caleb: Well, on behalf of Eric Bagwell, who will return next episode, we really appreciate you guys listening and we’ll see you next time episode.
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